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Office Influence: Key for CIOs to Get Seat at Strategy Table

This is a guest post by Eric Bloom, Executive Director of IT Management and Leadership Institute.

In the 1980s there was a financial services firm named E. F. Hutton. Their tag line was “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” I never worked at this firm. I never invested in or through this firm. I never knew anyone that worked there. So why do I remember their tag line from so many years ago? The reason is that I remember as a young man thinking “Wow, they must be really important if everyone is listening to them.” Yes, this was just a marketing campaign, but it was also a self-fulfilling prophecy they wanted to achieve. 

What is your self-fulfilling prophecy? How do you describe your role within the C-Suite and IT’s role within the organization? If you describe yourself as the leader of the IT team and IT as an internal support function, then that’s how you and your group will be viewed.

When I began my professional career, our technology group was named “Data Processing”. The reason was that in the earlier days of computing, that’s all business computing could provide, the processing and summary of transaction data.

A decade later, as hardware increased in strength and power, software was able to become more sophisticated. These advances provided the tools to mathematically analyze our processed data in a way that could truly provide senior management with the data to make informed decisions on company strategy and direction. Our name was then changed to “Management Information Systems (MIS)”. During these earlier days of computing, we were a support function providing an important service to the business and that’s how we were viewed, as a service.

Time went on and Moore’s Law continued to prove true, computer hardware continued to advance, the internet was born, software technologies continued to advance, and our name changed again, now to “Information Technology (IT)".

In today’s world, barely a business exists that is not driven by the technologies that IT provides. IT-related activities are now a focal point and core component of almost every business endeavor. 

The problem is old habits die hard. The issue is that with all these technological advances and the omnipresence and reliance on IT’s handiwork, IT is most commonly still seen by the business as a service provider, and the CIO is still considered to be the head of a service, not an equal business partner.

As a senior IT executive, to get an equal seat at the strategy and decision-making table, requires you to use the same office influence concepts, strategies, techniques, and tricks that the C-Suite uses on each other and on you.

IT is the only corporate function that provides access and transparency into the prioritization, processes, risks, organizational culture, and priorities of every organizational function. Use this to your political advantage to help drive organizational objectives and your personal professional advancement. If you do it right, these two goals are perfectly aligned.

Influence in the workplace is achieved through the intersection of three key influence concepts:

  • Influence Factors

  • Influence Currencies

  • Influential Presence

Chart-influence currencies, influence factors and influential presence

Influence Factors

Influence Factors are techniques that affect people’s willingness to say “yes”. These factors are best described by Robert Cialdini in his book “The Psychology of Persuasion”. In this book he highlights the following six factors:

1. Reciprocity: People generally return favors and treat others as they have been treated.

2. Commitment/Consistency: Once people have committed to something, they are more inclined to go through with it.

3. Social Proof (safety in numbers): People often look at the behaviors of similar others for direction on choices.

4. Liking: People are more likely to be influenced by people they like.

5. Authority: People are more easily persuaded by individuals perceived to be legitimate authorities, including people in uniform and those with certificates and diplomas.

6. Scarcity: Things are more attractive when their availability is limited or we may lose the opportunity to acquire them.

Influence Currencies

Influence Currencies are things people want/need in return for being influenced. According to Allen Cohen and David Bradford in their book “Influence without Authority” and in other writings, currencies are described as something a person values in exchange for their cooperation.

While the word “currency” tends to immediately bring up the thought of money, these thought leaders broaden “influence currency” into the following categories, listed with a few examples:

1. Inspiration-related Currencies: vision, excellence, moral/ethical correctness

2. Task-related Currencies: new resources, organizational support, assistance

3. Position-related Currencies: recognition, visibility, reputation

4. Relationship-related Currencies: understanding, acceptance/inclusion, personal support

5. Personal-related Currencies: gratitude, ownership/involvement, self-concept/affirmation

They enhance this concept by saying that “Influence is possible when you have what others want.”

Influence Presence

Influential Presence is your ability to influence others based on your stature, skills and personal attributes. In my book, “Office Influence: Get What You Want from the Mailroom to the Boardroom”, I divide the components of influence in the workplace into five distinct categories, listed with a few examples of each type:

1. Personal Attributes - Internal: confidence, trustworthiness, loyalty, courage, vision

2. Personal Attributes – External: follow-through, leading by example, friends and allies

3. Professional Stature: job title, awards, accomplishments, professional experience

4. Interpersonal Skills: emotional intelligence, active listening, public speaking

5. Business Skills: teambuilding, mentoring, negotiation, goal setting

The combination of these five attribute types determine your influential presence and how seriously you are taken by your coworkers of all organizational levels. 

In closing, the greater your influential presence, the greater your ability to use the influence factors and influence currency concepts previously discussed to forward your organization’s objectives and advance your professional clout and reputation within your organization.

Until next time, lead well, innovate, and continue to grow.

Author Bio

Eric Bloom

Eric Bloom is the Executive Director of the IT Management and Leadership Institute, Founder of OfficeInfluence.com, author of the book “Office Influence: Get What You Want from The Mailroom to the Boardroom”, an Amazon bestselling author, speaker, trainer and executive coach.

Eric is also a former nationally syndicated columnist, TEDx speaker, and recognized thought leader on the use of influence in the workplace. 

He is also a Past President of National Speakers Association New England, a Certified Professional Speaker (CSP), and the author of various other books, including “Productivity Driven Success” and “The CIO’s Guide to Staff Needs, Growth, and Productivity”. Prior to his current role, Eric was a senior IT executive at various firms including Fidelity Investments, Monster.com and Independence Investments.

Contact him at eric.bloom@ITMLinstitute.org, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ITMLinstitute.org and www.OfficeInfluence.com.

Interested in advancing your office influence and your organization's objectives? Learn how from ITML Institute!

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Last updated: 22 Mar 2021

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