Leadership Influence Without Authority: How network leaders can motivate stakeholders and gain credibility
This article was written by Jo Anne Preston, MS, Workforce and Organizational Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC), for the May 2017 edition of “Networking News.” The Network Technical Assistance Project is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract to Rural Health Innovations, LLC, a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.
The notion of the solitary, forceful leader who makes things happen is outdated for the way we want to do business today. Position power can make us comply – for a while anyway. But when what you really want is people joining your cause and kicking in (think: leading a rural health network), your real power lies in your ability to influence.
Understanding Motivational Styles through Personality Theory
What we can do is “fuel” the motivational needs that others have, and one way to get better at this is through a basic understanding of personality theory. How one is wired in personality reveals unique information about the kind of fuel needed to get him or her motivated, and the conduit is how we communicate. Examine your communication style to see if you meet the needs of those whose motivation requires the following elements:
Increasing your own influence
There are many recipes for gaining influence, but they all have one vital ingredient: the ability to build relationships of trust. This article identifies a few opportunities to reflect on your own trust-building behaviors. Your credibility earned through trust is your secret sauce, and you can’t really influence without it. But trust doesn’t stand alone.
How you handle yourself makes more difference than you might think, and it definitely impacts your ability to influence. We sometimes undermine our own credibility without realizing it. The following small steps can help us self-manage our actions to maintain credibility with stakeholders:
1. Ask for help. When you don’t ask others for help, they don’t get a chance for successful contribution, and then we may wonder why they are not engaged. This can also lead to feeling like you have to do everything yourself. “I could really use your help; would you be willing?” is a great way to influence and gain engagement.
2. Create space for others to lead. Ego can get in the way of effective power when we fail to create space for others to lead too. We need not be threatened by others’ power. Instead, find ways to access others with influential power to help you bring people on board. Take advantage of their relationships to make connections for you.
3. Manage stress. It can truly be said that we are not overwhelmed by life, but that we overwhelm ourselves with our thoughts about life. People sense our overwhelmed demeanor and run the other way. Break your initiatives down into clear milestones you can articulate so that you can “sell” something people can envision (and at the same time, enjoy less stress).
4. Appeal to their needs. Having a great idea is not enough to get people to sign up. There are competing needs for time and energy, and you can’t “should” someone into joining. If you find your frustration is getting the best of you, you may be trying to push a noodle uphill. What would appeal to them? How does it serve a need they have? Find a connecting story rather than a “should.”
5. Never use gossip as influence. If someone upsets you, listen to them instead of talking about it to others. They may have something you need to hear and may be in a position at some point in the future to help you. Gossip comes back like a boomerang. Gossip is influence, but not the kind that helps.
6. Be specific. Get better at specifically estimating the time or financial resource ask you are making, e.g., “This will take about 10 hours over the next 6 weeks.” It helps people discern and decide.
7. Start small. Getting a “yes” doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Take advantage of pilots where you try something out as a study to learn from it. Provide different tiers of what you offer to allow people to see some benefits without having to fully commit before they are ready.
By becoming aware of the motivators of different personality types, building trust in our relationships, and taking manageable steps to maintain credibility, leaders can more effectively influence collaborators to support the work of the network.
Remember you already are having an influence. Is the kind of influence you want to have? List your assets. What do you have to offer as uniquely you? Make use of it, without over-relying on it. Any strength over-used can become a liability.
Jo Anne Preston is the Workforce and Organizational Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) in Sauk City, WI. RWHC serves rural hospitals in Wisconsin with a variety of products and services to support and enhance rural healthcare. Jo Anne’s work includes designing and delivering leadership education, leadership coaching, team facilitation and consultation around employee engagement and customer service. She also serves on a variety of workforce-related work groups in Wisconsin to address solutions to rural workforce shortages. She has a M.S. in Educational Psychology/Community Counseling from Eastern Illinois University.
By Jo Anne Preston, MS, Workforce and Organizational Development Senior Manager, Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC). This article (“Introverted Leaders”) was originally published in RWHC’s Leadership Insights.
MYTH: Extraverts make better leaders.
TRUTH: Both strong and weak leaders can be found in any personality style. An even bigger, and often misunderstood truth: personality traits are not the same as skill.
