Tag Archives: News

Without Comment: Seven ways to get what you want

7 Ways to Get What You Want: “Influence is the key to any leadership role. Some folks do not like talking about it, but power and influence are natural phenomena in organizations and in leadership roles. People who want power and influence often try not to appear as if they are seeking it, and some people who have power and influence are reticent about how they actually got it.

Research into the area of power and influence is fascinating. In one notable study, 165 managers were asked to write short descriptions of occasions when they influenced their bosses, co-workers, or employees. (See Kipnis, Schmidt, Swaffin-Smith, and Wilkinson, ‘Patterns of Managerial Influence,’ Organizational Dynamics.) The responses from these 165 managers were condensed and rewritten into a 58-item questionnaire that was then administered to over 750 managers. In this questionnaire, the managers were asked both how and why they influenced people in the workplace.

This research identified seven key influence tactics:

(1) Reason: Using facts and data to bolster your request.

(2) Assertiveness: Using a direct and forceful approach, such as demanding compliance, ordering others to do what is asked, and pointing out rules that must be followed.

(3) Friendliness: Creating goodwill by being affable and acting humble prior to making your request.

(4) Sanctions: Doling out punishments or distributing rewards.

(5) Coalition: Getting the support of others to back your idea, proposal, or request.

(6) Bargaining: Negotiating with others for the exchange of benefits or favors.

(7) Higher authority: Gaining the support of others at higher levels in the organization to back up your idea, proposal, or request.

The researchers discovered that the managers did not rely equally on the seven influence tactics. When the managers were interacting with their superiors, the most commonly used tactics (in order of frequency) were reason, coalition, friendliness, and bargaining. When the managers were interacting with their subordinates, the most commonly used tactics (in order of frequency) were reason, assertiveness, friendliness, and coalition. Interestingly, the use of sanctions was the least popular influence tactic by the managers. What’s more, the managers who controlled resources valued by others, or who were perceived to have more power than others, used a greater variety of influence tactics and employed assertiveness more often than did managers with less power.

To be an effective leader, you need to know which influence tactic to use in which situation. This leadership skill often separates the great leaders from the rest.

So, what influence tactics do you use?

Scott Derrick is the Director of Professional Development at the Senior Executives Association, a nonprofit professional association of career federal executives. Scott is also an executive coach and leadership consultant with the Federal Executive Development Group LLC, a consulting company specializing in leadership development in the federal sector. The views expressed here are his own.

(Via GovLoop.)

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Without Comment: The Unreliability of Expertise?

(Via The Frontal Cortex.)

The WSJ discovers the unreliability of wine critics, citing the fascinating statistical work of Robert Hodgson:

In his first study, each year, for four years, Mr. Hodgson served actual panels of California State Fair Wine Competition judges–some 70 judges each year–about 100 wines over a two-day period. He employed the same blind tasting process as the actual competition. In Mr. Hodgson’s study, however, every wine was presented to each judge three different times, each time drawn from the same bottle.

The results astonished Mr. Hodgson. The judges’ wine ratings typically varied by ±4 points on a standard ratings scale running from 80 to 100. A wine rated 91 on one tasting would often be rated an 87 or 95 on the next. Some of the judges did much worse, and only about one in 10 regularly rated the same wine within a range of ±2 points.

Mr. Hodgson also found that the judges whose ratings were most consistent in any given year landed in the middle of the pack in other years, suggesting that their consistent performance that year had simply been due to chance.

It’s easy to pick on wine critics, as I certainly have in the past. Wine is a complex and intoxicating substance, and the tongue is a crude sensory muscle. While I’ve argued that the consistent inconsistency of oenophiles teaches us something interesting about the mind – expectations warp reality – they are merely part of a larger category of experts vastly overselling their predictive powers.

Look, for instance, at mutual fund managers. They take absurdly huge fees from our retirement savings, but the vast majority of mutual funds in any given year will underperform the S&P 500 and other passive benchmarks. (Between 1982 and 2003, there have only been three years in which more than 50 percent of mutual funds beat the market.) Even those funds that do manage to outperform the market rarely do so for long. Their models work haphazardly; their success is inconsistent.

Or look at political experts. In the early 1980s, Philip Tetlock at UC Berkeley picked two hundred and eighty-four people who made their living ‘commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends’ and began asking them to make predictions about future events. He had a long list of pertinent questions. Would George Bush be re-elected? Would there be a peaceful end to apartheid in South Africa? Would Quebec secede from Canada? Would the dot-com bubble burst? In each case, the pundits were asked to rate the probability of several possible outcomes. Tetlock then interrogated the pundits about their thought process, so that he could better understand how they made up their minds. By the end of the study, Tetlock had quantified 82,361 different predictions.

After Tetlock tallied up the data, the predictive failures of the pundits became obvious. Although they were paid for their keen insights into world affairs, they tended to perform worse than random chance. Most of Tetlock’s questions had three possible answers; the pundits, on average, selected the right answer less than 33 percent of the time. In other words, a dart-throwing chimp would have beaten the vast majority of professionals. Tetlock also found that the most famous pundits in Tetlock’s study tended to be the least accurate, consistently churning out overblown and overconfident forecasts. Eminence was a handicap.

But here’s the worst part: even terrible expert advice can reliably tamp down activity in brain regions (like the anterior cingulate cortex) that are supposed to monitor mistakes and errors. It’s as if the brain is intimidated by credentials, bullied by bravado. The perverse result is that we fail to skeptically check the very people making mistakes with our money. I think one of the core challenges in fixing our economy is to make sure we design incentive systems to reward real expertise, and not faux-experts with no track record of success. We need to fund scientists, not mutual fund managers.

