Do you, as a leader, have the social capital you need to get the job done? Influence with others is paramount to leading.
How can you tell if you have enough? And if not, how do you go about building it?
Sarah, chief operating officer of a hospital, was the newest member of the C-suite. The board had highly recommended her, thinking that her previous experience with change management at another healthcare system would support their vision for growth.
Several months later, however, Sarah had not been able to meet her short-term goals. The rest of the executive team blocked her efforts with every move she made.
Mark, the CEO called me. “It’s as though they are out to get her,” he said. “She has a great plan, and I support that, but the rest of them are stalling her. What do I do?”
“Mark,” I said, “It sounds like she hasn’t taken the time to build up social capital.”
“Yes,” I said. “The influence to bring them along. Building relationships with them, developing trust, sharing norms and values so that when she needs something done and you support it, they work with her to accomplish it.”
“Well, great,” Mark said. “I don’t know how she is going to do it, now. One of the board members mentioned this morning that he had supported her candidacy. Evidently, he saw her last week and she updated him. He now thinks the board may have made a mistake in recommending her. Yet she is doing what I’ve asked her to do. Short of pulling power and demanding that everyone comply, what do I do?”
“Here’s the deal, Mark,” I responded. “Power is not as straightforward as you think. If you approach it in that way, Sandra loses all credibility as she hides behind you. And you create resentment on the part of the others – a slippery slope for a team’s commitment to the business.
“Power is complex, Mark. And in this case, it is relational. How Sandra builds her relationships will be key to her success – and to your retaining top talent across the team.”
“Please help, Patti. I can’t afford to lose credibility with my board and my executive team. And I certainly can’t afford to lose top talent. Sandra’s good. I think we just need a leg up.”
Mark then had me attend an executive team meeting, then later introduced me to Sandra, who quietly shared that she felt defeated and ready to quit.
“I guess I jumped in with big plans and didn’t take the time to build relationships, first,” she said.
“You are pretty astute,” I answered. “Watching the dynamics in the executive team meeting was like witnessing a shark frenzy. And you were the bait.”
“In my last position, all I had to do was to video call one of the satellite offices and talk with the director for a few minutes. Their workload might be almost impossible, but we worked well together to shoulder through. It was that way throughout the system.
“I guess I haven’t taken the time to get to know the others. The board gave us a pretty aggressive plan and a tight timeline. I thought the way was paved. But I thought wrong.”
“Let’s talk about what we can do from this point,” I said. “If you are willing, I would like to work with you to turn this around.”
Sandra agreed to give it her all. Then, we got to work.
Six months later, Sandra was on a much different and better footing with her colleagues. And they were on their way to expanding the hospital’s reach as they had needed to do.
What did Sandra do? She learned to apply five things that all leaders must incorporate into their way of leading:
1. Recognize that power is dictated by your interactions with others.
The relationships and alliances you create can be of major support to you when you encounter potential points of resistance. The resources, information, and help you need should be within the circle you forge over time. Important to note is that before people will commit to a stretch demand, they need to trust and know you, and to feel that you have their interests in mind and that you will support them when they need your help. To come to this point, you need to cultivate the relationships carefully, hearing of their interests and needs, and seeing how you can help them.
2. Assess the landscape before you dive in to make big changes.
Look at your long-term goals and objectives, your short-term wins, and any other priorities you have been handed. Who are key stakeholders in the areas that will be touched by the changes you need to make? Who is likely to resist? And why? If you can map out the web of those potentially affected by your efforts, you can then put together a plan to start bringing them along. And it’s true that we “don’t know what we don’t know.” As you begin speaking with those you feel will be affected, as them who else you should include in conversation around the topic. You can quickly build your networks in this way.
3. Gather insights from your stakeholders and invite them to help you co-create solutions.
Respect the history and perspective that others bring and remember that co-creation means that the parties involved will have more buy-in and support you to much greater extent. This will also help you to leverage relationships with others, as you will have advocates “in the field.”
4. Build your power network with intention.
Map out your network, identifying your dependencies both inside and outside the organization. Decide to systematically strengthen these relationships according to those upon whom you rely, those who rely upon you, and who controls various resources and support.
5. Take time for reciprocity.
How can you create value for those who are in your network? Can you connect them with others to help them realize their goals? Can you serve as a co-creator, even if you don’t have a stake in the initiative, but can lend brain trust? Decide what you can do to bring value to your relationships and do this systematically. As transactional as it seems, a spreadsheet to track your power network and the touches that you make with them to build social capital can serve extremely well.
How can you begin to build your own social capital to get things done? Or to strengthen one that has served you to this point? Personal power – influence – is key to leading effectively. Take time to fortify your power network to help you move effectively into the future.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.