What does it mean to be introverted?
You might be introverted if you:
✓ Tend to prefer thinking things through before speaking vs. thinking out loud
✓ Find that situations with lots of stimuli tend to drain your energy
✓ Generally are more energized working alone or with a very small group than in an open team setting
No one is “pure” when it comes to personality style, and we are all a complex array of traits. Though it’s not static like our blood type, when it comes to navigating the energy dynamic of our internal and external world, most people lean in one direction more than another.
Stereotypes of extraverted leaders as charismatic and “verbal stand-outs” can sometimes make it tough for introverts to get noticed for leadership opportunities. It’s a little bit like extraverted kids in the classroom who raise their hand with their whole body, drawing all the attention, leaving the more deliberate and internally focused introverted students unnoticed.
When it comes to being a leader, being authentically you is a strength, notes Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Being “authentically you” starts with spending some time reflecting on who you are, and personality exploration is a fun and useful way to be “positively self-centered.”
Tips for improving your leadership capacity
If you are an introvert:
1. Don’t assume you won’t be a great public speaker! Strongly introverted Susan Cain's TED Talk with 14 million views is just one example of evidence to the contrary. Effective speaking takes practice, and anyone who wants to excel must do the drills. As an extraverted speaker, most of my best ideas I have learned from Cella Janisch Hartline, RWHC Nursing Leadership Senior Manager, who is an extreme introvert AND gifted speaker and educator. She is powerfully engaging, impacting learners like a force of nature, proof that introversion is not the same as talent. It is also not the same as being shy. Introversion is about how you re-energize. After teaching all day she seeks time alone, and understanding personality differences helps me to not take that personally-a huge benefit in our working relationship!
2. Be conscious of your facial expressions. A very common experience among introverts it is that people often ask them, “Are you mad at me?" The introverted thinking face can look a lot like irritation or anger. Be aware that you may feel very approachable, but it doesn’t work if others don’t experience you as such. Isn’t some of this on the other person’s part to assume good intent? Yes. And. We are still accountable for the message we are sending out.
3. Be mindful of the toll that “people-ing” takes on you. A “best use” for personality tools is understanding your own wiring so that you can meet your needs. We all need to know what kind of fuel our engine takes to recharge, and then it’s up to us to go after it. Manage your energy by:
✗ Allowing—and valuing as productive—the thinking time you need before beginning something new
✗ Asking for agendas and written material to review prior to meetings
✗ Seeking out some opportunities to work alone
✗ Asking others for time to think about or process their questions before responding
4. Reveal your thinking. Help others understand your personality and what makes you tick. People want to know what you think, and in a vacuum of information, rumors will fill in the gaps. One daily habit to develop is to ask yourself, “Who might benefit from knowing what is on my mind?”
Understanding your strengths
Skeptical of personality instruments? They can still help if you are open to asking, “What can I learn from personality awareness to make me a better leader?” With an open mind, these tools (and there are many) can help individuals and teams appreciate, rather than fight against, diverse approaches to work and life.
Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) has been providing affordable and effective services to healthcare organizations since 1979. RWHC is owned and operated by forty rural acute, general medical-surgical hospitals. The Cooperative's emphasis on developing a collaborative network among both freestanding and system-affiliated rural hospitals distinguishes it from alternative approaches. RWHC offers a variety of programs and services to its members as well as to other clients across the nation.
Network Leadership During Times of Change: Maintaining stakeholder engagement to transform communities
Written by Becky Gourde, MPA, program coordinator, National Rural Health Resource Center/Rural Health Innovations
Think of the last time you were faced with a change and felt resistant to it. How did you feel? What do you suppose accounted for your resistance? If you’re anything like the rest of us, you probably resist change when you feel you’re losing control over a situation, when you feel your identity is threatened, or when you feel you’re at risk of failing.
As leaders of rural health networks, it’s often your responsibility to guide diverse stakeholder groups through periods of change as you work together to accomplish new goals. Maintaining the full engagement of stakeholders is crucial to the successful navigation of a transition.
People often have several common questions as they try to wrap their heads around an opportunity for change:
Creating a shared vision
People don’t change just because someone tells them to do it. The two main reasons people decide to take on new behaviors or actions are (1) they have the motivation, and (2) they have the ability. Particularly for network leaders, change management strategies will be most effective when you focus on increasing stakeholders’ motivation and ability, rather than simply telling people what to do.
