Why Influence Is Only Halfway to Trust

I was interested to read, in the Wall Street Journal  that persuasion is taking the place of old-style command and control managemen

True—and yet only half the truth.

The author, Erin white writes:

Managers say they increasingly must influence — rather than command — others in order to get their own jobs done. The trend is the result of leaner corporate hierarchies and the erosion of division walls. Managers now work more often with peers where lines of authority aren’t clear or don’t exist.

Historically, each business-development staffer worked with a specific engineer in Mr. Martino’s group [at IBM]. He wanted to create teams of engineers to work with business-development staffers. Business-development managers feared the move might lead to confusion and missed connections. So Mr. Martino agreed to appoint team leaders to help coordinate. He says the system is working well.

"The more we operate as a global company, you’re going to be faced with dealing more" across group boundaries, he says. "It’s just the reality."

That’s the truth part: that as organizations become more global, they must get more horizontal, matrixed, and team-based.

Now here’s the half-truth part: that isn’t the half of it.

Marry globalization to business process outsourcing, and you have a massive replacement of clear vertical management not by indirect management—but by commercial contracts with third parties.

Think it’s hard coordinating business development managers in Armonk with engineers in Tennessee? Try coordinating them with an engineering subcontractor in Bangalore.

The difficulty is not just about lines of authority—it’s about horizontal, commercial, supplier/customer relationships with the companies that now handle the work you used to handle internally across those corporate boundaries—which you used to think were complex!

Handling vague lines of authority is merely a way-station on the road to globally outsourced supply chains.

Jack Welch had it half right when he talked about the need for boundaryless companies. The half he missed was to get rid of the word “companies.”

Courses on influence are indeed taking over the corporate agenda from courses on management. But it’s a half-step and change is hampered because “influence” is still chained to an us vs. them paradigm.

The value of “influencing” skills is harshly limited if they are applied only to the achievement of sustainable corporate competitive advantage. If I’m on the same team as you, I might not mind being influenced. But if I’m the outsourcing partner you’re trying to influence, in order to increase your bottom line at the expense of mine, then every attempt at influencing me just makes me more cynical about your motives.

When applied to outsiders, when we say "influence," we mean “getting you to do what I want." Until we see customers and suppliers as on the same side of the table as we are, we cannot move to trust—helping us both get what we both want.

Carnival of Trust for February is Up

Carnival of TrustThe February 2008 Carnival of Trust is now online, hosted by Michelle Golden and her blog Golden Practices.

Each month, the (rotating) host selects the Top Ten trust-related blog postings from across the web during the prior month. Subject areas include Advising and Influencing, Sales and Marketing, Leadership and Management, and Strategy, Economics and Policy.

I want to say pointedly how great this Carnival thing is.  Maybe you never heard the word "carnival" applied to blogs before.  All it means is a compilation of other blogs.

But as with all things internet-related—there are compilations, and there are compilations.  If you like casually searching the web for interesting stuff, the best click you can make is onto a really good Carnival.  And here’s why this one is turning out so well.

First, we limit the posts to 10.  This is the Top 10 list, the very best of the blogosphere, for anything vaguely related to trust last month.

Second, we get great hosts.  It’s not me that picks the Top 10, it’s the fine people who bring their own special expertise—marketing, consulting, intellectual property, selling, communications—and apply that expertise to the selection.

Third, those great hosts have a Point of View.  They add zing and zest and perspective to the already-good material they’ve selected.

Think of reading the Carnival of Trust as like skimming the NYTimes Book Review, if you like that; or the category leaders in Amazon; or some kind of Google-scanning with mind-reading software that filters out everything but what is Really Great for You and You Alone (if you like trust, that is).

If you can’t tell, I’m excited about the way the Carnival of Trust has been evolving.  Do yourself a favor and pop over to the carnival, hosted by Michell Golden this month,  and treat yourself to a good quick  read.

Americans, Travel and Rushing to Judgment

I travel internationally; less than some, more than many. These last three weeks I’ve been in three countries (the third visit for one, 10th and 20-something-th for the others).

Travel is good for everyone, I think, but especially for Americans. All right, OK—for me.

(On Monday I’ll have a tongue-in-cheek self-diagnostic test: find out just how American you really are!).

I know a few who love foreign travel. They assume that people are fundamentally the same, and delight in finding the superficial differences, the spices that make the human stew an infinitely varied source of nourishment.

I admire the hell out of them. Because unlike them, my first reptilian-brain instinct is to go to fear-based judgment. An all-too American response, I think. All right, OK—maybe it’s just me.

Here’s what I’m re-discovering on this trip:

• Judgment feeds on fear.
• Fear feasts on ignorance.
• Ignorance fades when one can hear others—in their terms.
• Our ability to influence depends on our willingness to be influenced.
• Our similarities far outweigh our differences.
• Our behavior in groups mirrors our behavior as individuals.

My personal road to growth has been exposure to others. For me as an American, the benefit of international travel is enormous. Yet only something like 20% of us have a passport. Absurdly few of us speak another language—usually poorly at that.

But what’s the link between individuals and groups? Does the road to corporate trustworthiness go through the individual?

Some see trust issues mainly as group issues. I’m more inclined to see groups as aggregations of individuals. Let’s assume and explore—at the risk of touching on politics—the latter.

Marriage-researcher John Gottman says marriages work best when we are vulnerable to and influenceable by our mates. They’re worst when we judge, shut down, and insist on changing the other.

Might nations be the same? Mark Twain says, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness."

If Gottman’s observation extends to group behavior, then exposure to the world influences us. And, thereby, gives us influence.

Consider foreign student exchange programs, and how deeply they promote understanding. We could afford to spend $10,000 per head to send 500,000 Americans abroad to be influenced, and the same amount to bring 500,000 influenceable foreigners here—all for the cost of about two months’ spending on the Iraq war. With, arguably, better results. In any case, we could use a bit more of that perspective.

One of our presidential candidates said, “the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people.” It is no accident that this candidate “has a grandmother living in a hut on the shores of Lake Victoria and a sister who’s half-Indonesian, married to a Chinese-Canadian.” (Hint: it’s not Giuliani). We could use a bit of that kind of perspective too.

Peter Jennings—famously traveled—said, “Whenever I see a coin, I’ve learned to turn it over to see the other side.” We need a bit more of that view, I think.

My suggestions for travel in a new country or city:

  1. First, go walking. A lot. For hours. With no goal but to experience.
  2. Invest a few hours in the national historical museum.
  3. Find a local restaurant without using the concierge or guidebook.
  4. Be curious, not judgmental.

We need a bit of that too. Well, I do anyway.