Saturday, August 29, 2009

Influence: The Capital of Leadership

This article is taken from archives and goes back nearly twenty years. It’s premise, however, remains valid today. Influence pays long term dividends. The article has been updated only to add a more recent historical reference.

Today’s volatile capital markets are affecting us all. We listen daily to market reports to determine what has happened during the trading day - and lately that has been a lot! There have been large swings up and down. A six hundred-point drop in one day sends commentators spinning into a spiral of “what ifs?” and each of us is forced to re-evaluate our investment strategy. Then a quick resurgence settles nerves, we blink, and go on about our lives. Yet, in the background, there is a recognition that things aren’t like they used to be, and probably never will be. The world’s capital markets are re-defining themselves and we are along for the ride.

Each of us, however, possesses another kind of capital. We spend it, give it, receive it, and collect interest on it everyday. It is the Influence we possess - our ability to have an impact and make a difference in the world and lives around us. And in this case, we choose on a moment-by-moment basis where and how it is invested.

My guess is that most of us have little idea of the amount of influence we carry. I recently received an e-mail, one of those great stories that make you stop and think. It was about a very simple act of kindness and the life-saving, life-changing impact it had - all of which was unknown to the person performing the act. In this particular true story, a young man was a student at a new high school where he simply did not fit in. Teasing, intimidation and mockery were his daily diet. Alone in a new school and not able to make friends, he was miserable. Walking home one day he dropped his books. Another young man saw this, crossed the street and offered to help. Assisting his new acquaintance he helped the boy home. Over time the acquaintance became a deep friendship. Years later this young man sat at his high school graduation ceremony listening to the Valedictorian, the boy he had helped that day, describe the impact of friendship on his life. He was stunned to learn that on that fateful day his friend was walking home with the intent of committing suicide. This class Valedictorian, captain of the baseball team and honor student had been in such despair that he was about to do the unthinkable until a simple act of kindness changed his course.

The point of this story? The boy who performed the act of kindness had no idea of the dire circumstance that was playing out, yet his action though casual and unplanned had an enormous impact. In short, he was unaware of the influence he was having. I think the same can be said for most of us. Here are a few simple thoughts on Influence for you to consider:

Everyone Influences Someone: At every level of our lives we are in constant contact and interaction with others. Even the most introverted person cannot escape the reality that they personally influence thousands of people. But beyond casual influence, there is a purposeful influence that is a key to leadership. This kind of influence is thought out and implemented by design, not haphazardly. Its motivating desire is to help shape the thoughts, development and character of those being influenced.

We Seldom Know Whom or How Much We Influence: Although these questions are generational, you can ask them of people and get immediate emotional responses: Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked? Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated? Where were you when the Challenger exploded? Where were you on 9/11? Those were big events; we expect them to be indelibly written in our hearts. But there are in each of our lives a host of smaller, character-building, career-enhancing and life-defining moments and relationships that the entire world doesn’t know about. In my own life I think instantly of a high school teacher, a friend of my parent’s, a fellow aircrew member, and a mentor in my professional career. Each of these has left a mark on my life that will never be erased – none of them set out purposefully to do so.

The Best Investment in the Future is a Proper Influence Today: The question is never whether you will influence someone, rather it is twofold: Who will you influence, and who will you allow to influence you? I count myself fortunate to have had mentors who decided to invest themselves in my life and career. It is a partnership, and not always an easy or comfortable one. This investment runs in both directions, unable to be given if the intended receiver is unwilling. An appropriate challenge to each of us is to consciously think about whom it is that we wish to be influenced by in our professional career. Who is it that models the professional development and character that you wish to attain? How can your relationship with that person be strengthened so that you can closely observe how they have obtained and share their influence, and be in a position to gain from their experience?

Influence Is a Skill That Can Be Developed: Yes, there is hope! Leadership and Influence are inexorably linked, you cannot have one without the other. Fortunately both are learned skills. There is no course or class, no diploma to mark your passing to a “position of influence.” It is one result of your experiences as you think about, envision, plan, and live the life you choose. Your career will bring success and success will bring recognition. With recognition comes the opportunity for influence on a wider scale. Do you know what your personal “Influence Quotient” is? Do you know where you need development in order to gain more influence? Do you know how to exercise your influence? Have you engaged in an influence development partnership, either as a mentor or the one being mentored?

Financial markets will fluctuate on a day-to-day basis and the value of the capital invested in them will vary greatly. But the investment decisions we make with our “Influence Capital” are under our direct control, captive to no one else. What we do with them will go far in defining the quality of our lives and our leadership.

