Getting support in the workplace.
A few days ago I received a call from a concerned young marketer with a problem. It was not an uncommon issue; he was having trouble gathering the necessary support from across the organization to execute a project he’d been assigned. Many professionals experience similar problems, particularly early in their careers.
Knowing the individual fairly well and having specific knowledge of his company, it was easy to see there are a few elements in play:
- Power to control and influence
- Cultural Norms in the organization.
The power aspect is well understood. To freely influence and involve others cross-functionally in your projects you either need Positional Power, or Personal Power. The former is what is given to you and implied simply by your job title, whereas the latter is a function of the respect and influence you command. Positional Power gives you certain rights to control and indeed is often ultimately earned as a result of the Personal Power you wield.
Generally, highly effective leaders always possess strong Personal Power. The prevailing consensus wisdom is that such leaders:
- Are bold
- Articulate clearly, communicate well and
- Possess a vision.
Clearly, such characteristics are formidable. However, the marketer in question carries no management title, nor has he yet clearly established himself with any significant personal power, or recognition as a leader. Nevertheless, he still has a couple of options (which could be equally applied to any similar situation):
- Have his boss visibility endorse both he and his a project and notify all appropriate parties; this leverages his boss’s power and sets the employee up to proceed. Or,
- Personally promote (by the most appropriately effective means) the business case for the project directly with both the key influencers and those participants involved; this gets buy-in from those who will help and their bosses, when required.
Clearly option “1” can be implemented very quickly. The boss should be approached with a strong and thoughtful request, rather than a seemingly weak call for help. A little diplomacy is required, as let’s face it, in this case the marketer’s boss had clearly done a poor job of setting him up to succeed. Or, option “2” could be executed in a series of one-on-ones and/or a single meeting where participants (and perhaps their bosses) are courted in a call-for-action. Even if option”2” takes a little longer, it certainly will build our young professional’s leadership image and Personal Power along the way!
Lastly, in this case we need to consider the unique Cultural Norms of the company involved. Most companies establish unwritten functional hierarchies across the organization. For example, in some cultures Sales rules the roost, yet in others sales professionals might be viewed as somewhat scatterbrained, perhaps even disorganized and having questionable ethics! Similarly, there is sometimes a true reverence for Engineering, while simultaneously engineering staff might still be considered naïve regarding business practices and customer needs. And, so it goes.
Now, in the case of the particular company involved in this discussion, there is a known strong engineering bias and an accompanying lack of understanding or empathy for the Marketing role. So, in this situation our marketer should be doubly motivated to present that solid business case that will win over willing participants and so ensure success for the project.
It seems our young professional liked the advice presented above! It will be interesting to see how his situation evolves. If you have similar concerns or questions you can reach me at Ian@mthamilton.net
Ian R Mackintosh is the founder and president of OCP-IP and a published author. His BIO can be found here. Follow Ian @IanRMackintosh