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Leadership Academy explores art of influencing

Thursday, September 5, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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More than 650 members learned to motivate, engage and inspire individuals and teams during the NEW Leadership Academy webinar "Influencing Up, Influencing Down,” Sept. 5, 2013.

Tammy DeBoer, senior vice president of food and private brands for Family Dollar Stores, and Cynthia Dautrich, chief procurement officer for Kimberly-Clark Corporation, shared their personal experiences during the one-hour learning session, which was facilitated by career coach Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching.

"As women in the workplace, we need to make sure we’re guiding and shaping decisions that change outcomes, to have an impact in our teams and within our organizations, and quite honestly, to be competitive with our male colleagues,” Dautrich said. "Sometimes our voices are not heard the same or our opinions aren’t viewed the same.”

DeBoer noted that women typically wear many hats in life and at work. "We have such a tremendous obligation to ensure that our voices are heard,” she said. "We’re representing so many people when we are involved in a conversation and really engaged in the decision-making process.”

Exploring the topic of influencing styles, DeBoer emphasized the importance of clear, transparent communication, which requires learning to be a good listener and listening for intent. "There should be no hidden agendas, and I think that’s hard, but it’s also something that you develop over time.”

Dautrich characterized her influencing style as pragmatic, flexible and adaptable to different situations. "If I’m working with engineers and scientists, I typically use a very fact-based, ‘theory’ approach. When I’m working with marketing or sales, I tend to be much more relational, intuitive and creative in my approach.”

Upon joining Kimberly-Clark, Dautrich worked hard to develop relationships and build trust with leaders, a process that didn’t occur overnight. "You have to take time and invest the time to build trust and relationships. You can’t shortcut that,” she said.

Once asked to work with counterparts at an acquired organization, DeBoer said she forgot to establish trust in the new relationships as she focused on tasks to be done. Egos and emotions came into play.

"At the end of the day, I don’t believe it was the absolute best outcome,” she said. "In hindsight, the learning for me was the need to build trust with people and build that communication platform.”

Overcoming resistance

When encountering resistance from groups or individuals, Dautrich recommends finding allies who have good relationships with the skeptics and seeking out people who have experienced success in related areas. "They can be a testimony to what the possibility could be,” she said.

DeBoer underscored the importance of making others a part of the decision-making process and sharing ownership and accountability for the decision. "It’s very important for everyone to understand their individual role, responsibility and obligation to the team.”

Inspiring storytelling can also play a part in influencing others up and down the organizational ladder. "It is a learned skill,” Dautrich said. "Think of good examples ahead of time. Good storytellers have a pocketful of them going on in their head.”

Asked how to avoid "reverse delegation,” when someone tries to manage upward, sometimes forcefully, DeBoer said humor and frankness can readjust the conversation. "I’ve just simply said, ‘Are you delegating this back to me?’ You can just be very candid, and be clear with expectations, roles and responsibilities.”

At the end of the session, DeBoer urged listeners to "take advantage of the opportunity that we all have, every single day, to influence.”

"Our influence, particularly as women,” Dautrich added, "is most impactful when it inspires others to do what is needed.”

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