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Lessons From Scotland Yard: Influencing Within Your Organization Part 1

Hi! Russell Stratton, Leadership Champion of Bluegem Learning.

I work with organizations just like yours to transform average bosses into great leaders, and help them facilitate improved individual and team performance. One of the areas that I focus on in Bluegem is helping managers influence within the organization. So what do I mean by that? Well, if we have a look at the diagram just behind me, we think about you as the manager here, often there are several different dimensions that you might find that you’re influencing people in. Most traditionally, it would tend to be this sort of top-down influence. You, as the manager, your team of people who work for you. But there may also be three other types of situation that you could find yourself in when you’re going to need to influence.

Perhaps you might need to influence your boss. You know, the adage of being able to manage upwards to get what you need and what’s going to be able to support you and your team. You may also be in a position when you’re needing to influence your peers. By this I mean other people in the organization who may also be managers at the same level in the organization as you. And finally, you may need to be able to influence outside the organization with external partners. Increasingly, in business today, we don’t work in isolation. We’re often working with organizations, either on joint projects or we may have suppliers and customers that we’re working with.

Now, one of the things that I found over the years, is that we need to use slightly different techniques to influence people in these four different spaces. For example, what we do to influence our team members may not be the same as what we do to influence people externally. I wrote an article on this recently, with my colleague, Ken Cameron, for the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources here in Alberta in Human Capital Magazine. This actually became part of one of the conference sessions that we ran for them at this year’s conference in Edmonton.

What I’d like to do is illustrate this with a story of a client I had when I worked with Scotland Yard, the biggest police force in the United Kingdom that polices the whole of London. This is where this model first came to prominence for me with a colleague I was working for there called Fergus Lawson.

The situation we found was we had managers in that organization who would want to be called the, sort of, “top cop” in their part of London, then they were having to influence people in different dynamics as part of their role, but were finding that they couldn’t just use the same style. So where they were very comfortable with this top-down command and control, worked very well for them, people would do what they asked them to do because they were their boss, they were finding that this approach didn’t work at all well when they were having to influence their peers elsewhere in the organization. Because you couldn’t just ask somebody to do something and they would do it because you didn’t necessarily have that “power” over them. They found this even more striking when they started to step outside the organization.

If they were working with other agencies, perhaps the Revenue Service or the Customs Agency, or particularly when they were working with community groups within the borough of London, that the police command the control culture didn’t work at all. In fact, it was a turnoff for people. So, one of the key things that they were trying to focus on was, “How do we build engagement with the community, but I can’t use the tools that have made me successful to get to the level that I have in the police force?” And not forgetting our final dynamic, there was not a culture in the organization where people would manage upwards. You wouldn’t challenge your boss, often for fear, and often unfounded, but this, “might affect my career”. So this was some of the work that we were focusing on, and what we found it really came down to was how people leveraged their use of personal and positional power.

I’m going to talk about that more in our next vlog, but if you found this interesting, feel free to share it with your colleagues, comment below and I’ll always respond to you, and if you think that what I do might help your organization, then check out my website, blue

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