“We are all big dogs now”
In many organizations you can make good progress in your early career by using positional power and traditional authority to get things done. Junior managers often have clear areas of responsibility and accountability and within that area, they are indeed a “big dog” and can use that power to get things done quite effectively.
However, once we are promoted to executive level in our organization, or when we start working in a more ambiguous matrix role, we need to build alliances and influence people we do not have formal authority over.
💡Sources and consequences of power in the matrix
One of the reasons we set up a matrix is to balance the power of traditional silos by adding more horizontal reporting lines.
Here is a brief summary of the 12 most common types of power to which you may have access, as well as the consequences of using them.
- Coercive – the use or threat of force has become less effective in organizations. It still exists at some level, such as in terminating the employment of poor performers. However, it tends to create unwilling compliance and the level of resistance means that its use is nearly always counterproductive in getting things done.
- Normative – based on values. This is an extremely important source of power in a matrix. It provides guidance on the right way to resole complex dilemmas and choices across complex reporting lines, geographies, and cultures. Matrix organizations require strong shared practices and beliefs to be successful.
- Personal – respect for your individual characteristics. This remains important in a matrix, but it relies on your degree of visibility in the organization. People need great networks and good communication skills to be successful at transmitting their personal power across the organization.
- Expert – from superior knowledge, skills, and abilities. One of the objectives of a matrix is to give easier access to expertise. Expertise is extremely powerful in a matrix and we need mechanisms to make it simple to identify and access. Social media profiles will make it easier in the future to find and contact individual experts without going through the whole organization.
- Position – the power of role. In a matrix, positional power is often shared and therefore may be diluted. Managers need to find ways to align and ally with their colleagues. The use of traditional hierarchical authority as a source of power is likely to be less productive in creating accountability, engagement, and responsibility.
- Reward – the ability to deliver rewards and punishments. In a matrix this will be shared and may be subject to input from peers and colleagues across the organization, rather than being entirely within the hands of the line manager. Financial rewards are rather blunt tools for encouraging cooperation. Recognition and other more immediate forms of reward become more powerful.
- Relationship – the power of trust, shared goals, and a sense of identification. This is extremely important; relationships will increasingly cross the organization rather than being vested in vertical functions. This form of power tends to create a willing style of followership.
- Information – having more and better sources of information. While this can be powerful, it should be our objective in a matrix to make information visible and transparent to everyone involved in the process or activity. If individuals are hoarding information in order to create power for themselves, this is counterproductive.
- Resources – this power may be at an organizational level, or it could be simply an individual ability to decide how they spend their time. One goal of introducing a matrix is to share resources more freely across the organization. Using resources politically to increase your power may not be welcome.
- Alliances – we can derive power from the people we know and are able to influence and from the other people we can bring with us once we are persuaded. Alliances are an important source of influence and power in the matrix.
- Social influence – who trusts our opinion and listens to what we say ? This type of influence is being magnified by social media, as individuals develop a “followership” of people who choose to pay attention to them.
- Reciprocity – the power of having a favor in the bank. People seek ways to repay those who have helped them in the past. It is always useful to find opportunities to give support in advance, so that support is available in return when you need it.
Traditional, command-and-control forms of power, such as position, hierarchy, and coercion, become less and less effective among well-educated and skilled employees.
Other forms of power such as normative, expertise, relationship, and social influence are becoming increasingly important in a matrix. The use of these types of power is likely to create a more positive form of employee engagement.
💡The 5 steps to influence
The skill of influencing is essential in a matrix, where we cannot use traditional authority and power to get things done. Influencing is a skill that is very simple in principle but can be very difficult in practice.
Planned influencing consists of 5 steps:
- Being clear about what you are trying to achieve – it is good practice to write your influencing goals down and think through any sub goals, barriers, and measurements of success.
- Identifying the individuals you need to influence to get there – do an analysis on what you already know about them
- Understanding what they value – The essence of influence without authority is exchange: what I can offer you in exchange for your cooperation and your attention. The essence of exchange is to understand your “currencies”. The biggest mistake in influence is to offer things that you value rather than things that the individual you are trying to influence values. A currency only has the value attributed to it by the recipient.
- Identifying the “currencies” available to influence them – let me be clear, I am not talking about identifying currencies for every little thing. We should expect cooperation from our colleagues just because we are part of the same organization.
The simplest way to find out what people value is to ask.
If you think creatively, you will always be able to find currencies that you can use to influence others:
- Variety – the chance to do something new
- Exposure – the chance to be seen by other people who might be useful to their future career
- Networking – the chance to build a network and contacts in new areas
- Travel – for those who do not travel often this can be very motivating
- Personal development – to learn new skills or technologies
- Favors or goodwill – it is often useful to have a favor “in the bank” for when one is needed in the future
- Values – appealing to someone to do the right thing for the customer or the business
- Reputation – it is nice to be sough out and even nicer to be recognized
- Taking action based on this knowledge to achieve your goals – everything you do is a carrier of communication about you(the way you respond to an email, how you make yourself available to help
There is some evidence that organizations are more political when resources can be controlled more closely, so a matrix may in fact help make an organization less political.
💡Staying visible when working remotely
Visibility is important for teams and individuals in a matrix, because it helps them get access to attention and resources for their activities, to maintain priorities, and to attract good people to want to work with them.
It is not enough to do a good job; you also need to be visible.
Some people argues that it should not be this way; doing good work should be enough, but the reality is that in large, complex organizations perception is important; performance is not enough on its own.
If you are working remotely or in a virtual team, you do need to manage your visibility!
A framework that some organizations employ for thinking about visibility is PIE, which stands for the three key elements of visibility in virtual teams:
- Performance – what you achieve = 10-45%
- Image – the picture of yourself that you project = 15-25%
- Exposure – who knows about you = 30-40%
Performance is a precondition or an entry ticket to the game. If you are not performing, then image and exposure will only be harmful.
Repeated exposure to the right people helps enormously in career development. If you are a known quantity, your name comes up in promotion discussions; people tend to prefer the familiar because it reduces uncertainty. This is why people who stay close to the center of power have traditionally been promoted more quickly than those who work at the periphery.