Photo: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Transiting from a technical to a management role, young managers lack a power base of followers.
Jean Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet in MIT Sloan Review suggest 3 areas to plug this deficit:
- Critical resources
1. Legitimacy with bosses sends a signal of your credibility to others leading to more visibility and influence, boosting your standing. Your boss can also connect you to influential people and information.
Research on (LMX) Leader Member exchange indicates that bosses mentally divide their members into “in group” vs “out group”.
How to build legitimacy with bosses?
On the job:Hard work while important is exaggerated to secure credibility.
LMX research suggests that one’s attitude and perceived compatibility with the boss are more powerful determinants of good relationship.
- Understand the boss’s style, objectives and preferences. Example: Do they prefer short or long meetings? Email vs face to face?. Brevity vs depth. Adjust your communication style accordingly. Goals and interests to provide the kind of support to help boss succeed.
- Deliver on those objectives.
- Seek feedback as appropriate.
Accumulate credits by helping superiors get things done. Kick start the virtuous cycle of reciprocity by making good faith deposits upfront.
2. Be a resource. Gain special expertise or niche.
- Find subtle ways to advertise your expertise by publicly volunteering to help colleagues tackle difficult problems.
What sort of expertise ?
- Identify problems nobody else has noticed especially regarding disruptive trends or that few people are capable of resolving and then work to address them.
- Consolidate your strengths. Be so good you can’t be ignored. Don’t just be a generalist.
Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co once said, “To be a future leader, one should have a skill that everyone looks at and says X is the go-to person for that skill. Unless you’re really known for something, you don’t stand out from the pack.
One of the risks involved is that you’ll be locked into the position.
3. Build your own network.
A high quality relationship with a poorly connected boss may do more harm than good. Protect yourself from toxic bosses. Otherwise, you’ve to identify escape routes for yourself in the event of sudden organisation shake up.
Cultivate useful allies. Sponsors who know your work and speak up for you during promotion meetings. Look beyond titles and formal roles to discover informal ties and actual dynamics that drive decision making in a group. Real movers and shakers.
Reach out to both internal and external stakeholders. External stakeholders can include government relations, customers and analysts and institutional investors and board members. Ask customers what they really need.
Curate– create forums where ideas and information can be exchanged. This could be physical, e.g. company dinner and dance or a virtual forum where you help people connect. Gain a reputation as someone who knows how to connect people.
Many of these roles contain risks, acknowledge the authors. So walk a fine line as you may be seen as using the role for your own gain.
Assess the areas of influence which you lack.