Often in business, we are tasked with leading an initiative that involves a group of individuals inside or outside the organization over which we have no positional authority. This has become more and more common now in the workplace due to flatter management structures, outsourcing and virtual teams. So, in these situations, where “command and control” style leadership no longer works, how can you employ a more lateral type of leadership?
Invest in Relationships
Things get done through people! There is no substitute for investing in the relationships of people you work most closely with. Spend time to get to know your teammates as individuals and seek to understand their career aspirations. You will build trust and a shared respect that will go a very long way and will help ensure that they are eager to help you and the organization achieve its goals.
The second point is to proactively invest in new relationships, build coalitions and get to know influential people before you need them. If you are not sure who to network with, ask around and find people you know who can introduce you to other influential people; find out who makes things happen in your organization or industry. That way, you will be ahead of the game when you need to build a project team that includes people you rarely know or don’t report to you.
How do you do this? Dedicate some time each week to networking and meeting new people inside and outside your organization. Find ways to mingle, mentor and sharpen your lateral skills. Ask people their advice and solicit their ideas.
A few ideas: Go to lunch, grab coffee, have a water cooler conversation etc.
A word of caution: investing in relationships takes time and you might not see the ROI until later. Be patient.
When trying to influence others, a high degree of empathy is extremely important for success. This means taking the time to learn about others and your team and demonstrating a genuine interest in what they are doing and who they are as a person. It also involves understanding other’ s motivations, their goals, career aspirations and their challenges.
It’s also important to help your team reach their objectives. This is relatively easy to do. Proactively ask questions and make yourself available to others. Make efforts to understand their challenges, know what they are being measured on and help them be successful.
Inspire Others to Share Your Vision
One tactic you can use to influence when you don’t have authority is to get others behind your vision. When others deeply understand the motivation behind your drive, the expected impact of your vision and how critical your vision is to the company’s success, it’s much easier for them to support you. Recognize their preferred thinking styles (e.g. “Analytic,” “Emotional,” etc.) and appeal to them accordingly. Avoid hidden agendas.
You might be wildly surprised that people may go out of their way to help if they understand the WHY behind your ask.
Talk Less, Listen More
Everyone is born with one mouth and two ears. Listen more, talk less! When attempting to boost your influence, use ACTIVE listening skills. Make it your job to find out where people are coming from and show them you have actually heard what they’ve said. Respond appropriately with verbal and non-verbal cues (smiling, mirroring back what they have said, encouragement, etc.)
As company structures continue to flatten, the need for influencing without positional authority will continue to grow. Applying the tips outlined above can help you lead successful initiatives and give you the on-the-job appreciation you deserve.