Monday, April 8, 2013

Master Skill - Influencing without Authority - Part 2

Of the Master Skills needed by every manager, none is more critical than the ability to effectively influence others who are not direct reports.

In any corporation there are scores, even hundreds of initiatives calling for 'teamwork', 'participation', 'involvement,' and 'action'.   Though the initiatives are many, the workers are few.  (I am respectfully paraphrasing The Rabbi).  In other words, while creative initiatives, programs, ideas, and concepts are developed at rapid rates, very often those initiatives are disconnected, and thus no one in the corporation truly has an idea of the full workload being imposed upon the workers.  No one.

New programs are the darlings of an organization, they get a lot of press, a lot of attention, a lot of executive support, and a lot of money.  (That is, of course, until they become 'old' programs, because, as I have mentioned before, novelty is the bane of organizational success.)

So when we come to our peers and ask them for someone on their team to participate on our team, they remember all the existing initiatives and quietly ask themselves:

 "How will this initiative be any different from everything else that is going on?" 

The way you respond to the inward doubt of your peers will predict whether you will get the resources you need.

So what do we do?

  1. WIIFM - Remember - everyone in business needs to get something for what they give.  You can argue for altruism all day, but in the end, people will not simply dole out time and precious resources without some form of reciprocity.   Their careers are at stake, their reputations are at stake, and their own form of energy management is at stake - in short, they only have so much to give.
  2. TRACK RECORD: This is a moment where you point to successful projects you have led in the past.  Now is the time for evidence of your commitment to them and to the resources they will engage.
  3. REFERENCES: You can also say "contact so-and-so for their experience with me".  References work as well within companies as they do to get into a company.
  4. QUID PRO QUO: offer to provide them with help.

Keep your promises.  Over time, you will build a reputation in an organization.  It will be a reputation as a taker or a giver. It you are helpful to others along the way, if you keep promises and use their resources well, it will be easier to make a request the next time.  The opposite is also true.  People know when someone is taking advantage of them ... and they will remember.

One cannot overstress this skill of Influencing Without Authority.  And it will be all the more critical as the pace of business accelerates even more. 

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