Balancing Power and Influence in Strategy Execution
Every day we speak with leading strategy professionals across the globe. Across both prospects and customers, these individuals work in every industry imaginable. And each has unique plans and processes. While there are many common challenges, we hear one common question. “Why is it so difficult to drive execution?
As with any relationship, you’re constantly navigating the balance of trust and responsibility. To successfully drive a plan to completion, it takes a strategic balance of power and influence. For most individuals, a misalignment between these two values causes an imbalance. This imbalance equals less than ideal results.
Too much use of power with little influence creates resistance and poor culture. While on the other hand, influence with no power impacts decision-making and progress. In your role, you are uniquely positioned to capitalize on a balance of these two traits.
Executing without Influence
Your plan leaders have other priorities. You need their involvement to drive and track your plan, but they don’t report to you.
Let’s say you’re the VP of Strategy of a regional healthcare organization. In the midst of your standard role and responsibilities, you’re requesting updates on KPIs and transformative initiatives from Directors across the organization. While your request is important, their priorities align to whatever helps patients thrive. What’s the first thing to drop from their priority list in the midst of everyday, spur-of-the-moment tasks? Yep. Those long-term goals you need updates on.
It’s typical to swing by their office, when they’re actually there, to have them take 10 minutes to update their initiatives. However, if they step out to grab a cup of coffee, they often get pulled into another problem that needs an immediate solution.
They want to help you, but ultimately, they report to the COO. They’re not your direct reports and their competing priorities are being dictated through another filter. Completing your request for updated KPIs is diluted to a favor.
You have all the responsibility, but none of the influence.
Planning without Power
Your executives are focused on the big picture. You need them to champion organization-wide goals, but their lens is broader than a spreadsheet.
Let’s imagine you work in local government. Your Public Works VP at your Water Quality Control Plant is dreaming up where the municipality needs to be in 5 years. She trusts you, the Director of Strategy, to drive whatever actions need to be taken to get there.
However, without her pushing your organization-wide plans through each branch of the leadership team, you get very little traction in the main arteries of your organization. Those leaders are looking for top-down directives. And you’re their peer.
Your Director wants to be more vocal and hands-on, but she’s tasked with spending ten hours a day meeting with Federal agencies to learn about the visionary landscape of water supply and its global impact. She hardly has time to eat lunch, so it’s not a priority to absorb all the details of how the water treatment facility fell behind on key leading indicators last week.
However, since you’re the keeper of the plan that tracks those metrics, you’re shouldering the knowledge of that level of detail. As the go-between for your front-line team and your VP, you owe it to those executing the initiatives to communicate the need for a solution to the main decision-maker of the organization.
You have all the responsibility, but none of the power.
Harness the Strengths of the Translator
With influence, execution can be easy. With power, some individuals and organizations can get results through force.
But for the typical individual, you either have one or the other. As seen above, a lack of influence and a lack of power can leave you stranded. Everyone has the best of intentions, but when the day-to-day whirlwind hits, strategic priorities are pushed to the side.
As we’ve discussed previously, the Translator is the key individual in driving strategic plan execution. In this unique position, it’s critical to increase your influence throughout the organization.
As our good friend Dr. Steve Walton says, influence without authority is:
“Authentically convincing, while being open to being convinced, using logic, data, evidence, and stories to take action that leads to greater good.”
While we could go on for hours about ways to create influence, it comes from six main sources:
- Relationships & Networks
- Social Intelligence & Collaborativeness
- Position & Access to Funding
Identify areas within this list, where you can increase influence throughout the organization. Perhaps you are missing a key relationship necessary to drive adoption. Maybe there’s a key ally you can find with specific expertise lacking from your team. Or in more advanced organizations, find a way to tie strategy and execution to funding allocation.
As you launch this journey to increase influence throughout the organization, keep these five principles in mind:
- Influence is a product of trust
- Influencing is about listening to understand others’ interests
- People are open to influence when they are “heard” first
- Influencing is not a persuasive moment, but a persuasive process
- It takes time
With the right balance of power and influence, your role as a Translator enables opportunity throughout the organization. But remember it’s a balance. Too much power creates resistance. Too little power and accountability slips. Throughout your journey, leverage power, influence, and relationships with Architects and Doers to maximize the execution of your key initiatives.
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- Get every possible advantage – not only because you have the premier platform in this space, but because you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.