Over the past ten years, we’ve combined our own HR and organizational development experience to support HR Leaders who seek to be more influential. Over the next few weeks we will provide tips to support that desired outcome. Specifically, we will share:
- 4 Principles of Influence for HR Leaders to Get a Seat at the Table
- 5 Things that Diminish an HR Leader’s Ability to Influence
- 5 Steps to Immediately Increase Your Influence with a Powerful Stakeholder
- 1 Proven Method to Move Stakeholders from Adversaries to Allies
Today, we start with the 4 Principles of Influence we’ve shared with other HR leaders, especially those working with technical leaders. These sound like common knowledge, but as Stephen R. Covey said, common knowledge is seldom common practice.
In many cases, HR leaders have less position power, yet extraordinary opportunities for influence. Chances are you bring significant competence in the field of Human Resources, yet you still find barriers that diminish your ability. More on that next week.
The Four Principles of Influence
We call these the REAP Principles of Influence. If you sow good seeds through application of these, you will truly reap more influence. The four principles are:
The principle of reciprocity is well documented. We often do unto others as they do to us. Not quite the golden rule, but a truth in practice. The basic idea is when we provide something of value to another, it is reasonable to expect some form of return. Although many HR leaders pride themselves on doing things for others, many do not ask for favors or anything in return, thereby passing up an opportunity to influence.
What did you do this week that benefited those you seek to influence?
- Did you share data to ensure competitive compensation?
- Have managers received tools to evaluate qualified job candidates, which you in fact shared?
- Did you properly investigate an issue that minimized the risk of a legal action?
- Did you coach another leader on how to give performance feedback?
- Did you facilitate a strategy session that generated innovate thinking?
There were times as an HR Director that I felt my role was underappreciated. Yet when I stopped whining, I realized that I was truly providing value, and that I could boldly and confidently apply the principle of reciprocity.
Try this: Think of a stakeholder with whom you’ve provided something of value in your everyday work, in which you need her/him to take some action that will help you do your job and benefit the organization. What is a specific request you can make to this individual? Now, go make it, and be specific. You will find that in most cases, people will want to help, and the principle of reciprocity is being applied.
The Principle of Exchange is the execution of reciprocity. In the book, Influence Without Authority, Bradford and Cohen describe that influence is about currency, and once we understand the currency others trade in, we can make an exchange for mutual benefit. Think of it this way. You have a $100 bill and you also have a toddler for a child, niece, or nephew. What happens when you give the toddler the $100 bill? They tear it up, chew on it, or ignore it, because to them, it has no value. It’s like in the movie, Titanic, when the rich passenger tried to bribe the attendant with a handful of cash as he was preparing the lifeboats. The attendant realizes his life is about to end. At this point, cash no longer provided value.
How do you demonstrate the principle of exchange? First, have empathy for the goals, needs, and concerns of the party you seek to influence. Second, assess the currency that you have to offer which is of value to the other party.
Research shows that we often underestimate our ability to influence. We sometimes fall prey to the Imposter Syndrome, allowing the small voice in our heads to tell us we are not worthy to influence others. One of my executives called this the Itty-Bitty Shitty Committee. I told him it was time to fire that committee. Those we need to influence might intimidate us, and our non-verbals cause us to demonstrate less confidence. Research shows that some of the most influential people in the organization are at lower levels in the hierarchy and they are influential because they know themselves and they demonstrate confidence. Karen Coover, Chief Human Resources Officer at Apriva in Scottsdale, AZ, provided her perspective on ability and confidence:
“I have worked with many HR teams and the differentiator for speaking with confidence seems to be an understanding of the business they are supporting. In order to be heard you have to speak the listener’s language. Knowing the acronyms, revenue levers, and sales & development cycle milestones are key to being a respected, credible partner.” I worked with Karen when she was an HR Generalist years ago, now an executive sitting at the table exerting influence with others business leaders at the table.
Do you communicate with confidence, or can you take steps to develop executive presence?
The good news is that you are already in a position to influence, and you can immediately increase your confidence with a few specific habits. Consider taking an assessment of how you are perceived which can help you get a realistic picture and overcome your Imposter Syndrome.
You must be clear about your own goals when you seek to influence while assessing the world of the other party. The art of influence is knowing how your goals align to the needs of the other party. How many times has there seemed to be misalignment between what you as an HR professional see as important and how the other party sees it? Conflict happens with incompatible goals, so aligning to purpose requires communication and collaboration. Finding the win-win often results with clarity of common purpose, which always increases your influence.
Now Go Apply the 4 Principles
The profession of human resources has increased in credibility over the past two decades as organizations became more complex. Good HR systems and processes contribute to profitable business results. Many of us work for executives that value HR, which immediately gives us a platform to influence. Yet, many HR leaders are still in companies with old paradigms that are hard to break, with assumptions about our roles. Some of these barriers require a great deal of trust building and collaboration to overcome, which is where these 4 Principles can help.
All the best as you become a more influential leader, and let us know how your influence is increasing.
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