Use Your Influencing Skills
In this last part of this case study, we’ll share a little about Alison’s outreach efforts as well as the results of those efforts.
Alison’s goal in these outreach efforts was to influence those peers with whom she had strong relationships and begin to develop relationships and trust with those peers with whom she had little past contact. While she didn’t expect to get 100% of her peers on board; the larger the group who championed the effort, the more likely the others would follow suit.
Alison would rely on her ability to influence others in order to accomplish her goal of getting peers to buy-in and support the 360 assessment. Of course, it will be easier for Alison to influence those peers with whom she already had developed a relationship and therefore had trust, it would take a bit longer to influence those peers with whom she had a minor, or no, relationship in place.
The Initial Communication
Alison sent an initial email to her colleagues – other VPs within the organization. She began her email with an apology for beginning the conversation of the proposed 360 assessment without sufficient time to have a meaningful conversation about it. She included in the email some basic information about the need for a 360 to assist in the development of a strategic plan for learning and development efforts for management staff. She noted that she would be reaching out to each of her peers prior to an all-peer in meeting to go into more details about the 360 and to get their support for the effort.
Individual and Small Group Sessions Held
Alison started with what she knew would be the most challenging of sessions – meetings with peers whom she barely knew. She didn’t expect to build a strong working relationship and trust with them in just a short time, but at least wanted to start down the path. She felt she could do this by taking the following steps:
- Share a little about herself and the work she has done in the organization as well as enable her colleagues to get to know her personally
- Get to know each of the individuals, personally and professionally; using active listening skills to learn more about them
- Spending time sharing a bit about ourselves and being genuinely interested in getting to know something about others goes a long way to building strong relationships and establishing trust.
Alison will talk about the benefits of this 360 assessment based on her own experiences at other organizations in being a part of a 360 process. She’ll also share how the 360 results will help to provide better strategic plans around learning and development, enabling for more effective programs for management level employees based on needs.
Alison will also share her perception of the past failure with a 360 assessment in the organization as well as what she is doing to ensure that the situation does not occur again.
She will then share how she intends to ensure the success of this initiative:
- Through hiring an outside consultant to implement and manage the 360, holding all data as confidential and providing summarized information.
- Communicating with all employees impacted (those participating in the assessment process) to ensure them how information is being managed and how their particular data will be kept secured.
The Outcome of Individual and Small Group Sessions
Alison met with all of the 25 peers with whom she had no real working relationship. These meetings were all one-on-one; Alison traveled to 4 separate offices to meet with these peers; she was able to do this in a two week period. She was honest with them that, while she wanted to get to know them and for them to get to know her, she was under some pressure to get this 360 assessment moving. She didn’t expect them to trust her outright, they had no basis to do so. But she implored them to do some research regarding the value of 360 assessments as well as to talk to those who have been part of the process in the past. She found that 10 of the 25 peers with whom she was speaking had been part of a 360 and all had a good experience. This was valuable in helping her to make the case with the five more, in particular because within his peer group there were peers who had strong working relationships with these five. That left 10 peers who promised to think more about it and do some research on their own.
Alison left this meeting with 15 of the 25 peers onboard for the process. The other 10 were not against the 360 outright, but rather knew little about 360 assessments as they had never been part of one and wanted to learn more. All agreed to meet with Alison within a week so that they could do research on their own and then ask any questions of her or bring up concerns she might address with them. On the plus side, Alison noted, none of the 10 were outright negative about the initiative.
The Outcome of Other Peer Sessions
Of the peers with whom Alison had worked closely in the past and had strong working relationships, credibility and trust; 15 of the 20 were immediately on board with the 360 assessment. The other five were involved in the previous assessment that did not go well at all and were skeptical that anything could be done to avoid the disaster of last time. These five felt so strongly about the fact that an assessment was not worth doing they didn’t even want to discuss it further with Alison.
Alison and I held those five off to the side for a further one-on-one conversations later on.
Of the peers with whom Alison had developed solid working relationships, but had not worked closely with on initiatives – all 15 were on board with the 360 assessment. Of those 15, eight had been involved in previous 360 assessments at past organizations that had gone well and been valuable. The other seven felt that Alison’s plan to avoid the trouble that occurred last time would work. They were also appreciative of the fact that time would be spent engaging employees in the process prior to sending out the 360 assessment surveys.
