July 24, 2024

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The Politics of Influence in Top Management Team Meetings

Interactions between the chief government and different members of the highest administration crew seem to observe distinct scripts. Managers who take notice can increase their standing or keep out of hurt’s manner.

High administration groups (TMT) have been studied since at the very least the Eighties for insights into how chief executives and their deputies make the strategic choices that may make or break organisations. However little is thought about what precisely occurs within the decision-making course of, which most of the time is steeped in politics and energy play. This text is a few ground-breaking examine we performed that filmed and analysed verbal and non-verbal exchanges in TMT conferences as they occurred.

Our findings, printed in a brand new paper, counsel that, opposite to earlier analysis that highlighted the affect of steady, longstanding alliances in organisations, coalition-building in TMTs will also be in-the-moment and fluid. By forming even momentary coalitions with different TMT members and deploying easy influencing behaviours, senior managers can persuade the CEO to take their facet and sway key choices.

Studying the room proper

We studied two TMTs comparable in measurement, gender composition and different key dimensions. TMT A belonged to a medium-sized laptop recreation firm based mostly in Canada whereas the opposite, TMT B, was the highest crew of a enterprise companies firm with international operations.

For every crew, we videotaped their conferences and examined them in minute element, from emotional tone, physique posture, hand gestures to eye contact. We additionally interviewed every of the crew members after the conferences.

5 sorts of CEO-TMT member interplay patterns emerged, which we define beneath.


In essentially the most amicable of the interplay patterns, the CEO and different TMT members see eye to eye proper from the beginning.

What could be a sensible technique on this surroundings? Construct on this congenial ambiance by using rational argument and drawing others into the dialog.


That is when the CEO disagrees with the remainder of the crew originally, and the crew resolve their variations via a constructive dialogue throughout the assembly. Our findings present that managers can acquire legitimacy by interesting to a better authority and, once more, through the use of rational argument to nice impact.


It is a situation wherein the CEO retreats to the background as an observer, whereas two crew members debate a problem.

Duelling managers can bolster their case by declaring possession (“that is my venture”) and drawing on one’s expertise and information (“I do know my crew higher than anybody else”). The spectating chief may be sensible to delay a choice whereas feelings cool, because the CEOs in our examine did.


That is when disagreement between the CEO and a crew member triggers an adversarial dynamic initially of a strategic problem dialogue. There’s a danger the decision-making course of turns into polarised.

Right here, individuals should be politically savvy. They will search help, construct a coalition by instantly interesting or taking a look at colleagues, and draw on the credibility and agenda of others. A CEO might verify to see if there’s scope for an upward enchantment (“the founder wants this to be achieved earlier than the top of subsequent month”).


This sample evolves when the CEO and a TMT member are in opposition: The previous challenges and undermines the latter whereas different members merely look on.

For many who discover themselves in an undermined place, dismissed and ostracised by the crew, the perfect likelihood of surviving is to duck, retreat and battle one other day.  In our examine, one government selected to derail the dialogue, and one other turned the dialog to a different matter. One other magnified the chance of the rival proposal.

Taking part in your playing cards proper

Importantly, we discovered that a couple of constellation might kind in a single assembly. Staff members may be congruous or cooperative once they talk about one problem and adversarial or undermining on one other. This means that the TMT decision-making course of is extra dynamic and nuanced than confirmed by earlier analysis.

How you employ influencing behaviours issues. For instance, we noticed rational argument in all 5 constellations albeit with very completely different supply – relaxed in congruous, emphatically with loads of hand gestures in cooperative, and calm and authoritative in undermining. Every led to completely different outcomes. Thus, tone of voice and physique language may be very efficient affect mechanisms.

Lastly, cultures additionally play an element. In East Asia, for instance, management kinds are usually extra hierarchical, offering fertile soil for undermining and adversarial conditions, though the final patterns maintain.

TMTs are contested areas characterised by conflicts, alliances and negotiated orders. When collaboration fails to resolve variations, our examine exhibits that executives with deft political abilities are prone to prevail. In different phrases, those that can relate nicely and exhibit situationally acceptable behaviour in a way that conjures up confidence and belief will get their manner. 

Our findings provide ideas that would assist senior managers navigate the patterns of interplay we noticed. A dependable information to studying the scenario and deciding what actions to take is to ask your self: Am I aligned with the chief? Am I aligned with my friends? How a lot vitality have they got concerning the problem?  Then play your hand accordingly.

That is an adaptation of an article printed in The Edge Singapore.

Michael Jarrett is Professor of Administration Apply in Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD. He’s additionally Programme Director of the Technique Execution Programme, certainly one of INSEAD’s Government Schooling programmes, and a programme director for the Government Grasp in Change.

Feng Liu is Affiliate Professor of Administration at Sobey Faculty of Enterprise, Saint Mary’s College, Canada.

Sally Maitlis is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Management at Saïd Enterprise Faculty, Oxford College.

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