How a Project Manager Influences Without Authority

October 15, 2020 by Lynn Faughey

While our new normal becomes more mainstream, many of us have needed to find alternate and creative approaches in our personal and professional lives. Working from home and sharing the kitchen table with our school-aged, college-aged, or even adult children or spouse is not exactly how we imagined our work day going. 

It’s been a learning experience for everyone and a great time for outside-the-box thinking to make it all work. We have no choice but to roll with the punches and I’ve tried my best to set a good example for my adult kids and my FlexPro team. 

Because team members do not report to the PM, as PMs we need to be able to “influence without authority.” Now more than ever, keeping the team mindful of the agreed-upon timeline with regular check-ins is imperative. I’m still the one setting the tone, pace, and example throughout the entire project. So how exactly do I influence those who don’t answer to me directly? 

In the past, we’ve talked about the importance of communication. Keeping the lines of communication open and having information flow both ways is a great way to take advantage of the expertise of your team members. Use your resources wisely and make your project objectives and expectations clear. 

We need to negotiate choices and influence one another to make the best decisions throughout the day. Ironically, this type of deal-making translates directly into the role of a project manager who shifts and coaches their team to cross the finish line. This type of influencing requires leveraging the strengths of each team member and keeping a strong focus in the right direction. 

In influencing without authority, attitude is everything. Staying positive with your words and actions has a trickle-down effect on everyone. When difficulties arise – and we know they will – keep the momentum going by providing examples of previous projects where there have been struggles that ended in creative solutions. 

Don’t make promises you can’t deliver on and don’t be afraid to be honest with your team. Also, as Rose mentioned in a previous post, don’t forget the importance of one-on-one conversations outside of team meetings.

As a project manager, you are the North Star providing guidance. You are the cheerleader when things go well and the coach when encouragement and direction are needed. We all must move together collectively to achieve the desired outcome. The reality is, everyone ultimately wants to shine. 

I don’t think any of us could have predicted the challenges that 2020 would bring. Being a project manager means wearing many hats and fulfilling many roles. Our team will look to us for guidance and direction throughout the project. Influence without authority by providing leadership support along the way, and you’ll encourage and boost your team to bring their A-game!

The FlexPro Group is a project management consulting firm specializing in the life sciences industry since 2008. FlexPro combines industry-certified experts with proven project management processes and subject matter expertise to deliver results on time and on budget. Our focus areas include product development and commercialization, supply chain optimization, integration management, and early-stage acceleration.

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