Improve Your Personal Impact And Influence

Part 2 - The "White Glove" Syndrome

Baxter Thompson Ltd, Jon Baxter

Improve Your Personal Impact And Influence

Part 2 - The "White Glove" Syndrome

This article is the second in a series of five about finding time to become more strategic (see part 1). This is one of the key challenges faced by anybody who has a partnering role on behalf of technology support functions in a company. Here we discuss a common symptom - "the white glove" syndrome, how we can improve our personal impact and influence; and how we can consequently improve our tenure in role by avoiding this syndrome.

The "white glove" syndrome describes an area where our personal commitments are more of a concierge service to our clients and our personal delivery is focusing on what we can control rather than influence. It describes a feeling of job security - where we feel we have an impact and feel confident in what we're doing.

An executive complaining about a broken keyboard? Let me walk that laptop through the support process, chasing up the 1st, 2nd and 3rd line support to impress upon them a sense of urgency, whilst at the same time rummaging through the spares box to find a replacement, eager to demonstrate a sense of service and recognition.

So, what's the problem?

1.    You'll become known as providing a concierge service - having set a precedent it's easier to repeat the next time as it has a known outcome- for the executive, the business peers and then the IT support staff who come to expect the chasing as part of the daily routine.
2.    You'll end up dealing with more and more "little fish". (see part 4 in this series)
3.    You're not ACTUALLY solving the problem, you're just applying the band-aid.
4.    It's not that valuable (from the whole organisation perspective). If you were not there and if the problem sufficiently urgent it would get solved by someone else. The world will carry on turning without you.

That last point is the crux of the issue. When the company wants to save money, your reputation and your salary will be held in the balance. Do your efforts justify your salary? Where would the executive go next if it wasn't for you?

What could you do differently?

Before we start, let's be clear that the goal is to improve your personal impact and influence more broadly than focusing on small but visible issues.

First, have an open and honest perspective of your role. That means seek the best outcome for the organisation first, have a desire to improve both yours and your peer's performance. I.e. search for the root cause of an issue rather than finding excuses or blame.

Understand clearly the role from the perspective of your sponsors - both in the client organisation and the IT support function. What are the key objectives, accountabilities and activities?

Next, note the differences of opinion. Do you feel equipped to deliver the role? What skills are required? Is there sufficient resource / time? What are the dependencies you have in order to achieve the objectives? Where are the gaps?

Seek alignment on the role. Rather than you trying to the close the gaps / internalising the conflict yourself (i.e. potentially ending up providing the white glove service), ask how would these sponsors decide in case of conflict of priority or approach.

Estimate how much time do you personally need to dedicate to each AGREED role objective. Is it feasible?

Then keep a log of your time against those agreed objectives. Use it as a personal measure to track the difference between what you're trying to achieve and the effort taken to fulfil that objective.

Managing Expectations

From the previous exercise, note the differences. The next series of questions requires honesty in self-evaluation:

  1. Is the difference down to acting according to my comfort zone - what I find interesting or easy to do?
  2. Is the difference because I do not feel confident and / or unsure as to how to approach a particular objective?
  3. Is the difference down to a failure in communication, process or technology (on a repeated basis)?
  4. Is the difference down to a conflict in priorities or sufficient resource allocation?
  5. What can you do differently personally?
  6. What do you need from the organisation in order to reduce the difference in your estimate and actual time spent on each objective (note - you can change the estimate to establish a more realistic amount!)

To help manage expectations, present your findings and your action plan back to your sponsors, perhaps every quarter to demonstrate how you are managing the differences and what you need from them in order to achieve the AGREED objectives. Identify those actions required from the organisation and track progress.

To build credibility (and therefore permission to influence), ensure you identify actions on what YOU will personally do differently and then DO those actions.

So how could you deal with the Executive?

Obviously listen without judgement to their grievance and acknowledge the issue. If the support service is recognised as being effective then the activity is focused more on communicating the correct support procedure and signposting.

Assuming the executive was not negligent and depending on the nature of the role you have; a series of steps could be to take the laptop and track its progress through support and see it as an opportunity for service improvement.

You could sell to your sponsors the idea of working with the whole organisation and find ways to improve the lead-time to resolution or the quality of the outcome - not just for that one person, but for the rest of the organisation.

Getting The Basics Right

Our research indicates (view here) we're still pretty poor at getting the basics right and until we are seen as effective service providers; we're going to be stuck with symptoms like the "white glove" syndrome.

In setting and agreeing realistic expectations on your role and indeed that of the support organisation, you're conducting a part of the partnering role. "Selling" a strong value proposition is in fact exercising influence. Identifying and delivering activities that improve service to the whole organisation gives you more impact with the executives long term.

If you're interested in getting the basics right, improving personal impact and influence, check out our services here - we can help understand the nature of your organisation and the opportunity for success, advise on how to improve the partnering role and provide you training and coaching to make it happen.

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