What’s Your Influence Quotient?

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Influencing those not in reporting relationships, up and laterally, is a very important aspect of change leadership for the CIOs. The traditional options (or tools) of authority and position power do not work well in a senior leadership position, especially for a role like CIO (and even CHRO). These tools may be relevant with respect to heading one’s function, where there are people reporting into them. The ability to sense that these tools are not functional in dealing with the CEO and other CXO peers and embrace influencing as a way determines success.

CIOs need to learn the art of influencing those who matter for their projects to be accepted and adopted.

Well, a lot has been written about what is influence and in what ways one can influence. In this article I would like to define the concept of Influence Quotient. The definition shall help one understand what the building blocks of influencing are and measure how well one is leveraging the opportunities to influence.

Let’s first talk about what is influence and what are the building blocks. Influencing is an act of swaying or affecting someone else’s decision in one’s favor by using logic, reasoning and building trustful relationships. It has the following six building blocks-

1. Understanding- how well does one understand the person who one wants to influence. This includes her likes and dislikes, values, goals and what does she want. It is a well established fact that human beings are self interested entities and whatever helps them fulfill their interests attracts them.

2. Quantum of interaction- how often does one interacts with others and is this interaction formal or informal? If the CIO meets the CMO only during the quarterly official meetings, it is very difficult to understand the CMO as a person and be able to influence her.

3. Trust and Empathy- trust and empathy is a direct outcome of the quantum of interactions, level of understanding, how one behaves and acts and what meanings others make of these. If a CIO behaves in a way where others see him as genuine in her efforts, trust and empathy will be a natural outcome.

4. Relative power- not all CXOs are equal in terms of the power they enjoy, not just because of their position but also due to other reasons like proximity to the CEO, relative size of their function, importance of their function, organizational dependency on them, tenure in the organization etc.

5. Relevance- how relevant is a CXO to your function and your endeavours. A CMO may be more relevant to you than the HR head or the Operations head may be more relevant than the Purchase head. This may change with time. And one needs to be aware of direct relevance and indirect relevance, e.g. the Purchase head may be directly less relevant but indirectly very relevant as the CEO has immense trust in him and seeks his advice in any important matter. A highly influential person in the organization may be less relevant directly but indirectly is always very relevant.

6. Perceived ability-how do others perceive you in terms of ability to handle you function and deliver as per the need. This includes domain specific technical and leadership abilities.

It is also important to define an Influence Set. An influence set includes all those individuals who one needs to influence. They may be his superiors (e.g. the CEO or the MD) or peers (e.g. the CMO or the CFO) or even from outside the organization (e.g. consultants or service providers).

Influence Quotient is defined as the ratio of the actual influence to the scope of influence. The actual influence is the actual score one gets on each of the six building blocks for each individual as part of one’s influence set. The scope of influence is the maximum one can influence in one’s influence set. A high influence quotient is a precursor to one’s success.

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