Are you an influential executive?

Key point summary:

A. Influence is the number one skill a high performing executive demonstrates

B. Leadership teams need to set and cascade the “story” behind strategy and change initiatives

C. Individual executives must be able to express the message in different formats and lengths

In John C Maxwell’s book “Becoming a person of influence”, he says that “if your desire is to be successful or to make a positive impact on your world, you need to become a person of influence. Without influence, there is no success.”

For today’s executives who project influence and confidence, this means getting more done through their teams. As companies move towards global and matrix organisations, being effective means less command-and-control and more encouraging, advocating and inspiring. The best executives are able to attract people and resources by defining and expressing a purpose. Much like Steve Job’s famed “reality distortion field”, the most influential executives can create an environment where people contribute more, are willing to see things through and ultimately care more about the outcomes.

Challenges are plentiful. The business world is fast moving and complex. Change is hard to predict. While it’s relatively easy to set strategy and announce a new vision, making this a reality takes much more work. The leadership team needs to play an active role in cascading the benefits of change and selling it to the company. Obstacles like resistance to change, confusion over the reason why change is necessary, reluctance to adopt new working styles all play a role in slowing down the implementation of important change projects across global organisations.

Executives need to play a more active role in communication. Today people are looking for a combination of management and leadership from their managers. To fully engage the talents, energy and commitment, a good executive not only delegates a clear package to her team but also articulates the “why” – the importance of the project to the organisation as a whole. Setting the context and connecting it to the individual project gives the team a stronger reason to buy into the project. It also acts as a guiding star for the team as they move forward and handle project challenges.

Degrees of separation reduce your influence. While many leaders like to think that the fact they said something once will engage the whole company to act, often the reality is very different. From my experience, working with leadership team very often there is no clear shared understanding of the direction of the company in terms of how the individual executives talk about it with their peers, subordinates and partners. If there is no shared clarity at the top, how can we expect middle management to be confident in expressing a consistent theme to their reports?

Even a charismatic CEO is not enough. People are most influenced by their line managers and while the CEO may engage his leadership team and inspire them. Unless these executives are also rolling down the same message, it’s impact is lost. What is needed are executives and middle managers who are equally proficient at influence. In large global organisations where a change initiative is planned worldwide this is essential otherwise all the effort into creating a strategy is lost once it drops below the leadership team.

Use this checklist to test how influential your leadership team’s messaging is:

1. Does the leadership have a clear vision and strategy for the next three years?

2. Has this message been refined and talked about so everyone is on the same page?

3. Is there consensus among the leadership team?

4. Has everyone agreed to share this message regardless of their personal resistance or objections?

5. Has the leadership team gone through a simulated media-style interview where they are put on the spot and asked to deliver the key message?

6. Can the leadership team deliver the key point of the message without slides?

7. Have the top executives committed to cascading the message to their line managers?

8. Acid test: If you asked five people in your organisation about the strategy or change initiative, how consistent would their answers be?

This polishing and refinement is often overlooked by leadership teams and executives are left to their own devices. This leaves too much up to their own personal opinions. Once the CEO and top executives have committed to the strategy, everyone needs to get on-board. By ensuring that their story is aligned, the change has a higher rate of success. How well are your executives influencing?

All the best,

Feel free to contact us at any time.

Warwick John Fahy and The One Minute Presenter Team

0 Responses to “Are you an influential executive?”

Comments are currently closed.