Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GHC09: Becoming a person of influence

Even though I have heard this talk from Jo Miller at Intel before, I was still very much looking forward to getting a refresher on it. And indeed I came away with new motivation, inspiration, and action items to improve my influencing skills.

The first big concept that Jo wanted to stick with us is: our behavior teaches people how to treat us. If you always appear calm, collected, and come up with great ideas, people will treat you with respect and make you their go-to person. However, if you always defer the difficult question to someone else, people will then treat you as someone who doesn't know what they're talking about. Don't be the "best kept secret in your organization", show your expertise and take credit for knowing it.

Below are the 6 different kinds of influence skills, ways to build them, and a little of my thoughts on each.

6. positional influence: influence inherent in your job title and role.

Ways to build positional influence:
- you have an important job - people need to know
- seize all opportunities to educate others about your role, and how you can help
- create your 30-second commercial, which includes your name, title, what you are responsible for, and when people should come directly to you.

For me I think I use this one more than the others. I feel more comfortable for a title that's given to me and feel validated that I am the "lead", or "senior". I should be careful not to lean too heavily on this, and develop the other useful influencing skills.

5. expertise influence: the influence that comes from your background, qualifications, experience and expertise.

Ways to build expertise influence:
- don't wait for an invitation to speak up on your topics of expertise
- promote your accomplishments
- present in meetings and lunch & learns
- write articles or papers or a blog
- speak on panels and conferences

I sometimes have problem with this, especially at big group meetings I would hesitate to interrupt someone. Sometimes it's hard to find an opening to pitch my idea and may miss an opportunity. Definitely an area I need to improve on.

4. resources influence: having access to the resources you need, to do your job well

Ways to increase resources influence:
- become a strong negotiator
- learn matrixed management
- cross train others in your area
- prioritize your workload, communicate bandwidth constraints
- gain visibility for the importance of your work and the effort it takes
- suggest special projects as developmental opportunities for others

Another area that I need to improve on -- a lot of what I do at work seems to be mysterious to my team members. It's hard to find coverage during my absence, and it makes it harder for me to accept a stretch assignment.

3. informational influence: being an informational powerhouse who keeps a 'finger on the pulse' of business, personnel and organizational issues

Being an informational influencer:
- strive to keep a 'finger on the pulse' of the business
- stay current on personnel and organizational issues
- know who other "informational powerhouses" are
- seek out information about changes before they occur, e.g. new projects, opportunities, re-orgs, resource allocations, budget, long-range plans.

This is something I'm working on - actually taking time to keep up with industry news and read about all the organizational changes. I'm not at the stage where I'm an "informational powerhouse" that knows news before they break, but at least I'm in the know afterwards.

2. direct influence: being firm, professional and direct when someone's behavior is detrimental to the team or the organization (the 1% rule - only use this influencing style 1% of the time!)

Effective use of direct influence:
- be firm, fair, and professional
- be direct and concise while delivering tough news
- explain what was unacceptable and why
- focus on a positive vision for the future

This is probably the style I use the least, I just don't feel comfortable telling people outright that they're doing something bad. I do feel that as I get more senior in the group, I am feeling slightly more comfortable with doing this very occasionally. Maybe with more time and practice I can improve it.

1. relationships influence: knowing who the key people are in your organization, profession, and industry, and building an influential network

This is the most important asset you build in your career.

I definitely need to work harder to keep better relationship with people. When I'm buried under day-to-day work and constantly being in firefighting mode, I don't keep relationships alive and forget the contacts I've made.

That's all! There was a panel afterwards with some great advice, since this post is getting long it is in a separate post.

GHC09: Privacy and Social Software session 1

Kicking off Grace Hopper 2009! After a warm welcome from the program chair, I rushed over to the "Privacy and Social Software" session upstairs. It was completely jam packed, I arrived early so I had a seat, but there were many people sitting on the floor and a lot of people standing in the back. I guess the organizers didn't think this topic would attract such a big audience? I don't know why because obviously it sounds very interesting to me! :)

There were 3 research topics presented in this session. The first was "Enterprise Social Networking: History, Current Practices, and Research Challenges" by Julia Grace from IBM research. Julia was a bundle of energy! I really enjoyed listening to her. Out of the 3 topics I thought hers was the most interesting one.

Julia first went through a quick history of communication and collaboration, from phone to email to blogs. We are going in a direction where information previously shared in email can now be shared publically where others can benefit. At work I am seeing more of this, we have a blogging site, a facebook-like site, and a twitter-like site. Seems to be similar at IBM as well. Another observation Julia made was: within the enterprise, employees choose to reach out and meet new people rather than only connecting to those they knew. That's a very good point! I should do more social networking at work and connect to some new people! :)

Julia's concluding recommendations were to 1) avoid social information overload by constraining what you see. Filter by groups of people, or use any other method to make it manageable. And 2) have your manager join facebook! It's hard to quantify the benefits of social software, and you really can't know it until you experience it. She also used twitter as an example, that people who don't use it really can't understand how useful it is. I have to admit I fall into that bucket, having never tweeted (although I do have an account and follow a few people). Note to self: try harder to understand this twitter phenomenon and not get left behind!

Overall I think I already vaguely know some of the concepts, but it was great to have it solidified and expressed elegantly. This is a great start to a fun conference!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting ready for GHC!

Less than a week before the Grace Hopper Conference, I am getting pretty excited! Just went through the detailed program agenda and chose all the sessions I will attend, sometimes it's a pretty difficult choice. :)

I am planning to blog about each session I attend, so keep an eye out here for great inspirations.