This is the 6th and final blog in my series on Influencing without Authority. So far, I’ve covered why it’s so important and 4 key influence areas to leverage (Expertise, Resources, Information, and Relationships). This last blog covers attitude. Right up there with building relationships, it seems pretty obvious to me that how you treat people, the attitude you take with them, is a huge differentiator. In times of intense change it can make or break the project and the people working on it.
Here are a few things which work for me.
I believe in being straightforward and to the point. No one has time to waste, so being prepared and respecting people’s time is important.
One of the hardest things to do in times of stress is to communicate information, not your own personal stress. One way to do this is to focus on how to get to a solution, not on the problem.
I think it’s key to acknowledge when change has a big impact to work people have already done. In that situation, change will probably be seen, at least initially, as a negative thing. So ignoring all the hard work that has gone before is like a slap in the face. Even a small acknowledgement goes a long way towards allaying anger.
Defusing emotional situations
Finally, complex projects are a breeding ground for stress which means emotions will abound. I highly suggest taking personal responsibility for defusing emotional situations. That means addressing people and issues directly vs letting difficult situations prevail and corrupt the environment. Here are a few suggestions to address that. Don’t be the source of the problem! Keep your cool, communicate information and not stress as previously mentioned and you can avoid being the cause of undue stress.
Second, acknowledge tension. No matter how stressed you feel, try to maintain enough distance to stay tuned in to the overall tension level. Stop to think about what may be causing it and address it in a straightforward way.
Finally, remember to take it offline when things are too heated to pursue a conversation in a more intimate environment. Create a forum so others can express themselves openly. Sometimes that can be in open space or group call, but often it may be necessary to take it to a 1:1 situation.
The calmer you are about addressing tension without getting your own hackles up, the higher the chances are that you can defuse emotional situations and avoid being the source.
During the now infamous launch, I rode a stormy sea of change for many months. Throughout the project people kept telling me “you are so calm”. It made me want to (and probably actually) hysterically laugh and shake my head. I was NOT calm inside. Each major change was like a punch in the stomach. But I accepted early on that change was going to be uncontrollable and decided to focus on the task at hand vs the wasted work every step of the way. Believe me, I hate doing and undoing and redoing work on what seems like someone’s whim. It’s a point that I made regularly, acknowledging the work that had already taken place all the while explaining why we needed to redo it. It’s possible, hard as it seems, to communicate empathy without giving an inch on difficult deadlines. I also did a lot of discussions outside group calls to talk people off the ledge.
Personally I have had to come back to these lessons again and again. As my first story shows, it’s not enough to know them, we have to apply them. We are all human beings and it’s impossible to remain completely emotionless in a stressful environment. But it is possible to be aware of how those emotions are impacting you and others and to manage them proactively.
I am sure that I have missed many tips and tricks to influencing without authority. I would love to hear your experiences and additional tips for others. If you are interested in a pdf with the full blog series, drop me a comment or connect with me on LinkedIn, I’ll be happy to share it.