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An influential model to follow
Nora Tong
update on Saturday, December 19, 2009

It can be demoralising for mid-career professionals to be passed over for promotion despite years of service with the same company.

Nonetheless, it may be time to realise that getting a promotion is not the only way to be rewarded. Instead of going up the career ladder, there are alternative ways to contribute that are just as valuable and important to the company.

One way is to influence more people and achieve broader results. After all, there is something inherently satisfying in helping others grow and develop. The question is, how should one build and expand influence?

The answer may be in the Four Stages of Contribution model, a framework for increasing one's impact and influence in an organisation.

The model was developed by Gene Dalton and Paul Thompson, the founding partners of global talent development consulting firm Novations Group. They believe that employees move through four stages in their careers as they make different contributions.

An employee who has languished in a position for some time probably falls into the second category of the model.

This employee works independently and has developed technical know-how. But frustration can develop when the employee may not be able to share the experience with others because he or she is not in a management position.

Nevertheless, one can work towards stage three without being a manager by reaching out and sharing knowledge with others through informal channels. This can be done by having lunch with colleagues, or a drink or two with new hires after work or volunteer to help organise a workshop. These informal methods may help the employee become happier at work.

In Asia, the model has been applied to organisations ranging from financial institutions to manufacturing companies on the mainland, Singapore and India. It has helped employees understand their contribution and establish credible personal development initiatives to enhance their contribution.

Paul Terry, vice-president for global partnerships at Novations, says stage one of the model is about managing assigned tasks effectively and recognising that you have to learn from others to be successful.

"The key is to learn and meet the expectations of your boss, peers and organisation quickly," he says. "To move on to the second stage, which is about working independently, you have to gain the trust of your boss to make some decisions on your own and follow through with assignments without close supervision."

He says employees who cannot make it to the second stage risk becoming redundant or may stagnate in their jobs. "They should have an in-depth dialogue with their manager to get the necessary feedback and help to build trust and capability."

Terry suggests managers use existing job assignments as development opportunities while giving staff clear expectations, objectives and regular specific feedback.

Individuals in the third stage recognise that their success hinges on whether and how they can help others get their work done. They are likely to influence people with whom they interact regularly and are expected to stimulate others through ideas and knowledge.

"If you are targeting development towards stage three, you might ask yourself: what do my networks look like today? How can I continue to expand my personal network of relationships?" Terry says.

"Next, set up a meeting with your direct manager, get his or her perspective on your contribution and share your ideas. Then determine the actions to be taken to further your development."

Terry says managers who want to help their staff transition to stage three should share their network contacts and help them develop visibility and breadth in technical knowledge.

From the organisation's perspective, reward systems should be put in place to recognise stage three contributors who are not managers.

A system of internal coaching should be introduced to promote transitions to stage three.

The difference between stages three and four lies in the scope of influence.

Individuals in phase four define and drive critical business opportunities and needs, influence a broader population and make long-term strategic decisions.

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