Influence without Authority

The days when managers issued instructions and employees did what they were told without question are long gone.  As organizations become flatter and there is an increase in virtual teams’ employees are required to exert influence over situations in which they have no hierarchical authority. You could be heading a project that spans across multiple teams, or include vendors and partners.  So how do you exercise influence over people who are outside your authority but whose support you badly need?
Below are few ways of influencing without authority…
Exhibit Expertise: Being a subject matter expert is a great influential power. Team members respect the project manager just for his technical proficiency on the subject. They trust him and obey his orders because they think that the project manager is an expert. He has special knowledge on the matter, and knows how to handle issues. If the project manager does not possess the expert knowledge then it would be difficult for him to gain respect from the team members. So the first thing you need to be sure is that you are well versed in the subject that your project.
Clarity:  High performing teams have clear expectations. Make sure you’re clear from the onset about what it is you want to achieve and decide who has the final say. This may be one of the greatest tools for effective team management, especially in a collaborative or decentralized type working environment. Never let meetings end without clearly defining accountabilities. Don’t be a victim to increased complexity. Always look for simplicity and clarity in your direction and individual accountability. Action often gets lost in ambiguity.
Make it Personal: You have a much better chance of influencing people if you can establish a connection on a personal level. If people like you and feel you share their values they are much more likely to trust your advice and buy in to your ideas.  So make a genuine effort to go beyond the superficial and make people feel valued by showing interest in getting to know them.
Be Authentic: Getting team members on the same page is critical. Thanks to major advances in technology, all managers now have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Make sure you use the data at your disposal to back up your arguments and help you make a strong business case for your proposals. As a Project Manager, be open with your team whenever it is appropriate so they feel connected and in "in the loop". Keeping information from your team is keeping buy-in from your team. Transparency puts the team in common step and drives alignment throughout the group.
Use Network: Being connected with the right people is the key to move your project forward.  Make sure you know not just who the movers and shakers are – but also the ‘go to’ people who can open doors and give you access to the information you need.  If you can show the people you are trying to influence that you are well connected and have a good chance of getting top level support and financial backing for your plans, you are more likely to get them on side.  Don’t just use your network to impress – use it to help colleagues make new connections too. Great leaders add value to those they lead. Your team's effectiveness will increase as you take on the responsibility of helping them develop their skills. If people understand that you can help them broaden their network and increase their personal influence, they will want to stay on your side.
Share the Credit:  It is very important that if things go well you don’t take all the credit yourself.  Make sure you acknowledge the contribution of the people you’ve been working with and appreciate their efforts publicly.  Influence isn’t a one off event and you need to build a reputation as a good person to work with.  You might have to work with the same people again in the future – or if not you will certainly come across others who are connected with them and will find that your reputation precedes you.
Promote Collaboration: In the new more collaborative world of work, it’s not just about what you want, but also what others need.  Make the effort to find out what’s driving colleagues’ agendas and how you can help them achieve their objectives as well as your own.  They may be under pressure to achieve certain targets, for example, and be concerned that your plans or proposals will get in the way.  Identify what both parties stand to gain and you will have more chance of bringing people round to your way of thinking and achieving a win-win situation.
Be a Listener:  It’s easy to think that as an expert or leader will know all the answers and your way is the best way.  But to be good influencer asking the right question and listening well is critical. Make sure you hear people out and consider their ideas. You will win their trust and make them feel a part of the final decision – and they may even give you new insights and help you see issues in a different light.
Too often we rely on one source of influence, and when it doesn’t work, there is no backup.  If you always use logic of expertise to influence, you will have little impact on those who are more open to a plea from someone they have a personal connection with. None of the approaches will work in isolation.  So find the combination of influencing techniques that best suits your particular circumstances.  It takes practice to polish your skills and calls for a different mind-set around working with others. However if you invest time in planning your influencing strategy it will reap dividends.
Which Influencing technique worked for you? Do comment and let us know.


Author : SiddharthPareek

About Author
Siddharth Pareek