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Influencing Without Formal Authority

Are you in a role where you work with various stakeholders who are outside of your formal reporting? Do you feel the need of building a better influence on these stakeholders for meeting business deliverables and other expectations? 

With the organizations moving towards flat structures, there is a greater need for managers and leaders to sharpen their axe of personal effectiveness and influence. Influence is different from control. It is not about winning a discussion and getting people to do things our way, rather it is about helping people understand the real business rationale, value adds to business and us as individuals, and finally garner collaboration towards positive results. Art becomes more interesting to practice when people we work with do not report to us on papers. For many years in my career, I have been in such a role. Two competencies that helped me in building a great influence on my stakeholders are Adding Value and Building Relationships. The good news is that these can be developed over time through practice. Here are some key behaviors that helped me in developing these competencies:

  1. Collaboration is the essence of building great relationships at work. Understanding that driving our business agenda collectively as shared goals would help us reap better benefits. Look for opportunities to work together with your stakeholders and help them achieve their goals and focus areas.

  1. Participate in business meetings not by constantly talking or trying to steal away the show but by mindfully listening. Believe me, mindful listening helps you gain more authority as compared to talking more. A regular meeting can become very enriching if one can infuse a thought or an idea that is in alignment with meeting objectives and can generate positive results. You will gather everyone’s attention and respect. 

  1. Choose a coach at work who inspires you and offer him/her the authority to develop you into a better professional/human being. Similarly, be a coach to someone who is struggling and has expressed interest in learning. Share your examples to help people connect with real-life situations. You will experience them coming to you to seek advice from time to time.

  1. Since your colleagues are out of your formal reporting relationship, giving orders for work deliverables will not work. Instead, set expectations by communicating clear objectives, expected outcomes, and deadlines. Since you are working in collaboration, make them feel like a partner so that they feel accountable for their part of the job. In case they share ideas, embrace them.

  1. Manage the hierarchy by regularly connecting with your stakeholder’s manager so that they feel included and respected.

  1. Your real test is when your colleagues make mistakes. Be empathetic and listen with an open mindset since in most cases such mistakes are honest mistakes. Instead of pointing fingers, facilitate a coaching conversation by asking the right questions to help them reflect and analyze the situation from all aspects. This will further help them identify their areas of development. In case required, share your perspective, and offer necessary feedback.

  1. Change management is yet another area where one can play a very significant role in influencing people working with us. Change makes everyone uncomfortable. Help people in adapting and rising through it by accepting and talking openly about the challenges and by displaying your enthusiasm and positive outlook. Break down the change strategy in smaller fragments so that everyone in the team can understand and relate. People will look up to you and will come to you to discuss their thought process and challenges.

  1. Something you cannot miss on is constantly learning and upgrading yourself. Continue to be the subject matter expert for your stakeholders technically as well as non-technically.

  1. There are certain hygiene-related equally important aspects. For example – Attending meetings on time is a sign of respecting your time and other’s time. Communicating verbally or via emails ensuring usage of the right language, tone and standards builds your credibility and helps you garner great respect

  1. Finally, my favorite – Building Trust. Trust creates an environment where everyone feels stress-free because your stakeholders know you will never even think about sabotaging anyone’s work. Trust builds over time by delivering and living up to your work commitments and through your positive personality traits at work.

I strongly feel these behaviors are equally important not just for our workplace but for our personal life as well to create a favorable influence on our friends and family. We might be displaying a lot of it consciously or unconsciously. Let’s continue to reinforce or redirect basis our workplace, life, and personal development needs of influence.

Disclaimer – These opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Landis+Gyr


Blog post by – Mr. Saurabh Agarwal

Manager, HR Business Partner, Landis+Gyr, Noida

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