Tag Archives: Managing Change

Culture: The Organizational “12th Man”

Lately, I’ve been juxtaposing my passions to see what ideas would form. When I fused the game of football with principles of leadership, I realized how underutilized the “12th Man” strategy is as a resource for shaping organizational dynamics.

For some, it is the sunlight dappling on brilliantly colored leaves. For others, it is the crisp air so cool and refreshing. For me, the only reason not to weep openly at the passing of summer into autumn is the screech of referee whistles and the giddy feeling I get at the sound of shoulder pads cracking together.

Though a strong supporter of the home team (Bears), I enjoy the sport too much to be limited to one game a week. The Seattle Seahawks are always high on the list of teams to watch because of Matt Hasselbeck*, the gitchy color of their new uniforms, and my fascination with the power of the “12th Man.”stadium

For those of you who prefer sports with diamonds or hoops, in football, 11 men from each team square off against each other on the field. The Seahawks refer to the fans in their stadium as “The 12th Man.” Due to the acoustics of Quest Field, when the spectators join together in full voice, it makes it nearly impossible for the opposing offense to communicate with each other. Watch some time. During the game, members of the Seahawks defense call the “12th man” into action by pushing their hands in the air palms up. This signals the fans to raise the volume to deafening levels. The “12th Man” has become such a force to be reckoned with, other teams prepare for it by blasting music onto their fields during practices.

What I find most compelling about the “12th Man” is that it broadens the point of view from which to consider how the game is played and won. Typically, the twenty-two men battling it out across the line of scrimmage are the center of attention. When the spotlight is on the quarterback, the linemen, and the snap of the ball, the fans in the stadium are merely blurred images on the periphery. However, the “12th Man” is the eye-in-the-sky camera point of view. It encompasses not only the players on the field, but the atmosphere in which they are playing.

In many businesses, the camera is often closely trained on the marginal difference between the line of scrimmage and the first down. It’s a limited ten yard perspective that captures only the players and the voice of the coaches transmitting messages into the quarterback’s helmet. When it comes time to make organizational improvements, it’s important to consider the broadest range of factors. Changing behaviors by changing processes, systems, or incentives neglects the impact of the environment on people’s ability to adopt these new practices. If the organizational culture is not conducive or accepting of the changes, they will not last.12thmanstand

The “12th Man” is not a Seahawk’s creation. It was started in 1922 when the Texas A&M Aggies played Centre College, the nation’s top ranked team. It was a grueling game that depleted the team’s reserve of players. Out of desperation, the Aggies’ coach had E. King Gill, a former football player, suit up and stand by. Gill was never called in but he remained standing at the ready. When the Aggies are down, the fans stand up for the whole game—ready in case the team needs them.

If your business is fighting the good fight, but can’t seem to win, widen your focus beyond the players on the field. Take a look up into the “stands.” Analyze the stadium in which you are playing. Are the prevailing attitudes, accepted norms, beliefs, and behaviors hindering forward progress? Are there changes in the works that are incompatible with the environment in which they are being installed? Or, is the organization’s culture suited up and waiting for leadership to put it in play?




*http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlesports/archives/181310.asp?source=rss (he’ll be back!)

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Filed under Business, Change, Influence, Uncategorized

How to Measure Influence

Influence is about motivating people to willingly work together toward the achievement of clearly defined results.

In most common business situations such as:

  • Leading cross functional teams
  • Managing projects
  • Starting in a new leadership role
  • Spear-heading change initiatives

Our likelihood of success is directly proportional to two key factors:

1. Our personal level of influence

2. The influence levels of our closest supporters.measuringcup

Given their importance to our success as leaders, it seems only natural that we would want to assess influence levels. Following is an easy process for incorporating routine assessments of influence into the major phases of strategic and/or project plans. This process is followed by a set of criteria to use in order to assess a person’s level of influence (including your own) relative to a situation.

From the Beginning

In the earliest phases of an initiative,  develop a list of people who possess the technical skills and knowledge required to get things done, the sponsors and/or stakeholders, and include the people you feel would be vital to have in your corner. For each person listed, determine the number of  characteristics  below he or she possesses or displays. Create a separate personal action plan with steps you can take to fill-in your knowledge gaps. Be sure to include specific ways to build trust and strengthen your relationships with these individuals. For each highly influential person, seek to gain a clear understanding of his/her business and personal objectives.  If you both agree that your initiative supports his/her goals, then you should ask the individual how  he/she can best support your initiative.

In The Midst of It All

Throughout the course of the initiative, compare  the actions of each person on your original list to the set of influence characteristics. Be on the look-out for people whose influence level is on the rise and, if appropriate, coach those whose influence level is diminishing. Be sure to assess each new person who becomes involved along the way. Set aside time with influential people to listen to their input, determine alignment with their objectives, and seek their support for your initiative. In addition to your personal action plan for getting to know and building relationships with influential people, start to include ideas for introducing people to each other when you feel a connection could be beneficial. You should be re-evaluating your own level of influence on a regular basis and taking appropriate action to repair set-backs or fortify progress. Depending on the initiative, this could even be a weekly “to-do.”

One practical tip is to read the list of influential characteristics before  meetings as a reminder of the actions and behaviors you want to exemplify. Afterwards, acknowledge participants who demonstrated integrity and were clearly focused on the “big picture” (not just their own agenda). Review your words and actions. Were you demonstrating influence-building best practices? If not, why not?

When the Dust Settles

Review your actions and behaviors throughout the course of the initiative against the list of influential characteristics. How well did you do? Were you improving your level of influence along the way? If not, why not? If yes, what can you do to make sure you maintain or continue to grow your personal influence?

Maintain relationships.

At the end of an initiative, be sure to reinforce the valuable relationships you’ve developed by taking the time to acknowledge each person’s contribution with a personalized show of appreciation. For the person who values recognition, this could be a letter to his/her manager thanking them for allowing the individual to work with you and highlighting his/her accomplishments. For the person who shies away from the limelight, consider writing a personal note on the inside flap of a meaningful book. Then, in your planner, schedule time to connect on a regular basis with each person by phone, via email, or in person. Remain in contact so that you can help these individuals when they need your support. Staying in touch lets people know that your interest and involvement with them during your initiative was genuine and that you are a person of integrity.

How to Measure Influence

Think about a person within the context of a specific situation or his/her potential sphere of influence. Take into account only what you know to be true about the person or have witnessed directly. Consider whether or not each of the characteristics or behaviors listed below apply to this person.   The more times you answer “yes,” the greater the individual’s level of influence.  

  • Reacts with integrity, dignity, fairness, and empathy for others in both positive and negative circumstances
  • Is unwilling to accomplish personal objectives at the expense of the company or others
  • Has relationships with people representing a variety of knowledge bases throughout the organization, industry, and/or community
  • Is asked to be involved in situations outside of his/her functional area or above his/her level in the organizational hierarchy
  • Shines the “spotlight” on others making sure they receive credit for accomplishments
  • Consistently produces results
  • Associates during work and personal time with others who are known to be powerful/influential in the company, industry and/or community
  • Willingly shares resources
  • Interacts well with all types of people at all levels in the organization
  • Does not blame others or make excuses when things go wrong
  • Is well suited to his/her role
  • Seems able to reduce the level of uncertainty for others in a given situation

What actions have you taken or behaviors have you displayed that have increased your level of influence with a group of people or in a given situation? 

For more information about the complete Gauging Influence tool and how to measure influence please contact Nicole De Falco at nicole@writeinfluence.com.

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Filed under Business, Leadership, Trust, Uncategorized