Is it Possible to Have Influence Without Direct Authority? | BridgeBetween.com

Is it Possible to Have Influence Without Direct Authority?

Yes, but a few key ingredients are necessary!

You’re running a new team for a project but that project requires the participation of individuals who are in other business silos, within the company. In other words, you’re running a team that is comprised of people who don’t actually report to you, on a normal day. So how do you have influence over them without having direct authority?

The idea of running a team without a standard hierarchy is a more common occurrence than people think. Changes to corporate structures where a flatter, more ‘universal’ style are now being embraced.

The key to being able to effectively work with a team like this, among other factors, is credibility. If you have it, you will have influence. It’s as simple as that. You can’t just be proclaimed leader by an even higher power and expect people to follow who are, at the very least, in a lateral position, or possibly even higher.

Types of influence

Your title is not your influence. It’s just a name given from an external and higher authority. It doesn’t confer any real influence on you with your team. Instead, influence is made up of other things, the most important of which is credibility.

  • Credibility — This is influence that comes because of your abilities and your experience. More will be said about how to build this up, below.
  • Informational — This is the kind of influence you can exert because you are ‘in the know’. You have a deep understanding of the organization, how things work, who knows what and how you can leverage that information.
  • Relationships — You are well connected with larger networks that your team sees as valuable to their overall success.

How do you build up credibility?

  1. Meet expectations. Learn what others expect of you and meet those standards. It’s not always easy to discern what others are expecting—we’re not mind readers, after all! But it’s important to find out what key members of the team are expecting so that you can work towards those goals.
  2. Do what you say you’re going to do. There is nothing worse than individuals who talk a good game and say they’re going to accomplish XYZ, only to find out that they can barely accomplish X. Set reasonable expectations and limits so that you can not only meet but exceed them!
  3. Communicate clearly. As much as you need to learn what others expect of you, you need to clearly communicate what you expect from them. Everyone needs to be on the same page, with no confusion, as to what they’re supposed to do.
  4. Use feedback wisely. Good, constructive feedback is essential to building credibility. When someone isn’t meeting the expectations you set out, it’s vital to call them on it. Like calling someone’s bluff, you can build a tremendous amount of credibility by being on top of your own requirements.

 

“Your credibility is your on-ramp to greater influence with others, and it’s too important to be left to chance.” (SOURCE)

 

Essential skills for influencing a team without direct authority

Beyond credibility, there are some essential skills that a leader needs in order to be effective:

  • Networking — The ability to network with a wide variety of people within and outside of your team will help you achieve the influence you need. There is a feeling of reciprocity that develops when you are able to connect people who need to know each other. You have social currency that others want (social, in the sense of team and position, not social standing in society!)
  • Team-within-a-team building — If you are able to successfully get the backing of key people on the team, people who are essential to the success of the team, you will have more influence over the rest.
  • Negotiation — Ensuring that everyone sees decision-making as mutually beneficial is the key to successful negotiation among peers. It’s not about getting what YOU want. It’s about getting something for everyone.

These are skills that are separate from credibility but still emanate from it. You can’t negotiate with people, no matter how skilled you are at it in theory, if you don’t have credibility with the people with whom you are negotiating.

Work on building up your credibility as well as the skills you need to support it. You’ll likely find any team easier to inspire!

Quality Team Feedback | BridgeBetween.com

Providing Quality Feedback to a Team

Getting your feedback message across, without being negative, is the key!

Feedback is VERY important when running a team. Regular feedback lets team members know how their work is being perceived and whether they are on the right track.

But the very idea of receiving feedback can be upsetting to some, as their past experiences might equate ‘feedback’ with ‘ripping a person to shreds’. It can make people defensive and nervous, so it’s important to handle it carefully.

Team members have to hear it for feedback to work

In order to be effective, feedback must first be heard. This might sound silly, but badly delivered feedback is often misconstrued in its meaning or intent and ends up being of little use to the recipients.

What is badly delivered feedback?

Where only negative feedback is provided, without the inclusion of anything positive. Team members are less likely to listen to it, or act on it, if it’s totally negative.

  • Where feedback is judgemental. Is the feedback delivered in ways where the receiver feels ‘unsafe’, as if it is intended to make them look incompetent or as a personal judgment?
  • Where the leader is not clear and forthright. If the feedback is purposely vague out of fear of confrontation or a poor reaction, it can have a negative impact overall.
  • When the feedback is not specific. This is similar to the previous point in that confusion is the result for the team, instead of useful information that they can take on board.
  • Where feedback is not productive. If the feedback only serves to take people down and doesn’t provide a platform for growth and confidence building, it’s not good feedback.

Related: Team Communication: How to Speak So Your Team Will Listen

Qualities you need to give feedback effectively

As a leader, your feedback will be more readily taken on board if you have these qualities: authority, credibility and trustworthiness.

If you have the authority to provide the feedback, in that you are the right person to be doing it in the structure of your team, you are more likely to be heard. Peer to peer feedback CAN work in some circumstances but most people on a team see themselves as equal and are reluctant to take criticism from someone they don’t consider as being in a leadership role.

Authority also comes with time. A brand new leader of a team may not be speaking with authority when they give feedback due simply to the fact that they haven’t interacted with the team long enough to be in the know.

Credibility is important in that if you don’t know your subject matter and you are unfamiliar with the team, you won’t have much credibility with them, and nor will your feedback.

Finally, trustworthiness comes down to that element of safety, mentioned earlier. Feedback given in the right circumstances and environment builds trust and a solid working relationship. If the team members feels that the feedback given will be shared inappropriately or otherwise misused, it won’t be heard.

Five essentials when giving feedback

  1. Be positive!
  2. Be specific!
  3. Be timely! (Giving feedback on something that happened six months ago isn’t particularly helpful!)
  4. Be clear!
  5. Be conversational! (Make it a conversation, not a commandment. Allowing the team to respond and discuss the feedback is important.)

Related: How to Get Your Team to Speak Up

Following up is another essential key in providing feedback. Giving it and then just leaving it out there, without a time frame for following up to see if it was heard/implemented, isn’t helpful to you or your team. This is a chance for you to give positive feedback when the team is doing what you requested. Don’t miss it!

If you need help to learn the subtleties surrounding the art of giving feedback, consider getting some coaching. You can learn to give even the hardest feedback clearly, without judgment and in a way that the receiver can hear and act on it.

Be True to Value Statements | BridgeBetween.com

The Importance of Being True to Value Statements

Leaders are, and should be, held to a higher standard.

It’s business fashionable to throw around words like ‘value statements’ and ‘mission’ but, in many cases, they are just empty words.

Why? Because often leaders in a company don’t actually give those terms any weight, so they become hot air instead of standard operating procedure. How does a leader give them weight?

By living them.

Case in point: Dropbox’s CEO ‘A-HA’ moment

Drew Houston, CEO at Dropbox, had his moment of understanding the importance of walking the walk when he set up an all-company meeting to address the issue of lateness. A meeting to which he was … wait for it … late.

In his mind, being two minutes late was no big deal, but that’s not how others perceived it. A fellow team member shared with him that it was, in fact, hypocritical to behave as if the rules didn’t apply to him.

Houston came to the realization that all the value statements in the world won’t make a hill of beans difference in team morale and attitude if the leadership isn’t living them, rather than just repeating them.

Show rather than tell

The best way for a leader to breathe life into value statements about the company is to live them. Like a novelist who wants to bring the reader into a new and interesting world, he has to show them the way, rather than tell them how to get there:

“To illustrate, let’s say someone stops you on the street to ask for directions. You could give the person a step-by-step route to follow, or you might draw a map, complete with street names and landmarks.

But you could also say:

“That’s not too far out of my way. Just follow me, and I’ll take you there.”

Which method do you think is the most effective?” (Source)

Communicate intentions clearly

While mission statements and value propositions might be written in the employee handbook or even on the wall at the office, the real power of these words comes from direct statements and actions of leaders.

It’s all very well and good to SAY that you value the mental health of your team members, but you have to show it too. A recent example that went viral online was an employee at Michigan tech company who sent her team an email saying that she was taking a couple of days off. The reason: for her mental health.

You might expect that the CEO of that company would be unhappy to see an email from a team member that so openly admitted to taking time off for this reason — mental health not being accepted in every organization as being a legitimate concern for employees. In this case, you would be wrong.

This was his response:

“I just wanted to personally thank you for emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health—I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”

Now, that’s leadership. The employee, Madelyn, tweeted his response (with permission) and the result was overwhelming, even to the CEO, Ben Congleton. As he stated in a subsequent post at Medium.com “It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 americans are medicated for mental health.”

Don’t create value statements you don’t believe in

That’s the bottom line. Hollow value statements are pointless and, in fact, can hurt a team’s morale when they discover how little those statements mean to the leadership of the company.

Sit down and really think about what your company is about and how you can use mission and value statements to show your team where the path to success is, rather than just pointing the way and then going in the opposite direction.

How to Get Your Team to Speak Up | BridgeBetween.com

How to Get Your Team to Speak Up

We’ve all seen it: that shy employee who has a tremendous amount of knowledge and ability but can’t seem to bring themselves to speak up in groups, meetings or in front of an audience.

It’s a loss for the team as a whole when one member doesn’t feel comfortable talking and contributing. Remember that old saying about a team being as strong as its weakest link?

Being shy — or worried about appearances, lacking in self-confidence, or being the ‘keep your head down’ kind of employee — doesn’t make a team member bad at their job, but it does make it more difficult to coordinate efforts and get the most out of everyone’s abilities.

There are a couple of tools in the toolbox that will help get everyone on the team to participate!

Model the behavior you want to see

Like most any situation where you are dealing with human behavior, if you want a certain action from your team, you need to model it.

