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September 9, 2009

HR Pros Can and Must Be Influential

Filed under: General HR Buzz12:28 pm

As the pace of change intensifies—in markets, in employment relationships, in finance, and across the globe—it’s more important than ever for HR to gain a seat at the table where strategies are set and decisions made. A recent white paper from the president of OnPoint Consulting discusses the tactics that are the most likely to help all leaders become more influential.

OnPoint’s Rick Lepsinger says that as pressure increases on organizations to do more with less, it’s crucial for HR influencers to build consensus among other officers and gain the support of many people with competing priorities or conflicting goals. Lepsinger’s research has identified 11 ‘proactive influence tactics’ used by the most effective leaders, but 4 of them align best with gaining commitment. So you can imagine using them when you need to get a budget increase, persuade managers to outsource some of the less strategic HR functions, or get approval for an upgraded talent management process. The four tactics are rational persuasion, inspirational appeals, consultation, and collaboration.

Lepsinger advises people who want to enhance their ability to influence others that it’s very important to understand what is important to each of those you wish to influence. In a business sense, what are they trying to accomplish? And on a personal level, what are their values, beliefs, and style?

Assuming you’re familiar with the organization’s management functions and its vision/mission/values, discerning some of that information may not be difficult. The tricky part with someone you don’t know well will be identifying the person’s style. But getting a handle on most of those things about most of your targets will help you position your proposal or idea more effectively with them. Lepsinger also reminds us that influencing is not a one-shot event. You need to develop personal relationships, establish your credibility, and build trust along the way: They are the keys to gaining buy-in when you need it.

What should you avoid doing? Lepsinger cautions against using influence in a manipulative way, to achieve your own interests; one way you might manipulate is by withholding key information from a constituent or stakeholder. Also, he says, it’s often tempting to move too quickly into pressure tactics—those should be used only after you’ve tried everything else, gotten nowhere, and the stakes are high.

Tip: Don’t feel that you have to be the most senior person in the room to exert influence and get people to do what needs to be done. Understand that the ability to influence is not based only on the organizational hierarchy but also on behavioral tactics.



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