You’re sitting in a meeting and hear the dreaded words, “Can you take the lead on this for me? It shouldn’t be much; just meet with the team.” You know it’s not technically your job, and doing it requires influencing without authority.
It’s easy to jump into a negative headspace: “Why would they listen to me?”, “I’m not their boss”, “Do I have the ability to lead people to finish a task?” The self-doubt creeps in quickly. But we at One TEAM believe that anyone can develop leadership skills that motivate team members, title or not. Don’t believe us? Check it out.
What is influencing without authority?
It’s the ability to effectively lead and motivate team members without a perceived hierarchical advantage. You might be a peer or even more junior than other members of the team, or you might sit in a different department. Either way, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the automatic authority that the team’s leader has. So, you’ve got to influence without it. But how?
Influencing without authority involves clear communication, understanding each team member’s motivations, and spending time to build relationships and connection points outside of specific work tasks.
Case study: Greta Thunberg had the odds stacked against her when she started FridaysForFuture. She was a child, a female, and was uncredentialed on the subject matter. She had no authority, yet still managed to become a world-renowned leader in climate activism. She used her influence – in her case, it was her passion, dedication, and ability to put powerful, clear messages out into the world – to gain respect.
With practice and dedication, you can learn how to use influence to achieve successful outcomes without direct authority. This is a skill that will benefit you throughout your career, even when you have authority.
What are the benefits of influencing without authority?
You mean besides nailing the task you were asked to lead on? That’s just the direct impact. Indirect impacts include improved collaboration across the team, heightened confidence in your abilities, and even newfound respect from colleagues who get to see you step into the shoes of a competent leader.
Influencing without authority is essential for any leader who seeks to make an impact.
8 tips for influencing without authority at work:
1. Build credibility and trust
It’s intentional that this is listed first, as it is the most impactful. Have you ever wanted to do something for someone you didn’t trust? We talk a lot about the importance of building relationships authentically and inherently; the reason for that is that relationships = credibility. When you establish credibility with folks, they are more likely to WANT to help you or make you shine. They also trust that you will give credit and help them in return.
2. Mobilize your allies
You are climbing a big hill learning to influence without authority. Rely on the network you have already established, especially if they are higher up the chain than you are. Your allies can offer both emotional and workload support throughout this process.
And continue to make new allies. We underestimate the power that simple connections bring when unrelated to the task at hand. Taking advantage of “water cooler conversations,” or in the digital era, adding 15-minute connection meetings to colleagues’ calendars can make a world of difference in the long run.
3. Find common ground
People tend to lean into differences more naturally than they do commonalities. If you – as the leader of this project – can pull the common ground out of your team, they are more likely to want to work together.
4. Listen and seek to understand
People don’t just want to feel heard; they want to be listened to and understood. You can show them you understand by summarizing what they have said to you and then trying to help them. When you do this, the bonus is that you can learn something from every single interaction you have.
5. Tap into passion through storytelling
Your passion is what drives you, but you have to be able to share that message with everyone else. The ability to tell the story with detail and passion will help you gain support from hesitant teammates.
6. Only bring practical solutions
You’ve been put in this role because someone with authority believes that you can do it. The last thing you want to do is show up with only problems for them. Yes, flag things that feel wrong, but also come prepared with solutions to fix those issues.
7. Let go of your ego
You started this journey keenly aware of the need for your team’s support. Don’t lose that headspace throughout. Celebrate others’ success where you can, and be sure that higher-ups’ know it was a team effort.
8. Expect AND embrace resistance
No one said this would be an easy feat. Embrace that along the way. Some people are going to be hard to influence, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a leader. Resistance means people care. Use that to your advantage.
Now is your time to shine
It’s easy to feel intimidated or inadequate when you don’t think you have a formal position of power, but understanding that there are various ways to influence and persuade can give you a competitive edge. If you want to take your influencing skills even further and learn more about managing relationships without relying on a power position, why not schedule a discovery call with an expert at One TEAM partners? We’d be happy to chat more about it.