“Influence.” We all have it. How are you investing yours?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Most Companies Not Prepared for Lease Accounting Rule Changes

Although timing of accounting changes has not been resolved yet and likely remains several years away, the impact of the changes to corporate balance sheets will be significant. A recent survey jointly conducted by Jones Lang LaSalle and CoreNet Global indicates that 99% of respondents have not yet evaluated the impact of proposed changes on their balance sheets and P&L statements. Twenty-three percent said they were not even aware of the changes.

See for more information.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Aligning FM With Enterprise Strategy – Pt. 4

Improving the FM Value Quotient

In the process we made sure to analyze and communicate everything in core strategy and business terms. If an option did not support a core strategy then it was discarded no matter how attractive it may have otherwise been. When we communicated risks and benefits we did so in business and strategy terms. In other words, we “spoke to the Board Room, not the Boiler Room” as the adage goes and created a direct link to strategy for each project and initiative.

Aside from successfully implementing this set of projects we achieved other notable gains.

Demonstrated objectivity as a key discipline: The facts took us wherever they took us. We used best data gathering and analysis practices to pull wisdom from information. Once something was identified as wisdom it became nearly unchallengeable.

Acted as a thought leader: Challenging the organization through insightful analysis and business cases we demonstrated diligence, knowledge and alignment. We anticipated needs that executives had not yet realized and provided solutions to problems they did not yet know existed.

Strengthened our culture of excellence: Demanding excellence of ourselves and all provider and alliance organizations has long been a trademark of our group. With this initiative, however, we turned that same intensity and discipline to the strategy arena, improving our alignment, relationships and value.

Alignment between corporate and FM strategies sounds like common sense and it is. All too often, however, the alignment is shallow or out of date. When this occurs FM can lose leverage because it is viewed as being out of touch with the business or worse, unable to understand the real “business of the business.” Developing deep and lasting strategy alignment, however, demonstrates not only business acumen and agility, but also real value and leverage.

Value and leverage. The importance of those two qualities has never been more than it is in today’s world. Make sure you are working to secure both. Doing so can only benefit you and your organization.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Aligning FM With Enterprise Strategy – Pt. 3

A Case In Point

Several years ago our organization adopted improved collaboration as a corporate strategy. As the FM group supporting academic research we thought of our job as providing quality conference rooms and maintaining them in a way that assured staff acceptance and use. We made sure the rooms were functional and clean, and that technology was reliable, working with what we were given to maximize their appeal and functionality. We didn’t necessarily ask if it was still the right technology or if our room mix still met the needs of the research community.

With the adoption of the collaboration strategy, however, we began to ask ourselves how we could contribute to its success more directly. We questioned things like the number and size of conference rooms, how efficiently they were utilized, what kinds of technology would best help and how we could minimize cost to speed implementation and adoption. That led us on a journey of discovery. We benchmarked with peer organizations, queried the market about emerging technology and took other actions to inform ourselves about products, resources and trends.

At the same time we looked inward. Undertaking a serious study of conference room utilization by size, time of day, location and technology configuration gave us insight into our customers’ use patterns and preferences. We identified key stakeholders in that community and brought them into our process, pulling important information from them and gaining advocates in the process.

Next we developed a set of initiative options and scored each against several criteria including risk, life cycle position, cost, how effectively they furthered the collaboration strategy and how adaptive and easy to use the technology was. We then ranked them and developed project outlines and budgets in partnership with other team members.

At the end of this process we knew which technologies were right for us, why they were the right ones, how they would be implemented, how much they would cost and how we would pay for them. We demonstrated direct linkages between increased collaboration capabilities and specific corporate strategies such as revenue growth and development of new offices. The result was an easy ‘go’ decision that led to mid-year funding for previously unanticipated projects because the wisdom of doing so was obvious.

Next week: Improving the FM Value Quotient

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Aligning FM With Enterprise Strategy – Pt. 2

The Strategic Alignment Process

Viewed as a continuum the strategic alignment process differs little from a classic change management process, precisely because that is what it is. Understanding that simple truth helps de-mystify the effort. Some stakeholders will be the same (FM staff, other departments) and some will be a different set of people than you normally work with on change projects (executive staff).

It is also important to recognize where you are in the alignment continuum. Evaluating your organization to determine its current alignment maturity and reaching consensus on this point is notable because it marks the common understanding of your starting point. Understanding the definitions of the various levels provides a roadmap for improving maturity.




Level 1

Ad Hoc

Enterprise / FM strategies and goals not aligned

Level 2


Enterprise commits to alignment

Level 3


Alignment team established, focused objectives determined

Level 4


Strategy alignment, FM value recognized

Level 5


Strategies and adaptation fully integrated

Luftman, J., Addressing Business Alignment Maturity

Note in the model depicted above that Level 3 requires a team approach. It is much more beneficial to engage other leaders as willing co-conspirators early on, as opposed to later engagement. Doing so helps lower boundary hurdles, speeds integration and drives recognition of FM value. Also note that it is at this stage that focused objectives are agreed upon. Agreed upon by whom? By the team, including senior non-FM managers with whom you must integrate and by executive leadership. The former will want to make sure that your alignment goals really do align, that they agree to compromises required to achieve alignment and that their organization’s interests are protected; the latter will look to increase gains to the overall bottom line and assure that balance is maintained.

