Tips for Influencing and Building Internal Relationships [Brand Builders Edition]

Joining us at this instalment of the Brand Builders Lunch are James, Saida, Theresa, Diogo, Lance, Gerry and Joe.

Common Challenge #1: Delivering by influencing, without having authority

James: <<Cited example of Lego, with its CEO being only 33 years old and in 10 years, turned the brand around>>

Joe: It’s really interesting how they revived the brand.

Diogo: Yeah, like Lego Land, The Lego Movie, etc.

Theresa: How do you influence and try to get things across? Let’s say you need to influence influence without having much control over processes and business?

1. I try and have a good relationship with vendors. Open communications.
2. I feed A LOT of information.

James: So, over communicate!

Diogo: Yes, it’s constant education. It’s also about educating upwards. Boss helps to pitch it.

Saida: You have to understand the pain points of the teams you’re trying to influence.

Theresa: What we did was to adjust KPIs. Now we have the same end goals and KPIs. We started by also digitising the comms architecture.

James: It’s also about giving them time to adjust.

Saida: Try to engage one-on-one before you can go to the bosses. Bring the individuals in. Then get them all together.

Theresa: Kind of like lobbying

Joe: It’s good because you’re in a position to bring the whole group together.

Common Challenge #2: Managing cross-cultural business relationships

James: I wonder if it’s a cultural difference thing?

James: There’s this book (The Culture Map) that found seven dimensions to cultural differences to work setting/organisations. For example, if you’re a Westerner coming to Singapore, this is what to expect and how you’d behave, etc

Gerry: When I transitioned from a techie environment to a local company, I actually felt very empowered to be myself in the latter, which is pleasantly surprising since it’s presumed to be more traditional.

Joe: In China, even when addressing, I was told by my boss to do so by seniority.

Theresa: Yes, even in emails.

Saida: But in today’s environment, you only need hierarchy in moments of crisis. Or else you need it as flat as you can so people can collaborate.

Common Challenge #3: Avoiding misunderstandings from the onset

Gerry: I try and figure out how they prefer to work… but it’s tough to suss it out. I set up one-on-one meetings and ask them: “How do you prefer to work together?” “What’s your preferred working style?” That way expectations are set out and we reiterate.

Diogo: Do they tell you upfront?

Gerry: Some yes, some no.

Joe: I do the same with clients regarding preferred communication channels.

Lance: Will you know your answer if you’re asked that?

Diogo: I think that’s something sales teams don’t really ask their clients.

Saida: Do you guys use any templates for doing it?

Joe: Yea and it’s super important. I’ve lost a few clients because we didn’t align on the expectations from the get-go.

Common Challenge #4: Cutting through the internal noise

Diogo: Have you broken past the overcommunication?

Joe: It’s about setting a structure as well. For example, explaining how one email with consolidated feedback can save both parties time and minimise things slipping through the cracks.

Diogo: Sometimes I wonder, did they get what I say? Especially in terms of language differences.

Joe: Something I do is at the end of calls with my team is ask the question “does that make sense?” And then I’ll ask them to reiterate what they understood from our conversation.

James: In Singapore, informal settings are when people talk.

Saida: I have to take conversations separately.

James: It’s a culture for formal setting, i.e. reserve your comments for later.

Diogo: Yeah, don’t wanna look silly.

James: To manage, you need to make sure it’s a safe environment for people to express their viewpoints.

Lance: It could be because of school (in Singapore). Teachers don’t ask for feedback. That’s why Q&A systems like Pigeonhole are popular here. Its does well in Asia because of the anonymity.

Saida: We do it at our events because people don’t like asking questions in public.

Joe: I’ve done quite a number of talks in Asia and the audience will remain dead silent during the presentation. Afterwards, people swarm me with questions off stage.

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