How To Influence Without Authority

influence without authority

In todays world where many services are outsourced to third parties, or we work in a virtual or matrixes organisation; we often have to lead people where we do not have direct control over them.

This can be a difficult situation, especially for people who have only managed through direct control, where resources are in the same building, or even the same office.

One of the easiest ways of influencing when you don’t have direct control is through expectation setting.

It’s proven that teams and individuals often rise to meet the expectations that are set for them.

If we tell them that we expect them to succeed this increases their probability of succeeding, whereas if we tell them we think that they will fail, we often create a self fulfilling prophesey.

When we set a positive expectation, it also puts us into a position accountability, as we will feel bad if they teams fail and we will look to help them if we can. It also put the team into a position that, if they feel that we can help, they will come to us to ask.

So if you find yourself in position where you don’t have direct control over the teams that you are dependent upon, then communicate clearly that you are very confident that they will succeed, and that if they need any help from you, they should feel free to ask.

I have had very positive experience with this approach.

With one of the suppliers at a company where I worked we were having significant performance issues, and the teams had tried everything to get them to increase their quality and productivity, but nothing worked, there was some small improvements but not what we were looking for.

So we decided to take the approach that we would show that we had confidence in them to turn things around and that we believed that the issues would be resolved completely within six months.

What was unbelievable was, that 6 months to the day, all issues had been resolved.

By showing confidence in the supplier, we put them in a position where they had more belief and confidence in themselves and they looked to ask for support where they needed our help, which helped drive improvements.

Previously, they were embarrassed about their performance and tried to hide failures rather than communicate them early and get our help.

So just by expectation setting we had helped to turn around a failing situation. We had managed to influence even though we had no formal authority.

It’s amazing but true.

If you don’t believe me, give it a try, what do you have to lose?

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles