Monday, September 24, 2012

Five Fundamental Questions for Leaders: Question Four - Who's On Your Side?

In today's organisations, leaders (and those who adopt positions of leadership at any level) need to commit to staying current, staying in touch with stakeholders and keeping their skills sharpened. Newspapers and TV are full of stories of leaders who seem to have lost touch with their supporters and - in some cases - lost touch with reality. Organisational leaders and their teams only exist because of the support and following they receive.There are five questions that leaders, in particular, need to focus on.

The five fundamental questions for any leader are:-
What Do You Stand For?
Why Should They Follow You?
What Will Be Different?
Who's On Your Side?
Who Listens When You Speak?

Who's On Your Side? - This question is designed to help leaders consider their network of contacts inside and outside the organisation. These are not the functions, departments and organisations but individuals within those areas or domains who perform a supporting role or have the potential to be of value in making things happen or getting things done.

Networking has become a corporate verb and something that most individuals dread even though they appreciate the importance of the concept. This question is not concerned with those false friends on social networks or the collection of business cards that can be harvested at the dreaded networking breakfasts. These are real people with real value to the cause, project or campaign that you, as leader, want to bring to fruition.

Mapping your network of stakeholders, supporters, sponsors and other useful contacts is a valuable step in ensuring you are keeping in contact with those who matter today or who may matter tomorrow.

Some classifications of those in your "work wide web" are a useful refinement:-

Sponsors/Supporters - These may be people with connections in high places or those who have some other indirect vested interest in making this work - they may just like the idea. They are probably not directly involved but supporting in the background.

Stakeholders - People who have resources required for you to make change happen or maintain viability. They could be budget holders, investors, shareholders or those directly affected by changes and who have expectations of tangible benefit. These people can make an immediate difference to the level of resource available for you to make things happen.

In both cases it's your job, as leader, to build and maintain the relationships you need to get them on your side and keep them on your side. No-one likes nasty surprises and neglected stakeholders can make assumptions which mean they are unhappy when reality dawns or they can just withdraw their support and look elsewhere for what they need. If this happens it's because you didn't do this side of your leadership role very well.

So, asking the question "Who's On Your Side?" should be the impetus for mapping important relationships and then doing whatever it takes to establish connection and keep those important stakeholders interested, engaged and committed to your leadership cause and the changes you want to make.

Clive is co-owner of ClearWorth , a company specialising in bespoke manager, leader and team development for major organisations around the world. Clive lives in the UK and France and works all over the world from Ohio to Oman, London to Lagos, Helsinki to Hyderabad. Clive thinks, teaches and writes about negotiation, influence, interpersonal relationships and cross cultural communication.

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