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Monday, May 4, 2020

6 Ways to Influence Without Authority

Congratulations—you’ve been asked to lead a change initiative! But there’s a catch—its success hinges on the cooperation of several people across your organization over whom you have no formal authority.

In this age of heightened business complexity, moreover, change itself has grown increasingly complicated. A majority of change initiatives now involve multiple functions within and even between companies, and many such efforts encompass an entire company.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to improve your leadership skills and become more adept at influencing those around you, even when you don’t have a job title that commands respect.

1) Stop wishing for control: If you think being someone’s manager will make things easier, think again. Take someone to lunch who manages people and ask them what it’s like to be able to tell people what to do. When they stop laughing, they’ll probably tell you it’s even harder in management.

2) Move beyond compliance: Sure, managers can get compliance, but effective managers bark orders as a last resort. Think back to the best manager you’ve had…it’s doubtful they were in your face much. Rather, they probably created an environment where you wanted to take action. That should be your goal.

3) Care: If all you know about the other party is what they can do for you, you’re missing the foundation of influence. We’re all human – and most of us give attention to those who show interest. Find out something they enjoy unrelated to work and ask about it. Demonstrate that you care – and mean it.

4) Offer to help: Almost every good team I know relies on influence over authority. Start by spending one extra hour a week helping out others with a deadline. Do it for awhile – and demonstrate that you’re a team player. People will help if you’ve helped them.

5) Set expectations: Just because you aren’t the manager doesn’t mean that you can’t make agreements. Approach people before it’s a crisis. Tell them what you need and what it will take. Be realistic on commitments (nobody likes a bait-and-switch). Ask how you can make it easier. Try to make it beneficial for them too.

6) Thank people in public: When someone takes time to help, thank them. Maybe mention it at the next staff meeting – or thank them in an email and copy their manager/team. Virtually nobody takes the time to do this genuinely, so people notice.

The goal of leadership without authority is to get others to willingly cooperate and engage, rather than following directives because you're the boss. This new style of leadership is a blending of personal and interpersonal skills that form the basis of a leader's ability to impact, influence, and inspire others.

By understanding your unique position, it’s possible to identify the key ways in which you can influence the organization, affect real change, and bring about your desired outcomes.

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