As an executive coach, I work with emerging and established leaders to help them get beyond a stumbling block by clarifying their goals and demonstrating how to reach them. A common thread with emerging leaders is the ability to Influence without Authority. The ability to advance your influence and leadership is critical to your success. Influencing without authority is a core job skill for all new leaders. It allows you to add value to a new or existing business group through your cross-functional experience.
Regardless of the professional space in which you work, the ability to influence without authority will allow you to cultivate strategic relationships and increase influence without the formality of a senior title/position within the organization. In the words of Marjorie Brody, “Influencing without authority is the ability to get things done with the best outcomes—with the help and cooperation of those over whom you have no direct control of authority! “
What are the key considerations to using influence without authority? You can start with the acronym R.E.A.L., and what does that mean?
Your network is your net worth! It’s essential to get to know people and develop deeper connections and relationships. This enables you to set expectations—to know what to expect. You can foresee reactions and prepare for objections rather than getting taken by surprise. People who trust you will be much more willing to follow you. Solid, long-standing relationships allow you to seek occasional support or favors. Cross-functional leadership encourages people to solve problems together. Build relationships with those you know, and those beyond your immediate circle. Identify beyond your own manager/director; get to know those with strong organizational knowledge. Seek their support to ramp up your own knowledge of the organization and its culture.
Expertise is a powerful influencer; use that expertise, either discipline or industry-specific, to strengthen your recommendations and requests. One project management example would be explaining the dependencies of a timeline to justify a deadline. Be seen as a recognized expert or thought leader within the industry; immerse yourself in your topic area by enrolling in specialized courses, obtaining credentials, and staying informed. Blog about your subject on LinkedIn to demonstrate your expertise.
Your attitude is one of the most important factors of influence. Authenticity matters most. Trust is a commodity, and a simple slip in your integrity will lessen your trust ratio for a long time. Know that everyone’s time is as valuable as your own— be prepared and organized. Exhibit calm confidence in your communications with others. Body language, tone of voice, and choice of words can be your most powerful influencer. Foster an atmosphere where people are free and feel comfortable in speaking up, coming forward, and are not judged. Allow them to have a voice, and to be heard!
Step beyond your own world and see it through the eyes of someone else. Listen with intention; engage in others when they are speaking and truly listen to what was said. During the pandemic, it became more challenging than ever before to listen. We were often working remotely or hybrid, rather than in an office or business setting full-time. While we have multiple gadgets, devices, and notifications demanding our attention, we sometimes allow them to interfere with the conversation in which we are engaged. What can you do? Be present at the moment; push aside other deadlines and activities and pay attention. Use a neutral listening pose, a facial expression that says, “I’m listening.” Offer uninterrupted speaking time; everyone likes to speak, but not necessarily to listen. Listen with the intent to repeat what was said. The purpose of listening is to “understand” rather than to “reply.”
I learned to listen with intention when I worked in the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern European countries. I understood about ninety percent of what was being said, and because I had studied the language for only 4 days, I could respond to queries and discussion with about forty percent accuracy. I had to listen carefully to avoid the nuances in the conversation and translation that would make the difference between a successful hospital implementation and a failure. I had to follow body language, tone of voice, and pay attention to keywords and the responses. After all, if I wanted to learn Russian, I had to speak it, but first, I had to listen! Initially, my conversations were limited to hospital construction, blood banking, pharmaceuticals, oncology, and healthcare. Eventually, I could order from a menu, request a seat on a plane or train, and purchase my own “billet.”
Influencing without authority is a critical job skill in the business sector. Use the R.E.A.L. approach to master the process. Surround yourself with the smartest people you can find—that alone will take the department to an entirely new level. When I worked at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), I learned that there are no problems—just challenges and opportunities. Seize the challenges and create opportunities for yourself and for others. Do it by Influencing without Authority. GET R.E.A.L.