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The Influence Effect

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Women hold over half of all professional jobs today, yet they represent just four percent of CEOs in the S&P 500. Even worse, that percentage has barely budged in a decade.
That's where The Influence Effect comes in. Based on recent research by the authors of the New York Times bestseller Break Your Own Rules, this book begins with the premise that when it comes to political savvy, what works for men at work won't work for women. Packed with the authors' coaching insights and their “Big Five” strategies designed specifically for female executives, this book guides women to break past political barriers and get right to what they really want—influence.

Authors Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, Mary Davis Holt, and Diana Faison make success far less complex, helping women overcome entrenched resistance to their ideas, create their own access points to power, and attract followers in a way that works for them. They present tools such as Influence Loops (to organically increase influence), Personal Scaffolding (to grow a groundswell of support), and Scenario Thinking (a savvy twist on strategic planning). These and other smart strategies finally allow women to succeed on their own terms.

Illustrated with dozens of engaging, real stories culled from the authors' many years of coaching experience, The Influence Effect moves women past the politics problem and offers a new path to power. Actually, it's more than a path—it's a runway—it frees women to take off in their careers on their own terms. The Influence Effect will work for women, not because gender barriers will no longer exist, but because they will no longer hold women back.

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Contents

ePub

Foreword by Cathy Bessant

Introduction: The Politics Problem

PART ONE       PREPARE to Influence

CHAPTER 1     The Influence Effect

CHAPTER 2     Think Bigger, Aim Higher

CHAPTER 3     Construct Your Scaffolding

PART TWO      PRACTICE: The Big Five Strategies

CHAPTER 4     The Power of the Informal

CHAPTER 5     Relationship Maps

CHAPTER 6     Scenario Thinking

CHAPTER 7     Influence Loops

CHAPTER 8     Momentum

PART THREE   INFLUENCE in Action

CHAPTER 9     Dance with Resistance

CHAPTER 10   Meetings: A Case in Point

Conclusion: The Effect of Influence

Appendix A: Strategies for Influence

Appendix B: Methodology

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Authors

 

Foreword by Cathy Bessant

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This is a book that needed to be written, and it’s a book that needs to be read. Influence is not a nice-to-have in business; it is a nonnegotiable. Influence depends on having a seat at the table and entails having your voice shape decisions and outcomes. Not enough women are influencing today. It’s true that too few of us “sit at the table,” especially in the C-suite. In order to get there, stay there, and make real contributions at every step, we women need to do some things differently.

We need to ensure that what we say gets heard. This sounds obvious, but it is not easy. Getting heard requires preparation and practice on our part. Men and women communicate differently. Women tend to use more words, speak more formally, and focus on process versus outcomes. There is nothing wrong with that, but because it’s not how men communicate, men often tune such speech out, which means that your input may not be appropriately considered.

At one point, I met with a male colleague to discuss how to have his team sell a technology product that my group developed. His first words, before I’d said a thing? He asked, “Why should we sell your product?” I wanted to explain the client relationships it would help them build, the best-in-class product attributes that took years to develop, and the product’s superiority to anything our competitors have. Instead, I said, “Because it will add $40 million to your revenue goal for this year.” He heard that! I knew he was thinking primarily about how he and his team could be successful, so I spoke his language.

 

Introduction: The Politics Problem

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WE’RE GLAD TO BE BACK! We’ve been busy since the 2011 publication of our first book, Break Your Own Rules: How to Change the Patterns of Thinking That Block Women’s Paths to Power. Since then, we’ve spoken to hundreds of women and men at conferences, we’ve led workshops and seminars, and we’ve coached many women who are breaking rules and are on the path to becoming senior-level leaders.

Break Your Own Rules described the six patterns of thinking that create career barriers and proposed new rules that enable us to break free from limiting beliefs and achieve the career momentum we need to succeed. The book became a New York Times best seller. It resonated with scores of women, and it has remained a relevant part of the current dialogue as women continue to strive to reach the top of organizations.

In Break Your Own Rules we introduced our “Red Suit Vision,” which we remain fully committed to in all of our work:

We have a dream. It is a big vision . . . it is a leap . . . and it is audacious: we want to see women make up at least 30 percent of all top leadership positions in corporate America by the year 2025. We believe that 30 percent is a tipping point. When 30 percent of corporate leaders are women, the goals and direction of corporate America will change. The old rules will be shattered. America’s corporations will be better led, and everyone will benefit.

 

Part One Prepare to Influence

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Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist and the other is a fingertip.

