How To Influence Others

Being a leader is part of the job description for a project manager

It takes all kinds of people to make the project management world go round. Think about the different types of people you work with as a project manager, and you can testify to the fact that all resources are not created equal. In fact, you have a wide range of personalities on your project team and resource management is always a challenge! For example, there’s a type of resource that is eager to please.

I think back fondly to the first time I was introduced to a new resourceproject managers are problem-solvers on the project team. He had come up from the bowels of the organization, the shipping department, where he wore slacks and a tie to work every day even though no one else did. He stood out and it was clear he wanted the opportunity to do a remarkable job.

He was sent to my office to introduce himself. He walked in and said, “Nice to meet you. I’m a problem solver.” He lived up to that claim and from that point forward we forged a close friendship.

A second type of resource is one that needs a push to get things done. They may be extremely busy and need reminders from time to time. Or, they may not be quite as motivated as the problem solver mentioned above. Whichever end of the spectrum they are on, they will get the work done if they are given just the right amount of attention.

A third type of resource is the person that flat-out says they will not be able to do whatever it is that you are asking. They are boldly direct in stating their lack of support under the guise of “that’s not my job” or “I’m too busy to help out.” On the positive side, there is never any doubt where you stand with them, which makes other decisions down the road that much easier.

The fourth type of resource is the most insidious: the passive-aggressive resource. Everything may appear to be just fine on the surface. They act as if whatever it is that is being asked of them won’t be a problem.

However, the moment the person in authority leaves the room, the passive-aggressive resource begins to undermine the project and the team. They devise ways to subtly sabotage the project without being incriminated by their actions. Their obstructionist tendencies create roadblocks that make it hard for everyone to get their work done. You will need to muster up all of your PMP training in order to deal with such a person.

Utilizing your PMP training in dealing with all resource types will always prove advantageous. A clear understanding of the different types of power within an organization will make the process of influencing others easier.

Different Types of Power to Influence Others

There are two types of power that can be exerted over others. They are:

  • Given Authority: This is the power conferred upon a project manageproject managing training teaches that authority is earnedr or person when they assume a particular title or position within the organization. It is primarily centered on the ability to reward and/or punish direct reports.
  • Earned Authority: Earned authority is the power gained through a person’s words, actions, or who they are and what they stand for. People will voluntarily and readily submit to this type of power out of respect for the person’s leadership.

PM training helps us appreciate that earned authority is, by far, the best type of authority to possess. You can’t mandate that someone MUST have respect for another person. It is something that is earned and as a result is much more effective than given authority.

Given authority will produce the desired effect of people doing what you ask. However, the result may be marginal in nature. For example, people typically will do just enough to get by for the purpose of either earning a reward or escaping negative consequences. This is not the best attitude to cultivate in the organization.

Using Your PMP Training to Influence Others

Training takes the many different aspects of leadership and applies them to a process that will enable you to influence others in a positive way. The following are steps you can take as part of that process:

  • Determine the Authority You Currently Possess: Take an honest inventory of the type of authority you possess in the organization and with those around you. Is your authority relegated to positional or given? Do people do what you ask because they HAVE to, or because they WANT to?
  • Determine the Authority Others Possess: PMP training teaches that project managers do not operate in a vacuum, that there are other people in the organization with authority and influence over the same resources you need to influence. Determine where you fit in this unwritten hierarchical structure and be realistic about the amount of influence you can exert. For example, it is not likely that you will override a request from a VP who is directly responsible for funding a resource’s project team over the year.
  • Deeply Understand the Benefits of Your Project: You need to understand what the benefits are of the project you are managing to both the organization and the person you need to influence. Clearly articulate those benefits when you meet with the individual and/or the team, so that they see your requests in light of what’s good for the organization and ultimately themselves.
  • Market Yourself…a Little Bit:  One prerequisite of earned authority is that people understand who you are and what you stand for. You must talk about yourself from time to time. Discuss an experience you’ve been through, decisions you’ve made, your PMP training or other clues that will open the door for the other person to understand who you are as an individual. One word of caution…don’t market yourself too much. Talking about yourself ALL the time will give everyone a different perception of you and ultimately backfire.
  • Get to Know Your Resources Strengths (and Weaknesses):  While you are marketing yourself (a little), take some time to find out more about those you need to influence on your project. What are their strengths? What do they enjoy doing? What are they good at? What do they hate doing? This information will help you place them in the best possible position to maximize their strengths and shore up their weaknesses.
  • Know What You are Talking About:  Preparation for this step actually needs to occur earlier in the process, but now is the time it will come into play. You must have credibility in the eyes of the beholder in order to lead, guide, and direct them. People won’t follow if they feel you don’t have a clue.
  • Provide Constructive Feedback as Necessary: You will find yourself in a position of trust if you have successfully implemented the above steps. A resource that understands that you have their best interest at heart will be more apt to listen to your constructive feedback. They will appreciate the fact that your motive is to make them better and help them grow professionally.

Apply the above steps and you’ll find that the PMP training you went through will increase your ability to get things done. Your earned authority will transcend your given authority, putting you well on your way to influencing more people positively throughout your career! Do you want to show your team you have a clue as a Project Manager? Try ProjectManager.com free for 30 days and backup critical files on our servers. ProjectManager.com makes online storage simple and easy and removes the worry of losing critical documents. You’ll never have that sinking feeling again the next time your hard drive crashes. Log in to ProjectManager.com anytime and anywhere and download the most recent version of the document that just crashed along with your hard drive.

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