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How to Influence Without Authority


Ever had to get people to contribute to a project, even though you’re not actually their manager? Tough job, isn’t it? Managing people without being in a position of power over them can be a daunting task, especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you. But there are ways you can get your colleagues to help you in your job without the need for the carrot or, well, the stick.

pass the baton

(Photo Credit: vuhung/Flickr)

1. Why would YOU do it?

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Before you approach another person with your project request, first try and answer their question yourself. If you were asked by another colleague to work on their project when it didn’t really help you in your rating or your career, would you? What would make you want to do it? That’s the first step to the approach you should take in reaching out to your colleague. Answer the question for them.

2. Seek help, not adherence

When you are reaching out to your colleague for help, let them know what you want them to help you with. Don’t spend too much time on how you want it done, unless specifically asked. Micromanaging when you’re not the manager is not the best way to get someone to help you. Don’t follow up too much either; share a project plan and the timelines you are working with and then back off. 

3. Offer help

If you’re giving them more to do, offer them help with their work. Let them know that you are empathetic towards their schedule and commitments and are willing to offer help; if you are unable to help, offer resources. Your colleague may or may not take you up on your offer, but the important point is that they will recognize that you have the intention to offer support.

4. Acknowledge their effort

When your project is done or when you’ve reached a huge milestone, thank the people that helped you, even if they’ve done very little or you had a tough time getting them to contribute. When you acknowledge their contribution, you’re setting up the stage for future meetings and a healthy work relationship. You don’t balk at giving credit!

5. Keep them updated

Just because they’re not working on the larger project, doesn’t mean they want to be kept in the dark about the results of their efforts. Send regular updates with the option for them to unsubscribe.

A colleague of mine used this message, which I found very helpful:

“I am sharing these updates as a means of keeping you informed of the progress of the project, as you are involved in some capacity in the project. If at any point you feel that the messages are too frequent or are no more relevant to you, please let me know and I will try my best to keep your preference in mind for all future communication. Thanks for all your help thus far and look forward to our renewed collaboration.”

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever had to lead a project team without actually being the manager? How did you handle it? Share your thoughts with our community on Twitter or in the comments section below.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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