Monday, April 1, 2013

Master Skill - Influencing without Authority - Part 1

Every manager has had a moment where they are called into an office by a grinning executive who announces:

"We have a project for you to lead."

While many among the organizational ranks have a position of authority, very often managers are put into roles requiring an ability to influence others who do not report to them. 

In the life of the average manager, these situations are a critical moment for success or failure.   Organizations expect more and more from all of us these days.  Managers who demonstrate the ability to influence team members for the common good are quickly noted and promoted by those in positions of power.
The possibility of the win comes from a sense of one's own abilities, skills, resources and a sense of control (managerial efficacy - which I will speak about at a later date).  
The manager goes from a moment of joy ["Wow, what a great opportunity to build my reputation in the organization"]

to ...

a moment of panic ["Wow, I just realized how many people we'll need on this team and none of them report to me."].

The very people we need to influence ...

  1. Are already extremely busy,
  2. Have no real need to help unless they are required to do so by their boss,
  3. Have no real need to help you, because they too are navigating their career paths seeking the big wins and commensurate rewards.
So, how to influence to engage them? 

The biggest mistake I have seen managers make looks like this: They send an email to the people who need to be on the team, then send a meeting invitation.

I need you to be at 8:00 AM Conference Room A101 on June 16th for our kick-off meeting on the XYZ project.  The meeting will last most of the day.  See you then.

When most leaders see an email like this, they are generally annoyed and sometimes incensed.  If you use this approach, you've already set them against helping you by irritating them ... and in some ways, disrespecting them, though you may not see it that way.

What's the alternative?

Pick up the phone and ask them if they have a few minutes to talk or meet for coffee.  Sit down for 15 minutes and explain what's happening, then listen to their concerns. 


The principle here is one of "Push at the end, not at the beginning."  People simply don't like having things dropped on them, they want to understand, and it will take some doing on your part to show how their interests can be served.  That's important, because people need to know 'what's-in-it-for-them?' Altruism may work in the volunteer world, but in business, people need to know that their pain will benefit them in the long run.


No comments:

Post a Comment