Collaborative influence is another topic discussed in "IBM's Management Makeover" (Nov. 2004) in Fast Company magazine, the same article that discussed how IBM Customers Are Clients:
The 33 leaders [who had been identified as outstanding leaders in the new on-demand era] were also adept at a skill IBM calls "collaborative influence." In a highly complex world, where multiple groups might need to unite to solve a client's problems, old-style siloed thinking just won't cut it, and command-and-control leadership doesn't work. "It's really about winning hearts and minds -- and getting people whose pay you don't control to do stuff," says Mary Fontaine, vice president and general manager of Hay's McClelland Center for Research and Innovation.
So collaborative influence is how you work with people you have no direct control over, yet persuade them to do what you'd like, what is hopefully beneficial for the group.
I wasn't familiar with this term, but as a consultant to some of IBM's WebSphere clients, I often feel like this sort of persuasion is the only real power I have. I can't fire anyone; in fact, if anything, they can "fire" me (from their project, not IBM). Yet I need to convince them to stop doing some of what they're doing, since apparently that's limiting their success with WebSphere products, and start doing things differently, even though they may well not want to.
I'd argue that in our modern workplaces, and in life in general for that matter, the only real power any of us really has is collaborative influence. We all work with lots of people we can't fire, yet whom we need to persuade to take certain actions to help all of our success. Even bosses have pretty limited authority: Yeah, they can fire you; but if you have good skills, you'll just go get another job somewhere else, and now your boss and his/her team are without the benefit of your skills. D'oh! The best bosses, I find, are those who attract the best people they can find to their teams, encourage everybody to work together, and then get out of the way. That's collaborative influence.
I think collaborative influence is an important component of leadership, a quality we all need to get better at. Many of the non-programming books I read are on leadership, teamwork, and that sort of thing; I'd suggest you should too.
I'm pleased to find that IBM has an article on collaborative influence called "Changing Minds":
You can upgrade your IT. You can rewrite your processes. But you won't change your business if you can't change your people--how they think, how they work together and how they use the resources around them.
Changing the culture of your company isn't easy. It takes time, effort and a very specific kind of leadership. To learn more about it, we spoke to IBM's Senior Vice President Linda Sanford and General Manager Ross Mauri.
It's on a section of our web site called "Boost team performance," kind of a developerWorks for workplace skills. It has articles, case studies, and executive guides. (Shockingly enough, we even have some services we'll sell you to help you achieve this.) The theme of boost team performance:
Bring your people, departments and partners together to boost productivity, streamline the workload and sharpen employee training for a constantly changing world.
So not only is your IT on-demand, your whole company and workplace is an On Demand Business. Yeah, this gets kind of hypish, but the focus here is on helping people to work together, and I think that's important.
So, do you have collaborative influence? What can you do to get more? How can you use it to do your job better?