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Influencing without Authority

Source | Forbes.com  | Raju Kulkarni, Senior Technical Program Manager – Echo and Alexa

 

As a Product/Program Manager driving Product development efforts spanning several teams, most of which are beyond my direct control, one of the most frequent challenges I run into is how do I influence people without having authority over them and get things done on time. On more than one occasions, new Program/Product managers have asked me how do I deal with such situations. So here is a crisp, and practical strategy I recommend to influence without authority.

The strategy is a 5 phased approach: Motivate, Persuade, Negotiate, Accommodate and Escalate. Here is what I mean by each one of these:

Motivate

The best way to influence is to motivate. The key is to find the right motivational factors that are appropriate for the situation and appropriate for the people you want to influence. Evaluate various motivational factors that you could use like: (i)Customer Impact (ii)Financial impact on the Product/Company, (iii)Impact on team’s performance, morale, and operational burden (iv)Impact on the performance and morale of the Individual(s) who you are trying to influence (v)Possible career growth or visibility that individuals will get.

The easiest way to motivate without sounding like a philosopher is to gather and publish Data or Statistics (KPIs/Metrics) for the motivational factors that you want to use. If you are unable to find the right metrics to motivate, don’t let it deter you from using motivation as a method to influence. Here is an example on how NOT to identify metrics 🙂

Persuade

Out of sight is out of mind, so keep interacting with the individuals that you want to influence and keep reiterating what needs to be done. To ensure that you don’t sound over-assertive, get the stakeholders you are interacting with to agree upon a regular cadence at which you will interact with them to seek and share information or updates – these could be weekly or daily status update email or meeting (stand-ups in an agile environment). In every interaction, the focus should be to discuss or share options, risks, mitigations, next steps, action items, etc. and the intent should be to end the interaction with owners assigned to each of the action item and an ETA(Expected time of Arrival/Accomplishment) for its closure. If the people you are trying to influence have their own Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly planning or prioritization process then participate in that process and keep raising your concerns/requirements. Try to be omni-present, at least for the people who you want to influence. Constantly interacting with the people you want to influence will also help you understand the challenges they are facing, and identify areas that you could help them with. You might feel that it’s not your job or responsibility to understand and resolve their challenges, but believe me, this will go a long way in building relationship and establishing trust.

Readon…

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