In other words, if you expect them to speak up and risk looking ‘wrong’ or ‘silly’, you have to be willing to do it, too. Address the elephant in the room, whatever that may be. Take a risk in your speaking. If they see you willing to do it, they will be more willing to do it too. Make it clear that meetings are interactive, not one-sided speeches.

Request feedback and thank them

In order to get people to speak up, you may have to invite questions. This isn’t about singling out the shy person, like a teacher picking on the kid who never raises his hand. This is about making sure that people have a chance to have a voice. Invite questions, feedback, and comments and keep control of any judgment.

If there are people in the group who are prone to shutting down comments from others that they don’t agree with, you need to deal with those people because they just became your weakest link. Give credit where credit is due, when someone has the gumption to put something ‘out there’.

Engage with other options

A good way to get a reluctant participant to open up is to leverage a medium that they can get behind first. Example? Ask them to provide a written memo or report on what they are working on and to circulate it in advance to the rest of the team.

This gives other team members a chance to approach the writer one on one or in a smaller setting and ask questions, rather than having the shy person approach everyone else directly for feedback.

Figure out why there is silence

If the silence isn’t limited to one or two people, there is something else going on. Has there been judgment in the past by members of the group? Are suggestions given routinely ignored, despite being requested?

Find out why people are holding back by asking them in a more conducive setting, one to one, with the clear statement that they will not be ‘punished’ in any way for honesty. You need to get past any major blocks like this, as they are really not conducive to a team effort and can signal other issues within the group.

Give advance notice of meetings/informational requirements

If people feel prepared for a meeting, they’re more likely to participate. That might seem basic but expecting people to have the information you’re looking for at the drop of a hat might not be realistic and, in fact, might be detrimental to getting people to fight the very natural tendency to keep what they know closer to their chest, rather than sharing it with the group.

Speaking up and sharing information is at the basis of any good team, but the lack of ability to do so shouldn’t disqualify someone from their role. The ability to speak up can be taught, as long as the environment is one that welcomes it. That has to come from the leadership level, so make it a priority!

With that in mind, executive coaching might be just what you need to take your communications, and your leadership, to the next level. Contact us today for more information.

Leadership Traits to Avoid | BridgeBetween.com

5 Leadership Traits to Avoid

There is a lot of information out there about ideal leadership qualities, but talking about leadership traits to avoid is important, too.

Have you ever had a toxic manager? Someone who poisoned the workspace with their negativity or domineering attitude? It’s not uncommon, and as much as we talk about all the qualities of a good leader, it’s important to understand and acknowledge the negative leadership traits that should be avoided at all costs.

After all, an ostrich doesn’t really survive by burying his head in the sand, and neither should leaders who want to succeed!

5 Leadership Traits to Avoid

1. Talk the talk but don’t walk the walk

A leader who can talk a good game about attitude and work tasks but then does the very opposite in action is a leader who won’t be trusted by his or her team.

Taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions and modeling the behavior you expect to see from others are essential to gain and keep trust and loyalty. Creating a culture of trust, fairness and good work being noticed is what makes a difference.

2. Conflict resolution, ostrich style

A leader who can’t deal with conflict is not leading.

In the hopes that a problem will simply go away, a bad leader will miscommunicate their feelings or intentions, being purposely vague and leaving everyone in the dark as to what they really want and how they want to deal with the issue.

But like a throbbing tooth, problems and conflict in the workplace don’t usually ‘self-resolve’. Team members are looking for their leader to deal with it, or pull the tooth, as it were. Hiding behind a closed door and ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

3. Communication is a one-way street

A leader who is forever pontificating on one topic or another, without censoring their words, and is not open to input from team members, is a concern.

This kind of ‘leader’ will typically surround themselves with sycophantic ‘yes-people’ who will in no way challenge their authority. As if having an opinion in a team environment was a threat! This is a leader who exerts control in many ways and one of them is to control the ‘conversation’ so it isn’t based on two-way communication.

4. Learning is for sissies

A leader who is closed to learning and self-growth can’t lead.

Admitting flaws, faults and mistakes IS true leadership, not a sign of weakness. Acting like you have it all under control when the wheels have effectively just fallen off the bus? Not so much. A good leader can ask for help, even from subordinates and still have confidence in themselves.

5. It’s all about ego

A leader who doesn’t have the greatest self-esteem, which is usually accompanied by an ego the size of Texas, can’t be a great leader.

Sometimes it’s not entirely their fault: by a series of strange events, they find themselves in a role that they can’t cope with but don’t want to admit that to anyone.

Ultimately, a person who is working with ego isn’t thinking about the good of the team or the greater good of the organization as a whole: they’re thinking about themselves and how the decisions will affect them.

It’s not an accident that performing companies have excellent leadership. One follows from the other, like flowers from well-maintained earth.

Leadership isn’t innate: you can be taught to be a great leader, you can learn the skills you need. Equally important, however, is to learn what traits that will bring you, and your organization, down.