Determining Influence

Many of the influencing tactics require you to have informal power. It is a good idea to understand what your major forms of informal power are, so here’s an evaluation tool.

  • Step 1: List your top 10 contacts that enable you to get work done. These contacts can be either internal or external to your organization.
  • Step 2: For each contact, assign a score from 1 to 10 indicating how much you depend on them. If a contact provides a lot of value and is also difficult to replace, assign a high score. Think broadly about the value your contacts offer. This includes career advice, emotional backing, support with daily activities, information, and access to resources or stakeholders.
  • Step 3: Do the same in reverse. Assign a score to yourself from others’ perspectives. Approximate how much value you offer your contacts and how difficult it would be to replace you. Be honest.

Next, look for red flags which could indicate that you lack informal power.

  • Do all of your contacts work in one team, function, product unit, or office building? This could indicate a limited ability to generate value beyond the basic requirements of your job description.
  • Do your contacts provide you with more value than you return? Such relationships are difficult to sustain in the long run. Asymmetries in dependence indicate others hold the power in a relationship.   
  • Is all of the value you give or receive concentrated in a couple of contacts? You could be vulnerable if you lose these contacts or your relationship changes.

Once you understand where your informal power lies, figure out how you can improve.

To address the unfavorable power scores, earn relationships by delivering value to your contacts. Ask yourself: what value can you deliver to them? One way is to develop and continuously improve upon a skill set that leads others to value your contributions. Then proactively use your skills to help others, well beyond the demands of your formal role. You don’t want to be the expert whom nobody knows.

Let your job help you. Manage your job description so that you can contribute to the workflows of multiple functions inside the organization as well as customers, outside partners, or regulators. Volunteer for cross-functional initiatives. View lateral transfers as a move up. By positioning yourself at the intersection of workflows, you position yourself to meet, learn from, and deliver value to a variety of diverse groups in the organization.

Get to know your stakeholders and collaborators better as individuals. You may be surprised how something that is rather easy for you to do carries significant value for them. Sometimes we freeze because we believe that we have to offer really significant contributions or do massive favors for others. Knowing others well can present us with helpful alternatives.

Outside of work, join social and professional ones. Shared activities have an underestimated impact on expanding our networks.

Your value is never solely defined by your ability to perform a formal organizational role. By creating value for diverse stakeholders and making yourself irreplaceable, you open possibilities for yourself within the organization and beyond. And, by doing so, you add value to your company.

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

Topics of concern for collaboration

More a collection of topics for things I am currently exploring. Please add additional ones and/or resources in the comments.

Trends Concerns
Increasing collaborative modes of working, specifically more:
Matrix structures (Cross et al. 2013, 2016; Cross and Gray 2013)
(Distributed) Teamwork (Cross et al. 2015) 
(Multi-) Project work (Zika-Viktorsson et al. 2006) and multiple team membership (O`Leary et al. 2011)
Interruptions, which are ‘normal’ or even as a necessary part of knowledge workers’ workday (Wajcman and Rose 2011)
Collaboration, which is seen as an end (Breu et al. 2005; Dewar et al. 2009; Gardner 2017; Randle 2017)
Collaborative work is highly demanding (Barley et al. 2011; Dewar et al. 2009; Eppler and Mengis 2004)
Perils of multitasking (Atchley 2010; Ophir et al. 2009; Turkle 2015)
Too many structurally unproductive and inefficient teams (Duhigg 2016)
Lack of accountability for meeting and conference call time (Fried 2016)
Overall, lack of structural protection of employee’s productive time (Fried 2016)
Impacts of collaborative technology
Growing share of social technologies in the workplace (Bughin et al. 2017)
‘Always on’ mentality, cycle of responsiveness (Perlow 2012)
Platforms are designed to prime and nudge users to spend more time using them (Stewart 2017)
Unclear organizational expectations how to use collaborative technology and limited individual knowledge (Griffith 2014; Maruping and Magni 2015)
Technology exacerbates organizational issues (Mankins 2017)
Inability to ‘turn off’ (Perlow 2012)
Technology creates more complexity than productivity gains (Stephens et al. 2017)
Increasing complex media repertoires: highly differentiated, vanishing common denominator (Greene 2017; Mankins 2017)
Social technology specific Increased visibility (Treem and Leonardi 2013) and thus the ability to monitor behaviour Impression management and frustration (Farzan et al. 2008)
Overall, overload scenarios and fragmentation of work (Cross et al. 2015; Wajcman and Rose 2011)
Increasing ratio of collaborative activities for managers (Mankins and Garton 2017; Mintzberg 1990) and employees (CEB 2013; Cross and Gray 2013)

