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?
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!