Five Strategies to Help You Manage Well Without Authority

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Sandra came to me with questions about a new project she had been assigned to lead. She would be responsible for her teams’ performance for the new initiative but was concerned about how to keep the individual members motivated since they would not be reporting to her directly. How could she manage well without authority?

“I’m not responsible for their careers,” she explained. “I’m not responsible for their performances beyond the project outcomes, so I don’t have the usual fears or promises of promotions as motivators. I’m not sure how to make this work,” she stated.

The situation my client described is a typical scenario. An increasing number of companies today use the matrix model of management, managing employees with more than one reporting line, or across business groups. Under these circumstances, team leads are responsible for team performance in the project outcomes but have no other authority. As in Sandra’s situation, the inherent challenge is to engage and motivate employees who report to someone else.

As I say in my book, “The New Global Manager,” you must accomplish your mission through the group. People say this in many different ways. They say you must “make your numbers” or “hit your targets” or “achieve your goals.” However you describe it, you must do it through your team. So, you need to help the people who are on your team grow and succeed. Great managers have always been coaches and mentors. They’re always looking for ways to help their team members do better in their present job and prepare them for their next move.

‘Leadership without authority’ is an emerging concept gaining traction in social, academic and business circles,” writes Russ Banham. “In fact, type those three words into Google, and more than 6.5 million results pop up. A shelf of books has been written on the subject, and courses are even being taught to achieve its graces. Not only that but leading without authority has been espoused by such diverse organizations as the American Chemical Society and the National Center for Cultural Competence,” he adds.

How do you lead without authority?

The goal of leadership without authority is to get others to willingly cooperate and engage, rather than following directives because you’re the boss,” writes Carol Kinsey Goman. “This new style of leadership is a blending of personal and interpersonal skills that form the basis of a leader’s ability to impact, influence, and inspire others.”

As I explained to Sandra, managing well without authority is entirely possible–and people do it all the time these days. We all have certain levels of influence in our work. Some have the influence that ties to their position; some have authority based on their expertise or resources. And everyone can develop influence by building strong relationships. In situations like Sandra’s, relationships are central to the success of her project. I gave Sandra the following five strategies to help her manage her project team.

Five strategies to help you manage without authority

1. First of all, you need to understand what motivates the team. What is each team member’s motivation for being successful? One may be driven by the promise of earning more money, while another is excited to be able to make contributions. Are your team members motivations intrinsic, meaning that he or she will take action because it is personally rewarding, or are they extrinsic? “Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment,” writes Kendra Cherry.

2. Create visibility for your team. Talk to the managers who are responsible for your team members’ careers about what they’re doing. Find ways to support and praise the team publicly. Advocate for them and help create visibility company-wide.

3. Hold discussions with the team at the outset. Set the expectations about communication channels; how you will communicate with each other and how the team is expected to communicate with you. Explain what hours you expect they will be available and what channels they will use to reach you. Be specific about the kind of information you expect to receive and how frequently you anticipate hearing from them. Make it clear that you are very interested in keeping communication open at all times.

4. Define the roles and responsibilities for your team. Take the time to represent what you expect from each of them clearly, and tie those expectations into the motivators you have determined will be effective for each person. Establishing clearly defined roles and responsibilities lessen the chances of duplication of effort or frustration between the various people you are managing on the project.

5. From the beginning, help the team understand that you’re willing to support their image and brand. Be transparent. Let them know that you will foster, network and generally be supportive of them, so they know that they’re not working in an isolated bubble. Remind them that just because they aren’t reporting to their manager for this project doesn’t mean there isn’t company-wide visibility, organizational visibility and their reputation at stake. Help them understand that their behavior and their performance in this project can and will impact them positively or negatively in the larger company setting.

Sandra took these strategies into her work on the new project and was able to build significant relationships with each of her team members. She reported that they were nearing completion and had every expectation of hitting most of the project expectations successfully. She was also pleased to report that she had already been instrumental in helping further several of her team members’ career goals, and she felt very good about that.

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A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: 123rf.com

Best Practices for Managing Dispersed Teams

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You manage a team of people who are working from multiple locations and time zones. Initially, everything looked really good. You developed the project plan, created timelines, task lists and met with the team to kick the project off.

And it was a really strong start–at first.