Here is the breakdown of support at the end of Alison’s sessions with her peers:
Support 360 assessment
Tentative support of 360 assessment
Non-supportive of 360 assessment
This was solid support for the 360 assessment! Alison made a plan to reach out to those who tentatively supported the 360 assessment and arranged for a meeting with all ten within a week.
At the close of that group meeting with those peers who tentatively supported the initiative, eight were completely on board and two were still unsure but were willing to go through the process and engage their employees in the 360. The eight who were on board were moved to the “support” column and we left the two who were still unsure in the “tentative support” column as we wanted to spend more time with them as we went through the 360 process.
One-on-One Meetings with Non-Supportive Peers
Alison took the initiative to reach out to the five who were non-supportive. She arranged a one-on-one meeting with each of these individuals. I accompanied her to each of these meetings in order to share my own perspective of 360 assessments at a variety of clients and how we get information confidential. I also was going to share how other clients, who had prior 360 assessments that turned out poorly, were able to change things around and launch a successful 360 assessment initiative. Sharing information from outside the current organization might help in bringing along these individuals who were non-supportive of the effort.
Alison started each of these meetings with the statement that she did not expect to change their mind, but would like to have a further conversation with them to share her own perspective of the 360 and to further understand their perspective.We outlined the following talking points:
- Alison would share her perspective of what the organization was doing to ensure the confidentiality of the 360
- I would share my stories of other organizations, how Abudi Consulting provides data in a rolled-up, summarized format and keeps individual information confidential
- The overall value of 360 assessments within organizations
- The perspective of the individual peer who did not support the effort as well as any questions, concerns the individual had that either Alison or I could answer
We did not expect to change any minds to being supportive at this meeting; but rather, to advance the conversation and potentially move “unsupportive” to “tentative.”
Outcome of One-on-One Meetings with Unsupportive Peers
While no one’s mind was changed, conversations with unsupportive peers went well overall. Each of the five agreed to do a bit more research and speak with internal peers with whom they had strong working relationships to get perspectives. We even encouraged these individuals to go ahead and speak with peers who were “on the fence” to talk with them about their perceptions of the 360 assessment.
We arrange for ongoing meetings with this group to keep them apprised, answer any questions and with the end goal of moving them to being supportive of the effort. However, the 360 assessment was moving forward.
The First Communication to all Employees Impacted
We launched the first communication to all employees impacted by the 360 assessment project within 75 days of first discussions about the initiative with Emily (Alison’s manager.) We could have launched a bit sooner, but wanted time to plan and prepare for the initiative. The launch started with an email communication, followed by an all-staff meeting, for those employees impacted by the assessment (meaning they were either being assessed or had to contribute to assessment surveys.) After the all-staff meeting, additional meetings would be arrange for smaller groups for further conversation. The purpose of the email communication was to provide some basic information as well as a “heads up” about the process and enable individuals to process the information prior to the all-staff meeting and the smaller group meetings.
The email communication focused on the following points:
- The purpose of the 360 assessment
- How data was being used
- The value of participating in 360 assessments
- A high level timeline and time commitment expected (how long to respond to a survey)
- A list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) with responses
- A date for the upcoming all-staff meeting as well as dates of smaller group meetings
We also provided all VPs a list of talking points so that they could have conversations with their employees.
This is a high level case study of how Alison – one of ACG’s clients – used her ability to influence others to get buy-in and support for a 360 assessment. The ability to influence is very much based upon having strong relationships with others, building trust and having credibility. Influencing is valuable even for engaging direct reports in initiatives. Telling people what to do doesn’t work well in today’s world. We want people to come along with us and we can get them to do so when we influence them through:
- Building strong working relationships and trust
- Engaging them in conversation
- Using active listening skills
- Paying attention to their needs and wants
- Sharing information
- Addressing their concerns
How effective are your employees at influencing others? Whether leaders or non-leaders, influencing is a skill for everyone to be successful in the workplace. Contact Abudi Consulting Group to learn more about our half-day virtual or on-site workshop on Influencing Others.
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