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Spheres of Influence

An executive-coaching expert defines the four domains that make up the sphere of influence a senior HR executive must create to successfully achieve buy-in from a line manager for a new corporate initiative.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
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In the world view of Kevin Cashman, founder and CEO of Minneapolis-based LeaderSource, an executive coaching and leadership development consulting firm recently acquired by Korn/Ferry International, there are four domains that make up the sphere of influence a senior HR executive must weave to successfully achieve buy-in from a line manager for a new corporate initiative.

With interplay always a possibility, and one of the four likely to rise to ascendancy at any given moment depending on the situation at hand, the four domains are:

* Functional Power. The functional area is about how an HR professional takes his or her HR knowledge and technical expertise to support the line manager's success. "Unfortunately, functional power is where a lot of HR professional's influence begins and ends," says Cashman.

* Strategic Power. This is the influence that HR executives can gain with line people by leading talent-management initiatives, says Cashman. "And if the HR leader really positions himself as the keeper of the pipeline and supports that line leader's success, then they'll have tremendous influence and leverage, too."

However, if HR doesn't deliver at crucial moments -- when a line leader needs an HR person's technical power abilities -- "you're going to lose credibility there," says Cashman. "So it's a dynamic of influence."

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* Personal Power. The HR leader can gain credibility with the line manager by providing that manager with personal coaching. "He or she can add value through coaching advice and counsel, and thereby create a lot of one-on-one trust-building," Cashman says. For example, the HR leader could help the line leader "sort through [his or her] own interpersonal and career struggles."

* Measurement Power. This is a crucial opportunity to speak in the most important language of the line manager: in business-minded, profit-and-loss terms. "The dominant language of the line manager is going to be about results," says Cashman. It also means getting grounded in measurement data that is available outside the company that can be used "to punctuate key points in initiatives to show what measurement power is all about."

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