Friday, 15 October 2010

You can't build a house without a solid foundation

One of my favourite concepts is by Krackhardt & Hanson.  They worked on the organisation behind the chart and discovered that trust and influence may have greater power than position in the hierarchy.  They diagram advice, trust and communication networks within organisations. (Here's the crib notes version):

This idea seems fundamental for today's managers. How can you solve problems and initiate change and innovation if you haven't built a solid foundation of people support?

We recently had a change of Vice Chancellor at the OU.  We, the great unwashed mass of part time tutors (Associate Lecturers), were not optimistic that Mr Bean, formerly of Microsoft, would have much interest in supporting and expanding our role.  The great fear was that we would become a technology only university.

Martin Bean knows a thing or two about building communication, trust and influence.  He has travelled around and met all his heads of schools and regions (and given them a nudge to make better contact with all their staff).  He has written articles in the OU magazine praising the work of ALs and reassuring us that we're here to stay.   He's also started podcasts/video broadcasts to staff on a regular basis.

He is upfront about the future and limits of what he can do in the current climate. The former government prioritised first degrees and reduced support for postgraduate education.

He seems to be listening to staff concerns and has taken steps to involve part time tutors in contributing to current development.

Here's Martin Bean's comment on the latest government proposals for Higher Education.

Have all ALs dropped their misgivings?  No. However there is greater confidence that the VC is listening and acting on feedback as well as having a clear vision for the future.  He walks the talk and doesn't just schmooze with politicians.

I've noticed that Business School ALs are more willing to contribute again to discussions and that confidence is building.  I've had direct experience of contacting Martin Bean and resolving an issue for some of my students last year.

You don't climb Everest in one leap and neither do you build trust and influence straight away.  It takes regular and consistent effort.

I bang on about this concept as it is the single thing that has made the biggest difference to my clients' careers over the years.
In my coaching practice, I've helped turn around career prospects of clients from near redundancy to secure footing (shifting from threat to ally of senior management) by changing their focus towards building trust and influence.  With some functions such as IT, when senior bosses are technophobes and would dearly love to outsource the whole department, internal marketing is vital for survival.

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