Workdays are primarily characterized by communication and collaboration.
Managers at intersections of matrix structures get overloaded (Feintzeig 2016; Mankins and Garton 2017)
Limited knowledge how to shape collaboration on the managerial level (Cross and Gray 2013; Maruping and Magni 2015)
Experts and structurally exposed individuals (e.g. boundary spanners) easily get overburdened with requests (Cross et al. 2016; Cross and Gray 2013).

Behavioral traits (‘givers’) may push employees close burn-outs (Grant 2013; Grant and Rebele 2017)
Diminishing ‘perceived control’ over one’s own schedule (Cross and Gray 2013)

Overall, managers and employees do not have enough uninterrupted time (Cross et al. 2016; Mankins and Garton 2017)

Resources

  • Atchley, P. 2010. “You Can’t Multitask, So Stop Trying,” Harvard Business Review
  • Barley, S. R., Meyerson, D. E., and Grodal, S. 2011. “E-mail as a Source and Symbol of Stress,” Organization Science (22:4), pp. 887–906.
  • Breu, K., Hemingway, C., and Ashurst, C. 2005. “The impact of mobile and wireless technology on knowledge workers: An exploratory study,” in Proceedings of the 13th European Conference on Information Systems, Regensburg, Germany.
  • Bughin, J., Chui, M., Harrysson, M., and Lijek, S. 2017. “Advanced social technologies and the future of collaboration,” McKinsey Global Institute.
  • CEB. 2013. “Driving the Strategic Agenda in the New Work Environment
  • Cross, R., Ernst, C., Assimakopoulos, D., and Ranta, D. 2015. “Investing in boundary-spanning collaboration to drive efficiency and innovation,” Organizational Dynamics (44:3), pp. 204–216.
  • Cross, R., and Gray, P. 2013. “Where Has the Time Gone? Addressing Collaboration Overload in a Networked Economy,” California Management Review (56:1), pp. 1–17.
  • Cross, R., Kase, R., Kilduff, M., and King, Z. 2013. “Bridging the gap between research and practice in organizational network analysis: A conversation between Rob Cross and Martin Kilduff,” Human Resource Management (52:4), pp. 627–644.
  • Cross, R., Rebele, R., and Grant, A. 2016. “Collaborative Overload,” Harvard Business Review (94:1), pp. 74–79.
  • Cross, R., Taylor, S.N., Zehner, D. 2018. “Collaboration without burnout“. Harvard Business Review. (96:4), pp. 134-137.
  • Dewar, C., Keller, S., Lavoie, J., and Weiss, L. M. 2009. “How do I drive effective collaboration to deliver real business impact?,” McKinsey & Company.
  • Duhigg, C. 2016. Smarter, Faster, Better – The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, New York, USA: Penguin Random House.
  • Eppler, M. J., and Mengis, J. 2004. “The Concept of Information Overload: A Review of Literature from Organization Science, Accounting, Marketing, MIS, and Related Disciplines,” The Information Society (20:5), pp. 325–344.
  • Farzan, R., DiMicco, J. M., Millen, D. R., Brownholtz, B., Geyer, W., and Dugan, C. 2008. “Results from Deploying a Participation Incentive Mechanism within the Enterprise,” in Proceedings of the 26th SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Florence, Italy.
  • Feintzeig, R. 2016. “So Busy at Work, No Time to Do the Job,” The Wall Street Journal
  • Fried, J. 2016. “Restoring Sanity to the Office,” Harvard Business Review .
  • Gardner, H. K. 2017. Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos, Boston, USA: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Grant, A. 2013. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, New York, USA: Penguin Group.
  • Grant, A., and Rebele, R. 2017. “Generosity Burnout,” Harvard Business Review
  • Greene, J. 2017. “Beware Collaboration-Tool Overload,” The Wall Street Journal
  • Griffith, T. L. 2014. “Are Companies Ready to Finally Kill Email?,” MIT Sloan Management Review
  • Lock Lee, L. 2017. “Enterprise Social Networking Benchmarking Report 2017,” SWOOP Analytics
