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Reflection: Influence Without Authority

How to Influence When You Don’t Have ‘Leadership’ Authority

Select an article or a book on influence and it will generally consider influence from the perspective of a leader.  What if that is not the case? What if there is a situation where you are required to influence without authority?  How do we make our voice heard and ensure that our idea lands with the right people?  This article considers elements ensuring that whatever the situation, you create the opportunity to influence the right people.  Influence today is very much linked with sales and marketing, however, this is not the only point of view.  While essential in these fields, influencing others can be an everyday skill.  Consider the role of a trainer, if they don’t have credibility and technical knowledge attendance at their workshops would be poor. Influence is a result of other factors. If these are considered, influencing without authority is purposeful.

Use Credibility to Influence Without Authority

Consider your past year at work, the people you have connected with, your performance and results.  Credibility can be difficult to assess, so a helicopter view of yourself may help.  You don’t require a high level of authority to be believed or trusted.  The quality of what you say and the work you produce speaks volumes about you.

Man using his laptop while sitting on a black sofa beside the windows of a tall building

The quality of what you say and the work you produce speaks volumes about you.

Think of the advice you might have provided, who comes to you when critical information is required?  Very often we provide information without thinking as certain types of requests can be repeated.  If we stopped for a moment before churning out the report and asked ‘why’, we can potentially add value.  If we understood their needs and changed the output to something specific to them, more bespoke, this is added value. When this occurs, our connection becomes stronger, believable and more credible. Being self-aware and deeply understand the needs of others is a positive action.

Influencing Through Knowledge

No one needs the authority of a CEO to have knowledge that can influence.  What is required is a credible knowledge that is current, relevant and purposeful.  If you possess this and can articulate it to another, clearly it becomes invaluable.  There are situations where another may want to use your knowledge to shine the spotlight on them.  This can be, unfortunately, a common occurrence. Try to investigate where the information is going and offer technical support.  The quality of what you know is powerful when communicated with impact.  Furthermore, fact over opinion will not only provide credible knowledge but will prove far more useful.  This will take work, foresight and the ability to consider the values and situations of the organisation.  This agility in thinking not only provides the facts but makes it situational and relevant.

Lady in black holding 4 thick books with her both hands, covering her face

What is required is a credible knowledge that is current, relevant and purposeful.

You don’t have to be a technical expert to have great knowledge.  It does mean, however, that your research to gain the knowledge should be relevant.  This extra work will pay off as your ideas linked to relevance begin to emerge.  A good starting point is knowing who is best in class at performing what you are researching.  What are their processes? Their ways of deployment?  Where information is complex, such as regulatory, look to break this down into relevant parts and try to deeply understand each element.  Ask yourself, what are you trying to achieve through your knowledge?  A new way of working? Or, an application of a procedure or a new approach? The ability to stand back and view it will help.  Begin with the end in mind and apply the new knowledge with purpose.

Influence Through Networking

Attaining or having great knowledge of an area is important. However, we now need to consider the people element. Networking brings up images of people in a room of strangers chatting over a coffee getting to know each other.  This is one view, and there are some good networking communities out there.  However, in this instance, it is more about a targeted approach to get your ideas, credibility and knowledge out there to influence.
If you were to place yourself on the hierarchy of the organisation, who would you identify as the key players that may need your knowledge?  Influencing without authority requires you to step out of your comfort zone and place yourself in unusual situations.  This is not about having the loudest voice in the room, far from it.  This is about intelligent identification of the right people.  Do you know who you are trying to influence and why?

network wireframe

Networking brings up images of people in a room of strangers chatting over a coffee getting to know each other.

If your answer is simply to be noticed, then a rethink might be in order.  Consider the deeper value of what you have to offer and how this adds more. If you can articulate this in a simple coherent way, then this is a positive step forward.  In many cases, the direct approach will get the attention of the people you need to speak to.  The world is a different place than it was 20 years ago where hierarchy ruled.  It still exists, however, people are more open to listening where there is value.  This is about the right place but doing it in an effective way.  This is not about usurping your manager or going above their head.  Scan the horizon, look for the right opportunity to be included.  Have open and honest discussions with your manager to aid in identifying the right opportunities to present your ideas.

Influencing Without Authority Requires Authenticity

Authenticity and influence go hand in hand, people want to deal with individuals who are ethically and value-led. Building a reputation of openness and trust brings with it an ease of communication.  There is still a stigma around influence and persuasion and the negative connotations it might have.  Try too hard and people become defensive and suspicious at that moment any notion of influence is lost.  It does not have to be this way if our approach is well thought out and genuinely authentic.  The clarity in what we say, why we are saying it and to who do need intelligent thought.  Authenticity fits in with the aspect of networking and the way we want to communicate our message.  Search out the people who may need to know your message or information and plan your communications.

Final Thoughts

Influencing without authority can be perceived as a tough path to follow.  Influencing is not going to happen overnight unless you genuinely do have the next multi-million-pound idea.  You don’t need authority when your own value and ideas can aid and help.  You will need to step out, research who might want to hear your thoughts and arrange to meet them.  If we do this openly and where possible advocacy, your opportunity will present itself.
Delivering a coherent thought process where you are linking strategy and planning to value is an essential outcome.  When this happens, authority is negated, and influence begins.

For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Influencing Skills and our Influencing Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Influencing Skills Tips and articles.

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