Last summer, I took a course on enhancing one’s influencing skills and one of the speakers was Linda A. Hill, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Hill spoke about the need for leaders to assume the role of influencers and she challenged us to think more systematically on how we can achieve this seemingly elusive task.
Hill explores this subject in Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader, co-written with business executive and author Kent Lineback. The authors provide a comprehensive and practical model for managers to follow. In fact, Being the Boss is a must read for anyone who has just started managing people, experienced managers who desire to become great leaders, and those seeking to improve their influencing or networking skills.
The book focuses on three imperatives: Managing Yourself, Managing Your Network, and Managing Your Team. For this book review I want to focus on the author’s analysis of how to influence through managing your network. Every experienced manager would probably agree that corporate America is extremely political because no organization has sufficient time, resources or homogeneity to accomplish its vision. I have found in my 15-year management career that an employee’s greatest source of frustration is the person’s inability to influence the political environment.
The phrase “company politics” conjures up Machiavellian notions, but that is the negative side of the equation. The naïve manager says, “Not me, I’m above that.” The experienced manager says “Not me, the organization needs to change.” Both of these responses are unproductive because we already live in the political environment that these responses often dismiss or disdain. Being the Boss challenges us to change our perspective, work through organizational conflict and weave our own web of influence—all within our moral and ethical principles— in order to become great leaders.
Being the Boss asks the following questions: Do you strategically identify people whom you and your teams depend on to achieve your goals? Do you systematically evaluate the strength of your networks to keep up with changes?
To answer these questions try this exercise:
1. Write down the names of the people who have formal or informal authority over your work that are considered experts in key areas, whose work is important to the organizational objectives, or who are “plugged in.”
2. Assess the importance of each person to your goals using a 1-10 scale.
3. Assess the current quality of your relationship to each person using the same scale as #2.
4. Contrast the two rankings.
This simple exercise can be profoundly revealing. It’s the beginning of your networking roadmap. In doing this exercise, you will find it worthwhile to categorize sets of people in to three segments:
- Operational: The people you need to do your group’s everyday work.
- Strategic: The people you will need to help you and your group achieve longer-term goals.
- Developmental: The people who help you grow professionally and provide personal, emotional support when you need it.
While I personally agreed with the philosophies, I struggled to see how they could be practically sustained. Being the Boss offers useful advice on making the initial contact, building networking into your daily work, sharing information, building coalitions, and avoiding unhealthy rivalries. Managing these networks takes focus, time and effort but the promise is an increase in influence, which will make you a better leader.
This book review was published in the November issue of PM360.
For more information on this topic, see this video: