Influencing without authority is a critical job skill for project managers. Keeping the cats herded requires a combination of strong project management and communication skills. When you combine that with influencing levers, you can master the most complex projects. Here are five ways to influence without authority. (This blog is a summary of a series of blogs on Influence.)
Expertise is a powerful influencing factor. Discipline specific expertise is fundamental when diverse roles are working together in a project. Industry specific expertise can be critical when you are working in a cross-industry team. Use your expertise to underpin your recommendations and requests. One project management example would be explaining the dependencies of a timeline to justify a deadline.
Information is most powerful when shared. Influence others by sharing the information you know regularly, clearly and concisely. As a project manager, you have objectives and timelines. In complex work groups, roles and responsibilities can be confusing. Information is a two-way street. Don’t forget to gather it as well as share what you already know. Stakeholder knowledge is key information that project teams need to bear in mind about the primary sponsor of the project.
Having the right resources is a critical factor to project success. Creative use of resources can be the difference between success and failure. Influence the budget with examples of earlier projects. Influence the skills by outlining the key outcomes required and documenting the skills needed to achieve the outcomes. Influence the people by keeping a handle on workload and prioritizationissues.
Get to know people, and form deeper connections and relationships. This enables you to know what to expect. Foresee reactions and attitudes and prepare for objections rather than getting taken by surprise. People who trust you will be much more willing to follow you. Deep, long-standing relationships allow you to ask for occasional favors. Finally, a sense of camaraderie also goes a long way towards encouraging people to solve problems together.
Your attitude, or how you treat other people, is one of the most important factors of influence. Be honest and straightforward – a slip in your integrity will cost you trust for a long time. Don’t waste people’s time – be prepared and organized. Communicate information and urgency but not stress. Your tone of voice, your choice of words, and acknowledgment of difficult situations can be your most powerful influence.
A word about authority. Authority is, without a doubt, the most direct way to be able to influence others. When you manage resources directly, you can set their direction and priorities. There is a time and a place to leverage authority, whether yours or someone else’s. For example, call in the bosses if you can’t resolve major resource dependencies. But not before you have tried to resolve it individually.
This post was originally published on Forbes.