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Without Comment: Average Internet User Now Spends 68 Hours Per Month Online

(Via Mashable!.)

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The Nielsen Company issued a report on the top U.S. web brands and Internet usage in the U.S. As expected, Google is the #1 web brand based on unique audience.

The statistic that really jumped out for us, however, was that in September 2009, the average U.S. Internet user spent an estimated 68 hours online (both at home and at work).

Although that still trails television usage by a significant margin, it’s clear that the Internet is carving out a greater and greater role in our lives each month.

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In addition to spending an average of 68 hours online, the average user visits nearly 2700 websites and averages 57 seconds per site.

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For the larger web brands, users spend an average of 1 hour 53 minutes a month on Google, 3 hours 8 minutes on Yahoo and 5 hours 24 minutes on Facebook. The usage study compliments another Nielsen report issued yesterday that reported a 25% increase in online video viewing year-over-year.

Pew survey highlights/hides Twitter implications

There’s significant growth in the “use” of Twitter, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project and its release of a new report on Twitter and similar sites.

In fact, Twitter use has nearly doubled, particularly among younger and mobile Internet users, according to the report, which also provides updated demographic information about who is using Twitter and other social media.

But it pays to follow the links to the entire report to uncover some “buried” nuggets, like the Harvard Business School report that suggests that 90 percent of all Twitter traffic is actually generated by onlt 10 percent of its users.

Stakeholder engagement programs win KC PRISM awards

Last night’s PRISM Awards Gala was a great night for coalition builders.

My dear friend, Jackie Clark, was honored as the Roger Yarrington PR Pro of the Year at the annual event hosted by the Greater Kansas City chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Jackie’s career has been spent building coalitions around effective resolutions to complex problems, and it was gratifying to see her recognized for all she has done.

Additionally, I was lucky enough to win three awards for internal, government relations and stakeholder engagement efforts:

  • A silver award in Special Programs for “The HNTB Kansas City Office Strategic Plan Open House.” The internal communication event, developed in partnership with Jan Ruemker, engaged HNTB staff in developing our office strategic plan through information stations, surveys, quizzes and face-to-face brainstorming with office leadership.
  • A PRISM award in Special Programs for “The HNTB Infrastructure Day.” This top award in the category was also won in conjunction with my friend and colleague, Jan Ruemker.  This day-long program of tours, presentations and face-to-face interaction helped brief key Congressional staffers on our region’s transportation challenges and opportunities. The goal of this government relations program was to help members of the area’s Congressional delegation become even stronger advocates for the interests of Greater Kansas City.
  • A silver award for Internet Communications for development and implementation of the Johnson County Gateway Study website.  This group stakeholder engagement effort featured the hard work of many individuals, most notably Robyn Arthur, HNTB, and Kim Qualls, the Kansas Dept. of Transportation. The project and website are designed to engage thousands of local residents and “thru travelers” in developing a long-term solution to improving a large-scale, complex set of interchanges in Johnson County, Kansas.

Online meeting strategy for coalition building wins kudos from Missouri Governor

An online public meeting strategy developed in partnership between the Missouri Dept. of Transportation and HNTB’s public involvement group was honored by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Oct. 15.

The Governor’s Award for Quality and Productivity recognizes State of Missouri teams that excel in the areas of excellence, efficiency, innovation, technology, process improvement, customer service and employee development.

MoDOT and its partner, HNTB Corp., an engineering firm, held Missouri’s first-ever electronic meeting to meaningfully and cost-effectively get input from the public on rebuilding Interstate 70 with lanes separating cars and trucks.  This innovative public involvement tool is believed to be only the second such online meeting in the country.  Due to this innovative approach, up to 10 times as many people attended the online public meeting than had attended previous face-to-face meetings.  MoDOT has since used virtual meetings for other projects as a way to broaden the agency’s outreach efforts and get more people involved in its decision-making process.

Representing HNTB at the award ceremony were Betty Burry and Michael DeMent, APR.

The online public meeting was honored earlier in the week as 2009’s best public involvement approach in the nation at the 2009 National Transportation Public Affairs Workshop. NTPAW is a national organization representing public affairs, public involvement and communications professionals at the nation’s departments of transportation.

Employers increasingly blocking Twitter, Facebook, MySpace

Building a coalition just gets tougher all the time as challenges to reaching potential allies grow in number and complexity.

The latest is the proliferation of employer-driven policies barring social media usage.

According to a new survey of 1,400 CIOs of companies with 100 or more employees, 54% now completely block employees from accessing social networking sites at work.

Only 10% of those surveyed let employees use social networks however they please, while the remainder all impose at least some restrictions on usage, like limiting it to business purposes only.

The survey, which was developed by Robert Half Technology, is consistent with other recent reports that show companies are quickly moving to block social media in the workplace.

This presents multiple problems for coalitionists.

Rightly or wrongly, many individuals justify tracking issues, initiatives and campaigns as being job-related. If unable to electronically stay engaged from work, they are likely to be far less willing to remain fully informed and involved.

And if they have to shift their efforts to keep up on an issue to personal time, engagement in substantive issues or initiatives may suffer from competition for scarce discretionary time from family, other interests and more superficial social media activities.

Perversely, corporate social media roadblocks may actually backfire. There’s research to indicate that such restrictions actually reduce employees’ time on job and overall job satisfaction – in addition to making life tougher for coalitionists.