Before you can understand what motivates your stakeholders, you need to have an awareness of their goals and anxieties. The vision that you establish should help them meet their needs while reinforcing that the network’s intended destination is one that’s worthwhile to them. A vision workshop, such as the format developed by RHI for rural health networks, is a helpful method for articulating priorities and gaining consensus on a network’s desired future state.
When facing a significant transition, network members and stakeholders can feel losses of control, power, influence, relationships, or even personal identity. There are a number of techniques that can help ease the losses felt by individuals as they enter a transition.
Maintaining commitment through communication
The way you communicate information with stakeholders can have a profound effect on their decisions to stay engaged through periods of change. While communicating during transitions, network leaders can ensure that all voices are heard and stimulate participative conversations.
As you engage in dialogue, remember that understanding is more important than agreement. Reaching consensus on an implementation plan will likely be challenging, but the challenge will be even greater if there isn’t a common understanding of the circumstances. Encourage stakeholders to spend time listening to and acknowledging other viewpoints without necessarily coming to an agreement on solutions right away.
Even those who are instrumental to a solution often begin the transition by complaining. It may appear tempting to allow complainers to disengage from the process. Instead, prepare yourself upfront for the likelihood that the early stages of planning and transition will involve some negative or uneasy feedback. It’s important to encourage the continued participation of critics, as these stakeholders can be key influencers when designing comprehensive action plans.
Implementing and reviewing your plan for change
Of course, it’s tough to reach the destination of your vision if you don’t have a plan for getting there. Implementation plans or action plans are an opportunity to develop collaborative processes and maintain the commitment of results-oriented stakeholders.
Colorado Telehealth Network
How one network maintains engagement while implementing change
The Colorado Telehealth Network (CTN) in Greenwood Village, CO, provides broadband connections for Colorado’s health care delivery systems. Ed Bostick, the executive director of CTN, shares with us how their network has been involved in a collaborative process to engage stakeholders while implementing change in their communities:
“Colorado’s health care providers are finding themselves at varying degrees of readiness regarding the integration of primary care and behavioral health services. Telehealth is a tool that can support this shift; however, there is no one-size-fits-all telehealth solution for Colorado.
Recognizing these concerns, the Colorado Telehealth Working Group (CTWG) convenes a monthly meeting to discuss issues that may result in barriers to the adoption of telehealth or its implementation. The members of CTWG are voluntary and represent a wide stakeholder group comprised of behavioral and physical health organizations, hospitals, health systems, the State of Colorado, payers, insurance plans and consumers.
CTWG hosted a mini-summit in October 2015 to begin identifying and addressing barriers to telehealth adoption and implementation in Colorado. Fifty-one individuals attended the mini-summit, representing 37 distinct organizations operating in Colorado. Attendees examined how telehealth impacts integration of physical and behavioral health, policy and payment reform, clinical outlook and vision, operational outlook and vision, and telehealth innovation.
A follow-up consensus conference was held in February 2016 to identify implementation strategies for the development of telehealth service lines. Eighty-six individuals representing 55 organizations in Colorado and Wyoming participated in the conference. The group identified barriers to telehealth and then recommended solutions to those barriers for patients and providers.”
-Ed Bostick, executive director, Colorado Telehealth Network
Facilitating conversations with groups of stakeholders, such as through in-person planning events and other collaboration techniques, is a valuable part of effective change management strategies.
In the case of the Colorado Telehealth Network, the mini-summit and the follow-up consensus conference provided opportunities for many distinct entities to come together and establish a shared vision, discuss how a change would impact their areas of work, identify barriers that could get in the way of reaching the shared vision, and develop an implementation plan to bring them to the desired future.
Engagement from diverse groups helps ensure that all perspectives are taken into account before implementing a change, and their involvement early in the process allows you to start influencing their motivation and ability to change right off the bat.
The topics covered in this article are based on the research and works of Peter Senge and William Bridges. We encourage you to explore their materials as you continue to implement change within your networks.
The National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining and improving health care in rural communities. Rural Health Innovations, LLC is a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.