Getting things done. That’s the nature of work, but how they get done is always changing. We’ve followed a broad arch moving from big businesses and strict hierarchies to independent consultants and side hustles; and, most recently, we’ve moved from the 9-to-5 grind and commuting along I-95 or the Merritt Parkway to morning Zoom meetings and work catch-ups over lunch at an outdoor table (weather permitting). Even the smallest of businesses work with a staff or roster of talent from not just around town, but also across state lines, other time zones, and even the other side of the world. How we meet, how we share information, how we collaborate on projects and so much more of “getting things done” is turning over and under and side to side. What does all of this mean for you, the well-intentioned worker?
Longtime Stamford resident and leadership and executive coach Bill Berman has been thinking about that question, and his conclusions includes advice that sounds simple yet reveals complexity as you think about how to implement them. His insight: Figure out what your organization needs from you. The deep dive to this bottom line is found in his new book, Influence and Impact: Discover and Excel at What Your Organization Needs from You the Most, co-authored with George Bradt. Addressing executives, managers, leaders and anyone who is ready to understand what their colleagues and superiors expect of them, the book helps to refocus efforts by building influence through careful evaluation of one’s values, strengths and capabilities in a role; developing new skills; and finding the position to have the most impact.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Berman is an executive coach with experience as a licensed psychologist and an academic (teaching and conducting research at Cornell University Medical College and Fordham University, where he received tenure in 1994). He also worked at a software start-up to manage healthcare outcomes, as a senior line manager, and an organizational consultant. He also founded Berman Leadership Development in 2005 and since then has been a trusted advisor to general managers and C-suite executives across multiple industries.
Additionally, he has written and spoken on a range of topics in psychology, coaching and behavioral change and has helped leaders and their teams through assessment, development planning, coaching and consulting to executives. He has worked with a range of industries and sectors, including financial services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, consumer products, manufacturing and publishing/information services. Berman Leadership is part of the Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches who are vetted and selected by a review committee based after proving a record of successfully impacting business growth metrics.
We took advantage of the opportunity to ask him questions we thought you would want answered. If we missed anything, see his website at bermanleadership.com.
questions and answers with…
The leadership pro on finding your strength at work
Tell me about the title, Influence and Impact. Why are those the key words for your book?
“When we were looking for the title for the book, George, my co-author, and I spent several afternoons brainstorming different titles that reflected the content of the book. We hit on the subtitle fairly quickly. But when we ran the main titles by our publisher, Richard, he wasn’t thrilled with any. Finally, he looked at me and asked, ‘What is your book really about?’ I burst out, ‘Influence and impact. It’s about how to get people to work with you because they want to.’ He stopped and said, ‘That’s it. That’s the title.’ ”
How is work unique today, and does it require different thinking to have influence and impact?
“Organizations large and small are complex. People live in different locations, even different countries. Businesses are highly matrixed, with multiple reporting lines and global centers of excellence, regional business units and remote corporate headquarters. Add to that the fact that people no longer need to come into an office. This means that command-and-control is an outmoded way of getting work done. If people do not want to work with you, they can easily avoid you, not respond to your emails or focus on something else. I have seen organizations successfully ignore their CEO! In the modern business world, you have to persuade people to choose to help you to get work done. Colleagues feel committed to helping solve your problems when they believe you care about them and their problems. You do that by building influence. And the foundation of influence is being the ‘can-do person’ who ‘gets the job done’ and ‘understands us.’ Only then does your executive presence, innovation, enthusiasm and insight add to your influence.”
Do new hires need special advice from those who have been at the same company or in the same industry for a long time?
“Organizations are constantly changing. You get promoted, managers leave, team structures change, where you work from changes. New hires definitely have a bigger task in learning about the culture, but people also give them time to learn and get adjusted. The best way to approach any job is to assume that any change in the organization may lead to changes in job expectations and cultural expectations. In either case, you need to develop and use a growth mind-set. This helps you be open to new information and adapt to changing circumstances. Without a learning framework, you may misunderstand what is expected from your job and your culture.”
You say workers need to focus on mission-critical parts of their role, but do people know what those parts are?
“Most workers are doing fairly well—what’s often called ‘meets expectations’—but in my fifteen years as a coach and consultant to executives, I have found that many people I work with have missed one or two things. First, they have not understood what their manager, their colleagues and the organization needs the most. People have a tendency to do what they know, what they like or what they wish their job was rather than what the organization and manager need.
Second, they have not adapted to the norms and expectations of the organizational culture. Some people feel that they should just ‘be myself,’ which they should, but they use ‘authenticity’ as an excuse for not learning about a new culture. What Influence and Impact does is help them get past all that and do what is required.
I had a client many years ago who was doing a perfectly fine job in her current role. However, her boss wanted her to focus less on day-to-day delivery and more on long-term technology strategy. Once she realized that her job was really to plan for the future, we were able to shift her responsibilities to her team leaders. This gave her space to focus on what the organization will need in five years. She was promoted twice in three years after that.”
What drives you to help people get ahead in their work?
“I have always been about helping people to reach the pinnacle of their capabilities. In high school I wanted to be an educator, which is about helping people grow. This was true when I was treating people with mental illness as a clinical psychologist, and when I was teaching at Cornell Medical College and Fordham University. And it has been true for the past fifteen years as a coach. I think I picked up this passion from my mother, who was a teacher, and then worked on HeadStart and other children’s development programs.”
What is one of the biggest lessons about success that you’ve learned?
“All of us are most likely to succeed by standing on the shoulders of our employees, our colleagues, and our mentors. We have to listen to our own hearts and minds and also to the voices of others whom we serve.”