How to win business friends and influence stakeholders

I recently attended a HR function where I spoke with a good number of HR practitioners about their perennial trials and tribulations. One of the most common was securing buy-in from line managers for HR initiatives

I recently attended a HR function where I spoke with a good number of HR practitioners about their perennial trials and tribulations. One of the most common was securing buy-in from line managers for HR initiatives. One practitioner lamented the fact that line managers wouldn’t support HR initiatives outright, or only provide lip service to HR initiatives in the long run. This practitioner knew that their HR initiatives would benefit both the organisation and line manager’s employees, and argued that knowledge of the business wasn’t necessary to achieve this.

There’s an inherent flaw in this argument. If one is to secure meaningful buy-in from line managers, then understanding their business issues will certainly assist. It’s human nature to look out for oneself and ask what’s in it for me. This is especially true when one has budgetary, time and other constraints, so why shouldn’t line managers be cautious about supporting a HR initiative which they see as providing questionable value?

Much has been said about influencing skills of late, but anyone who’s read Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people will understand that making a genuine effort to understand people’s own interests from their perspective will work wonders in the ability to exert influence and effect change.

A good business example of this is the leadership framework which was developed for public service senior executives. One of the criteria of this framework is the ability to communicate with influence. This covers off a number of capabilities, such as listening actively to ensure views and information are properly exchanged, creating opportunities to listen to those whose input can add value and offering a convincing rationale which has been carefully positioned with reference to desired organisational outcomes.

Such capabilities make both good common and business sense. It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to be able to sit down and talk with line managers about their business priorities and challenges. It will help in bridging the gap of understanding between HR and the business and also assist HR professionals in learning their language. Sure, the ability to influence isn’t built up overnight, but will become easier as one establishes real credibility with line managers in actually taking a genuine interest in their business affairs.

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