GHC 2012: How to Influence without Authority, and Why It’s Important

These are some notes and thoughts from one of the sessions that I attended at Grace Hopper this year.

Dictionary definition of Influence. - The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Inherently, you don’t need authority to influence.

What do you need to be able to influence?

- Relationships - Get out into the hallways and meet people… Learn what their goals are and figure out how you can help them advance those goals. Do your job well and build a reputation for yourself.

- Trust. Takes time to build, very easy to break.  You get this by doing what you say and saying what you do. Be consist in your approach to things.  Reciprocity is important. Give as much as you ask. Takes time. Not a one off thing you try to achieve.

How do you influence?

Become good at summarizing, be concise, make sure your ideas are based in fact. Consider your audience. Change the length and depth of your data depending on who your talking to.

What’s in it for them? If people find nuggets of their ideas in your plan, they will want to be bought in to it.

Ask questions. Ask short questions, give people a chance to tell you what they think. Make an emotional connection and find out shared values. Ask open questions, avoid leading questions, not yes/no questions.

Now i’ve always had a bit of an issue with session’s on how to influence people. We had one when I first start at ThoughtWorks at TWU. I’ve always thought there is a very fine line between influencing someone and just plain manipulating them. In my rose-tinted world I hope that you don’t need to consciously try to influence people if you are leading by example and have everyone’s best interest’s at heart. If you are genuine and achieve great things, it will change the way people around you act.

Thankfully someone in the audience asked just this question: How do you make sure you’re not coming across as being manipulative?

Avoid one sided conversations.  Present your idea and ask for feedback.  Focus on what is in it for them.  Respect “No.”, but try again.  Make sure that you are “perceived as trustworthy”. (<- shouldn’t you just BE trustworthy?!)

What do you do when you are dealing with someone who ‘needs’ to feel like they have that authority over you?

Make friends with people who are friends with them and ask their advice. Ask how can I talk to them in a way that they will listen to? Make sure you are advancing them in their goals as well. “Their ego is their teddy bear and don’t take their teddy bear away from them”.

As long as you don’t care who gets the credit you can go along way.

 How to influence what you are working remotely?

Try to meet at least once. Phone and Skype become easier once you have met face to face. Talk about non work stuff to create a personal connection. Get into a conference call 15 mins early and chat, make it known that that’s what you do.

For more notes on the session see here

GHC2012: Nora Denzel’s Keynote – Tips for staying in your technical career

Go and watch her whole keynote speech here. It’s well worth it, and much better than I could ever attempt to summarise!

See here for Nora’s bio and some of the quotes from her keynote.

Nora’s keynote was funny and inspiring. She’s a great speaker. As well as talking about her own journey she focused on issues of diversity and also retention of women in IT.  Mentioning that once you have got women into IT, you have to work just as hard to keep them there.

Nora talked about her top 5 tips for a long career in the technical industry.

  1.  Your attitude…. Your career is an obstacle course not a path. Obstacles are put in your career not to kick you out– but to see how bad you really want it. Things don’t happen ‘TO’ you in your career, they happen ‘FOR’ you. You are not victim of these obstacles. Don’t run away. You shouldn’t be scared, this gives you tools to deal with things.
  2. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable…. Tech is always changing, you will always feel like you have no idea about something. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable. It’s about how fast you can learn. If you are comfortable all of the time, you are not growing. Comfortable OR growth.
  3. Act as if…. Fill in the blank. Act as if you are confident… Act as if you are a good speaker…. etc. Nora gave a great example of how she met the first lady to go into space. She strutted confidently onto the space shuttle, but when Nora asked her if she was scare, she responded that yes, she was terrified. I knew how the systems worked and all the possibilities of what could happen! What is courage? Master your fear. Easier to act into a new way of thinking than to think into a new way if acting.
  4. Control your career PR agent. YOU! You are your own agent. Be careful about what you say back to a compliment. Say thank you and then stop. Don’t qualify all the things you were terrified about or didn’t do right. Always tell the truth but just not so much of it. Shorten your press release. If you don’t have confidence in yourself how can we have confidence in you.
  5. Maintain your village. People that support you. Have a network that you nurture. It is not what you know or who you know, it is who knows what you know!

You have the chance to change the world. To work on things that will change peoples lives.

Grace Hopper ‘ A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships were built for. Sail out to sea, and do new things.’ @ndenzel #ghc12

GHC 2012: The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2012

This years Grace Hopper Celebration of women in computing was held in Baltimore, in the US.

I once again got the chance to go and it’s always an amazing event. This year was the biggest ever at nearly 3700 attendees, made up from students, academia, industry and some military.

It was a very busy year for ThoughtWorks there too, each year our presence gets bigger and this year we did a tonne of interviews and assessments. Hopefully we’ll find some great women.

As always the dance party was my favorite part. Not just because I love dancing, which I do, but because it epitomises everything great about this event. The exhibiting has finished so we can all relax, the organizers can relax, you have well over a thousand people dancing like no one is watching, celebrating being who they are. So many smiles, many new friends have been made. And just a great electric, energized, and optimistic atmosphere. I love hearing first time attendees overflowing with excitement and drive as they tell me what an amazing experience it was for them.

I didn’t get to attend as many sessions as I would of liked but I did manage Nora Denzel’s keynote and a sessions called How to Influence Without Authority. See follow up blog posts.

Next year will be in Minneapolis, and I’ll be taking a break from the conference as i’ll be busy getting married over that time!

Back At the Grace Hopper Celebration

So I’m happy to say that I’ll be once again attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing! This years celebration is in Baltimore, USA.

I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve started to build quite a network of friends that I see there every year. It will also be great fun to catch up with the other ThoughtWorkers there, as I haven’t seen a lot of them since I move to the UK this year.

Unfortunately I will not be speaking this year, after the amazing amazing experience of last year, I did try, but it wasn’t to be.

The main reason for me going this year is to start talking to people about the possibility of setting up a European version of the Grace Hopper Celebration! There is very little visibility of the Anita Borg institute and the work that they do in Europe and I think there are loads of great women in Tech in the UK and Europe that would get a huge boost out of events like this.

Anyway just a pipe dream at the moment, but watch this space.

The last 2 years I have attended have been really worth it. Totally exhausting, there are so many sessions, awesome people to meet and network with, and then ThoughtWorks always has a huge recruiting presence there too. But I always get such a boost just from being there. I meet really inspiring new people and I remember why I’m a women in technology and why it’s so great. Being surrounded by so many others you can’t help but leave on a huge high. (plus I’m really looking forward to the dance party as always!)

Hope to see you there and let me know if this European Grace Hopper Celebration sounds interesting!