Early on I mentioned the importance of developing a good understanding of FM and corporate strategies and their resulting goals and objectives. Often times FM’s attention is focused on maximizing value in areas FM’s know best, space utilization efficiency or quality of maintenance for example. Those are by definition good things to do, but they likely do little if anything to align the FM organization with the overarching strategic doctrine of the enterprise. In order to begin the alignment process you must understand the starting point and develop a comprehensive gap analysis.

The gap analysis will identify corporate strategies that are not supported, or may be poorly supported by current FM strategy. The basic premise is this: Filling the gaps forces FM to look beyond its’ own needs and plans to identify missed opportunities that it may not have realized exist. Basically the question to ask is, “What can FM do to further progress on these corporate strategies?” The answers to that question will begin to illuminate opportunities.

Next you will develop FM strategies and goals that support corporate initiatives to which you have previously not been a substantial or intentional contributor. By designing FM strategy and plans in a manner that directly and materially supports key corporate strategies you effectively link the two together, thereby increasing the importance and value of FM to the programmatic and economic success of the organization. An important step at this stage is designing Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that relate directly to strategy. These KPI’s will then be reported out to the C-Suite and Board of Directors giving them a direct view of FM performance, value and leverage.

Always an important part of any improvement initiative, Customer Satisfaction is important here as well. “Customer” in this case may refer to executive staff or other internal departments. The point is that after engaging them in the initiative to improve alignment and having developed strategy linkage you must now continually monitor strategy performance and adapt as performance and strategy shifts dictate. In order to do so you should routinely monitor the satisfaction of key stakeholders. By focusing priorities through their lens you will be able to accelerate the value of increased strategy alignment, making continuous changes that demonstrate your attention and agility.

Next week, a case in point.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Aligning FM With Enterprise Strategy – Pt. 1

Now more than ever the importance of aligning FM business priorities, practices and processes with corporate strategy is critical. In this era of financial stress it is incumbent upon each of us to maximize FM value to the organization and be a significant part of the solution. However, the current environment only puts a spotlight on a trend that has been evolving for some time as organizations recognize the advantages of leveraging FM, which represents a large part of most balance sheets.

The growing recognition of FM’s importance is evidenced by the increased attention it gets both in strategic and financial terms. Elevation to the C-Suite through the formation of Chief Facility Management Officer (CFMO) or Chief Real Estate Officer (CREO) positions is a sign that leadership understands the opportunities and risks that FM represents. With this enhanced stature comes increased responsibility. FM’s must understand that business acumen is more highly valued than technical expertise at this level. In order to compete for these positions you must improve your business sophistication and demonstrate increased value.

Now that we know what the expectations are, how do we go about achieving them? The good news is that it is relatively simple. At heart this is a change management process, and the change process is something FM’s know about.

Set the Environment

Start with understanding the two elements you want to bring together. By that I mean you should analyze and understand at a deep level the existing corporate and FM strategies and goals. Know why senior management has selected the strategies and goals they have so you understand nuance and underlying motivations.

After gathering information on both sides of the equation, analyze to develop a picture of the current alignment between FM and corporate strategies, and to understand where gaps exist. Gaps may represent risk or opportunity, or both; closing them will surely be your first order of business. Understand what that means. Do you have the resources to do everything you are currently doing and restructure your strategies and goals? If not, what needs to go and why?

Next, have a serious talk with your executive sponsor. Explain the initiative including its risks, rewards and requirements. Without executive support you risk being isolated when resistance materializes, as it may. Be prepared for that. Have your plan in place, communicate often and choose team members carefully, then plan and execute. It is amazing how resistance evaporates in the face of solidarity and success.

Be A Good Partner

As you work through the change process realize that you are dependent upon others. You need their active support. For example, you should be included in executive management discussions about strategy and allowed to see their view of the future state of the business. Develop your relationships with them and make relationship management a part of your plan. Pay attention to communication preferences and communicate with each executive in ways that match their individual style preferences. In other words, be intentional about the relationship management process.

Part of this effort will require transparency and a willingness to be vulnerable in order to achieve maximum benefit. Share information openly and help create a culture in which candid talk is valued. Share goals, risks and rewards; and demonstrate your sincerity by adapting where possible to increase alignment without endangering key strategies and goals.

Most of all manage the FM business to maximize value - however your organization measures that. Adopt those measures and make them a part of your own processes and metrics.

Next week – The Strategic Alignment Process