In my last two blogs, I focused on why influencing without authority can be so important and on the influencing effects of expertise. Let’s explore how resources are a source of influence.
We all know that having the right resources – skills, people, budget – has a direct impact on the success of ambitious projects. I’m going to focus on people here because I think it’s where the biggest issues arise when you are managing an outcome across organizations and disciplines.
It’s hard to hold people accountable to a deadline and I think struggling with getting others to adhere to a tight timeline is one of the hardest things to do. Workload issues and prioritization disconnects are probably the biggest source of missed deadlines. And yet, it is extremely likely you will not know what priorities each team member is juggling in such an environment. So, pro-actively understanding workload issues and conflicting priorities is critical to resolving and even avoiding issues.
As a leader you should be on top of dependencies – not only across the team working on your specific project, but also the major barriers and dependencies your team members have with their own organizations. There are multiple ways to assist team members to resolve conflicts. Sometimes it’s as simple as mentoring a team member on juggling priorities because they have the solution in their own hands. Unfortunately, many people are not good at juggling multiple priorities. If you are good at it, share that expertise! It’s sometimes possible to adjust timelines based on major issues. Not always. It may be necessary to intervene with other managers to work through prioritization. All of this helps to ensure that team members have a shared sense of urgency.
You have multiple opportunities to understand these barriers and dependencies. While the team is discussing major deadlines, proactively ask about conflicting deadlines and priorities. When someone advises they will be late ahead of time (nice when you have that luxury!) you can enter into a discussion.
Finally, the worst possible moment is of course when a deadline has not been respected. These are the times to take a deep breath and remember that usually there is a good reason. It’s worth understanding it before getting angry and letting emotion cloud the conversation.
Late delivery against deadlines is one of the banes of any large project’s existence. How many times have you practically torn your hair out because someone who agreed to a deadline ends up being late. Agreement is alas no guarantee. It’s very easy to be annoyed and angry by it. The truth is though, people generally do want to deliver on time. They want to be professional. If you have a good relationship with them, they may even want to please you personally. And most of all, a lot of people just don’t like to say no. By the very same token, there are some folks who just always say no initially to anything….. without giving any context.
So let’s look at how you can be more effective by leveraging explicit communication.
From left to right you move from unreliable communication to communication you can rely on. From bottom to top you move from unactionable outcomes to actionable ones.
Silence is self-explanatory, no? Not much you can do with that.
Disagreement is when someone just says “no” with no context. In order to be actionable you need context.
Agreement is when someone just says “yes” – it does not involve further discussion. Although it is more actionable than disagreement (you can follow up with someone who said yes with at least some level of comfort) it is no more reliable.
Explicit disagreement happens when you understand the reasoning behind why someone is
saying no. This gives you the context to weigh in, to address issues and perception and get to a yes.
Explicit agreement is when you understand the context of other priorities and potential barriers
to success. It is the most reliable and actionable of all the exchanges.
By engaging in a discussion to gain context, you can identify specific issues to either help you get to yes, or to keep an eye out to ensure that yes stays yes. The more context you have the more actionable the discussion will be. Remember – people usually want to deliver on time but many people aren’t good at juggling priorities.
Next up, how to leverage information to effectively influence others.