Book Review: How Experts Gain Influence


Book Review: How Experts Gain Influence

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‘How Experts Gain Influence’ offers lessons for functional experts in search of influence, from management consultants and internal auditors to HR and marketing executives. In the competition for top management’s limited time and attention, four competencies – trailblazing, toolmaking, teamwork and translation – help experts increase their impact in the organization and gain influence. Want to know more? Read below.

How Experts Gain Influence

Functional experts often compete for attention from top management in an effort to have more influence on decision making in their organizations. What’s the best way to accomplish this? The authors identified four competencies: trailblazing, toolmaking, teamwork and translation. Being able to combine all four allows experts the greatest visibility and impact.

Trailblazing – Find new opportunities to use expertise

People high in this competency cast a wide net to identify and frame business issues that top management is not adequately addressing. They continuously scan the organization and the external environment for opportunities to make a difference. This tactic provides a great advantage in the internal competition for key decision makers’ attention.

Toolmaking – Develop and deploy tools that embody and spread expertise

Identifying important business issues is only the first step. Developing and sharing tools that help executives analyze and interpret those key business issues, is another way for functional experts to gain influence.  Those tools are a way for functional experts to formalize and spread their expertise.

Teamwork – Use personal interaction to take in others’ expertise and convince people of the relevance of your own

Functions that engage heavily in toolmaking need to enroll supporters and users. One approach is to include people in the creation or improvement of the tools, seeking out their feedback and incorporating it into the design.

Translation – Personally help decision makers understand complex content

To remain influential, experts need to make sure that everyone understands the findings by helping them in how to use their tools and interpret the results.

Experts who combine all four competencies – engaged toolmakers – are the best equipped to gain organization-wide influence. They continuously scan the company and the external environment for opportunities to make a difference; they develop tools to formalize and spread their expertise; they incorporate business manager’s insights; and they make sure everyone understands the findings.

However, other types of experts, who exhibit only some of the competencies, can still be influential, depending on the structure, strategy and management style of their companies.

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Authors Info:

  • Anette Mikes is an assistant professor in the accounting and management unit at Harvard Business School.
  • Matthew Hall is a reader in accounting at the London School of Economics
  • Yuval Millo is a professor of social studies of finance and management accounting at the university of Leicester, in the United Kingdom