Why Influence is a critical skill for L&D

To be seen as a strategic partner and core to the organisation, requires L&D professionals to influence internal stakeholders whilst having little, if any, positional authority. They need to be able to identify the value added and also shift the perception of being owners of learning to be facilitators of learning.

For the perception of learning in organisations to change, L&D need to become more influential and impactful.  

‘Influence shifts HR ideas from HR agendas to business imperatives.’ – David Ulrich 

The same can be said for L&D, influence is the key that can enable L&D to play a leading role in the delivery of strategy.

L&D professionals need to build their personal brand to become more trusted and be seen as a critical player in the delivery of organisational strategy. 

Learning is fast becoming the competitive advantage for organisations and L&D needs to be front and centre to facilitate this. Too often L&D is first in the firing line with reduced budgets, restricted opportunities to deliver training and even redundancies. 

To be seen as a strategic partner and core to the organisation, requires L&D professionals to influence internal stakeholders whilst having little, if any, positional authority. They need to be able to identify the value added and also shift the perception of being owners of learning to be facilitators of learning

We are living in unprecedented times, the external pace of change is accelerating, with demands of customers and clients ever increasing and the normal ways of doing business shifting. 

Organisations are required to be adaptable, innovate and build organisational ambiguity to enable it to not just survive now, but to thrive in the future. All of these require development of processes, procedures and, possibly most importantly, behaviours and mindset within organisations. 

These all require effective and impactful learning capabilities within the organisation. These all come under the remit of L&D. Requiring L&D to become a strategic convener of learning - creating partnerships, collaboration and innovative ways of developing the required processes, procedures, mindsets and behaviours within the organisation.

Again, influence is vital to enable this to happen. In short, influence allows L&D to make an impact and the ability to make an impact is becoming a business-critical skill. For L&D to remain relevant, add value and create the culture that will help a business survive, then its ability to influence becomes vital. 

Three steps to build your personal and team influence as an L&D professional are:

Self-Aware 

The first part of any journey of change in becoming more self-aware. What do you stand for, what are your personal values and goals? Being able to quickly articulate your purpose and why you are important to the team/organisation.  

Become aware of your personal impact. If you want to build your personal brand, be aware of how you are impacting those around you. Are your actions congruent with your desired purpose and values?

Build Trust 

Trust is multi-dimensional, you may trust someone with your house keys, but you don’t trust them to deliver a project on time. What makes you trustworthy, why are you worthy of someone else’s trust? ·      

  • Believability – This is linked to your self-awareness. Do you say what you mean and mean what you say? When you express an opinion, it is thought out and you can justify it, you are happy to be open and transparent with your communication.
  • Reliability – You can be trusted to deliver what you promise. You are clear in your communication and can set clear expectations. You will often under promise and over deliver. You are constant in what you do, again linking to your self-awareness and personal values.
  • Capability – You are aware of your own strengths and what you are good at. You are humble enough to ask for help, and honest to identify when you are unable to effectively take a task on. You will work in collaboration and see others strengths as something that complement your development areas.
  • Emotional Connectiveness – You are aware of your own emotions and treat others as people. Being empathetic and willing to give something of yourself to others to build connection. You do not get involved in gossip and value others people’s information and act as a confidant.
  • Selfless – You look for win/win situations and outcomes, you are concerned with others’ needs and desires as much as your own. You will see the needs of the many as outweighing the needs of the few. You can justify your actions, and how they are aligned to providing mutually beneficial outcomes. 

These are the five dimensions of trust, they all blend and there is an intricate interplay between them. Being worthy of trust requires you to be aware of all these dimensions and how your words, actions, emotions and motives all link to build or damage your worthiness. 

Influence to Innovate 

Once you have worked on your personal brand and reputation, you can now leverage it to create innovative solutions that add value. This is where your brand will enable you to make the impact you want and build a case for solutions, that people will listen to. There are three distinct steps to this process:

  • Integrate – Build an alliance, integrate yourself into a network. Who do you need to be connected with, who are the key stakeholders, both internal and external? This is where you develop insights into the politics and power bases within your organisation. Take actions to become known outside of your department, start small and then expand your network.
  • Individualise – Get to know the people in your network as individuals, get involved in conversations that build deeper connections. Become curious about them, what is it they need/want to achieve, what pain points are they experiencing.
  • Innovate – Now you have a network and ideas on what their situation is, you can work on innovative solutions that work for them. Look at developing solutions that are directly linked to strategically important challenges and goals. Look at ways to facilitate learning, create solutions that meet the constraints those in your network are facing. 

These actions will enable you to build your personal brand in the organisation. They create  solutions that are linked to identified and specific challenges that will work within the operational and budgetary constraints within different aspects of your organisation. 

The perception of learning will move from a support training provider to an integral part of the organisation that adds value and helps deliver tangible organisational outcomes.