How to influence without authority
Learn to influence without authority
Being able to influence without authority is an essential skill for improving your leadership skills and furthering your career.
It’s very hard as an upcoming leader to try to assert yourself when you are not in a senior position with all the clout of an organisation behind you. When you are at the bottom or middle of the totem pole, learning the basics of how to influence without authority is vital. This is especially true in flatter, more agile matrix structures which many organisations are shifting towards.
Influence is a learned skill
In these cultures, learning to grow your influence is a skill that needs to be honed and one that you can put into practice every day. It’s also one that can be learned. One 3Plus subscriber working in a micro-finance organisation told us:
“When you are dealing with a wide group of stakeholders, influencing without authority is a vital skill that we all need to bring to the table. It’s badly needed to get the collaboration and buy-in of a wide group of players. If you can’t – it’s like herding cats. Nothing gets done and time is wasted. Very often all those engaged have conflicting interests, and are doing their best to promote them at the expense of the others.”
Having direct authority, in theory, is the easiest way to be able to influence those around you. If you have the job title, the budget and the resources under your control it is much easier to set priorities. Although a title and hierarchical status can help achieve goals, very often on a day to day basis most of us are left to influence decisions and outcomes without any formal backing. We don’t have the time to wait until we are officially appointed to a certain rank and are sitting in the corner office. We just have to tap into other sources of influence.
Here are 5 ways to influence without authority
1. Build strong relationships
Have the back up of a strong network as well as excellent relationships with peers, reports and your management. If you are reliable, and deliver what you say you will, people trust your judgment. They will be more likely to count on you to drive projects forward, especially if it requires collaborating and motivating others.
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2. Have an excellent reputation
If you are recognised for your expertise and knowledge, then your colleagues and co-workers are more likely to accept your decisions and input. Consistency is key here. It should be built on a strong foundation of excellent professional qualifications, experience, and know-how. Being recognised for what you can share will be a great boost to your influencing potential. Make sure your people know you are the go-to resource in a specific topic that will help advance your career. If you have a sponsor who can sing your praises to the company leadership, even better.
3. Be a strong organiser
Someone with strong organisational skills, who can be trusted to respond efficiently whether with time, resources, a budget or a team to hit targets and meet objectives, will always be good at influencing without authority. Throw in an ability to manage expectations. Being able to give a coherent timeline or information on outcomes, even if it's not what was originally asked for, and then delivering is an added bonus.
4. Understand and navigate the politics
Very often it’s the unwritten rules and informal protocols that support those that focus on influencing without authority. It’s knowing the right people and who can do what quickly that makes things run smoothly. Sydney Darnell told us:
“I was a mid-level project manager and was on great terms with the Catering Manager. She would always leave us sandwiches and snacks when we had to work late. It helped get people to go above and beyond if they weren’t hungry.”
5. Communicate constructively
The best influencers know how to communicate constructively. They are adept at defusing tension, giving recognition and delegating efficiently. They are fair, inclusive and consistent. This means that they are respected.
It’s impossible to influence from a position of isolation. Learning to influence without authority requires building strong relationships and a sound reputation, which are then followed by respect and trust.
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