  • Mankins, M. 2017. “Collaboration Overload Is a Symptom of a Deeper Organizational Problem,” Harvard Business Review
  • Mankins, M., and Garton, E. 2017. Time, Talent, Energy, Boston, USA: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Maruping, L. M., and Magni, M. 2015. “Motivating Employees to Explore Collaboration Technology in Team Contexts,” MIS Quarterly (39:1), pp. 1–16.
  • O’Leary, M. B., Mortensen, M., and Woolley, A. W. 2011. “Multiple Team Membership: a Theoretical Model of Its Effects on Productivity and,” Academy of Management Review (36:3), pp. 461–478.
  • Ophir, E., Nass, C., and Wagner, A. D. 2009. “Cognitive control in media multitaskers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (106:37), pp. 15583–15587.
  • Perlow, L. A. 1999. “The time famine: Toward a sociology of work time,” Administrative Science Quarterly (44:1), pp. 57–81.
  • Perlow, L. A. 2012. Sleeping With Your Smartphone, Boston, USA: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Perlow, L. A. 2014. “Manage Your Team’s Collective Time,” Harvard Business Review (92:6), pp. 23–25.
  • Perlow, L. A., and Porter, J. L. 2009. “Making time off predictable–and required,” Harvard Business Review (87:10), pp. 102–109.
  • Randle, C. 2017. “24/7: Managing Constant Connectivity,” in Work Pressures: New Agendas in Communication, D. I. Ballard and M. S. McGlone (eds.), New York, USA: Routledge, pp. 20–26.
  • Stephens, K. K. 2017. “Understanding Overload in a Contemporary World,” in Work Pressures: New Agendas in Communication, D. I. Ballard and M. S. McGlone (eds.), New York, USA: Routledge.
  • Stephens, K. K., Mandhana, D. M., Kim, J. J., and Li, X. 2017. “Reconceptualizing Communication Overload and Building a Theoretical Foundation,” Communication Theory (27:3), pp. 269–289.
  • Stewart, J. B. 2017. “Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More.” The New York Times
  • Treem, J. W., and Leonardi, P. M. 2013. “Social Media Use in Organizations: Exploring the Affordances of Visibility, Editability, Persistence, and Association,” Annals of the International Communication Association (36:1), pp. 143–189.
  • Turkle, S. 2015. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, New York, USA: Pinguin Press.
  • Wajcman, J., and Rose, E. 2011. “Constant Connectivity: Rethinking Interruptions at Work,” Organization Studies (32:7), pp. 941–961.
  • Zika-Viktorsson, A., Sundström, P., and Engwall, M. 2006. “Project overload: An exploratory study of work and management in multi-project settings,” International Journal of Project Management (24:5), pp. 385–394.

Open Spaces

Jason Kottke is spot on “Open offices result in less collaboration among employees

In the past few weeks I’ve had more and more upset conversations with co-workers who have moved to open office work locations. And the Royal Society study that Jason references is a good read for anyone contemplating open spaces.

Being here in Boston, and having done my share of hanging out at MIT, I’ve seen some good open space concepts. But what the best ones actually do is create modular areas of privacy and areas for scalable interactions. And this is what the application of open offices I’m seeing in the corporate world are missing.

I’m hoping to ride this trend out. Or at least until the open office concept has been improved to a more scalable modularized office. I know it is currently one of my criteria for considering moving jobs and I’ve turned down an offer because of the location’s open office.

How folks work contributes to the culture. We should be driving interaction, collaboration (another problematic concept according to some studies) and problem-solving. Folks sitting with headsets on as they wait to get a Skype call does none of that. As the research shows, and anecdotal evidence supports, open spaces drive down productivity and make folks more likely to tune out and move on to a new job.