—NANCY GIBB

IMAGINE YOU’RE ON THE BEACH watching a group of men and women surf. It’s a sunny day and the wind is whipping while the beach warning flags snap in a rhythm. There are rip currents in effect and most people keep close to shore, worried about the dangerous conditions.

You watch the surfers chatting and laughing in the water as they wait for their wave. Two surfers approach a wave and decide it’s not big enough. Another group paddles toward the largest wave in the set; they deftly jump on their boards and grab what looks like the best ride of the day. You marvel from the shore—how do they make it look so easy, graceful, and even fun? Surfers will tell you that it takes practice and a large dose of courage. They understand how to factor in overlapping elements seamlessly to achieve the ride they want. Expert surfers can see a wave approaching and calculate how many seconds they have before it will break. They can spot a wave that will break gradually, so they can ride across the crest as it slowly closes. Experienced surfers look like artists, masters of their craft.

 

Part Two Practice: The Big Five Strategies

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Bring people with positive energy into your inner circle. If those around you are enthusiastic, authentic, and generous, you will be, too.

—ROB CROSS AND ROBERT J. THOMAS

Anna had big plans to grow her department in 2016. The prior year was a clear success, and she and her sales team closed more deals than ever before. It was considered a coup to bring in new business when much of the sector—customer service staffing—was losing out to cheaper global competitors and the remaining domestic jobs were being slashed and replaced by automation. Anna’s team outperformed expectations for two reasons. First, she steered their efforts toward organizations that relied on U.S. government contracts for their livelihood. These were businesses that had a vested interest in keeping their call centers in the United States. Second, Anna created a service delivery system that brought their costs for the call centers down 10 percent, and she could pass that savings along to clients to help close deals.

 

Part Three Influence in Action

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THE BIG FIVE STRATEGIES WE have explored in chapters 4 through 8 are at the heart of the Influence Effect: the power of the informal, relationship maps, scenario thinking, influence loops, and momentum. These versatile tools deliver the type of influence and outcomes that women want. Cumulatively, they feed the creativity and confidence we need to lead at high levels in business. Separately, they provide us with the options and flexibility to address a multitude of situations in ways that work for us.

The following two chapters bring these ideas together, using common situations to show where women have the greatest opportunities to influence. You will notice that the format here is not identical to that in the strategy chapters, because our goal is to focus on examining the strategies in action. In chapter 10, “Meetings: A Case in Point,” we look at achieving influence in business meetings. In this chapter, we will explore how to use these strategies to win over blockers and overcome rigid resistance to our ideas.

 

Conclusion: The Effect of Influence

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Most of us do not realize how much power we have.

—BUMPER STICKER

WE AS WOMEN HAVE SO much to gain—and nearly nothing to lose—by using the powerful influence strategies in this book.

Beyond the cumulative benefits of empowering individual women, the Influence Effect can be a game changer for organizations. Study after study reinforces the idea that gender-diverse leadership teams result in higher profitability, greater innovation, and balanced risk taking. The evidence is simply overwhelming. This should act as an incentive for top leaders in organizations to take a hard look at the number of women represented on their leadership teams at every level. Where the percentage of women does not adequately represent their workforce and customers, they would do well to take steps to increase female representation. Best-in-class companies have metrics that track gender representation and turnover. These companies fund and support leadership programs expressly designed to develop women leaders. They match their high-potential female leaders with executive-level sponsors, and design programs to enable coaching. Finally, best-in-class companies hold their top leaders accountable for retaining, training, and promoting female executives within their organizations. These are the types of actions that help companies succeed and be their best.

 

Appendix A: Strategies for Influence

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The following is a summary of the strategies you can employ to achieve influence, as described in chapters 2–10 of The Influence Effect:

Chapter 2: Think Bigger, Aim Higher

Chapter 3: Construct Your Scaffolding

Chapter 4: The Power of the Informal

Chapter 5: Relationship Maps

Chapter 6: Scenario Thinking

Chapter 7: Influence Loops

Chapter 8: Momentum

Chapter 9: Dance with Resistance

Chapter 10: Meetings: A Case in Point

 

Appendix B: Methodology

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The premises and data in this book are based on (1) our 2015–16 “Gender Perceptions of Office Politics” survey; (2) follow-up interviews with forty-four executives; and (3) an analysis of our database of 360-degree feedback reports.

Summary of the Survey

Do gender differences exist in the following areas?

Summary of the Findings

Participants

Analysis Procedure

We conducted in-depth phone interviews with forty-four executive-level men and women in American corporations.

We utilized our proprietary database of 7,500 360-degree feedback reports on top women executives in America.

 

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