But after awhile your team members lost energy, stopped hitting it out of the park and began to miss meetings. And now you’re concerned. You’re looking for solutions, for tips or ideas on how to get the project back on track and manage your dispersed teams successfully.

For someone who is managing a virtual team, this is a familiar story.

Leading a virtual group can present real challenges. Maintaining clear communication, engagement, and focus can be tough. And, for more and more managers this is a daily reality as the number of companies with remote workers continues to grow. “Despite occasional stories of a company ending its remote work program, the long-term trends all show steady growth in the number of people working remotely,” writes Sara Sutton Fell, founder, and CEO of FlexJobs.

According to a recent study published by Upwork.com; globalization, skill specialization, and agile team models will change the workforce in the next ten years. The second annual Future Workforce Report found that 63 percent of companies have remote workers but more than half – 57 percent – lack the policies to support them.

But, as I’ve said before, leaders are discovering innovative ways to rally and connect teams no matter how far away they are from each other. Whether or not actual policies exist, there are best practices for leading a team of remote workers successfully and building a sense of trust, belonging, and commitment to the team, the project, and the organization.

In my workshops about building and leading effective virtual teams, one of our first activities is designed to increase awareness of virtual team characteristics and complexities. We talk about what works well and what must be done to achieve positive results. Over the years I have learned some of the best practices for managing dispersed teams. Let’s a take a look at three of them.

Create Context

As the leader, it’s your job to provide the context for the team. In addition to sharing the project specifications and requirements, you need to paint the big picture for them and bring the importance of their roles to the forefront. Help your employees understand, not only what their roles are, but why they matter–and why each of them benefits individually from being truly engaged in the team goal overall.

While this may sound like Leadership 101, a dispersed team needs help understanding the company’s vision, the purpose of the project, and behind-the-scenes information they miss by working at a distance from the home office. Teams need to know exactly how they are expected to collaborate. Remember, working remotely, while offering fantastic benefits to both employees and organizations, can provoke feelings of isolation and disconnection.

As part of creating context, set clear and measurable performance goals and make sure your team understands how those goals figure into the project and the organization’s plans as a whole.

It’s on you, as their leader, to help the members of the group connect the dots, get to know you and each other and feel like part of a team, working together toward a common purpose.

Communicate, Maybe Even Over-Communicate

Communication is one of the first things to go in a virtual team setting. The inability to read non-verbal clues presents hurdles to dispersed team members that don’t exist for in-person teams. It’s all too easy to misunderstand a text or email because virtual communication lacks the non-verbal clues we get from face-to-face interaction. It’s better when communication is through video chatting tools like Skype or Slack.

Since 55 percent of communication is non-verbal, 38 percent is para-verbal (how you sound), and 7 percent is verbal, removing 93 percent of the context of communication forces a disproportionate dependence onto the verbal spoken word. Also, physical distance can contribute to avoidance of conflict, and it’s easier to default to “dealing with it later” if an exchange was tense or unclear. If you don’t handle a conflict proactively, unresolved negativity can fester.

So set up the ground rules with regular check-ins using a video conferencing tool. And make a point of meeting face-to-face at least once during the project–that contact will increase your team’s productivity by as much as 50 percent. Remember this guideline: Make a point of intentionally connecting with the people on your team three times as often as you do with the people you see spontaneously in the office. This effort will pay off for you in increased engagement and strong connections with each of your team members.

I like to remind people of the ten times rule: phone calls are ten times more effective than email (or text), and face-to-face communication is ten times more effective than a phone call. So just remember, “ten times, ten times, ten times” on the communication front.

Cultivate Community and Respect

We all work better when we feel like we are part of something larger. In addition to creating context, cultivate a feeling of community for your team. Develop a strategy to pull each of the team members into the group and then cement that feeling of community by acknowledging the team’s efforts and celebrating its successes. Work to develop a feeling of trust between you and your team and between the team members themselves. Building trust in virtual teams involves two different types of trust: cognitive (in team members’ heads) and affective (in team members’ hearts.)

Take the time to nurture these new relationships and try to understand what motivates each of your employees to perform well. Ask them what they consider appropriate incentives, and what aspects of the project they find compelling.

Make a point of being accessible to the team, and allow one-on-one time for each of your employees. Be considerate of their obligations, work commitments, and especially the time zones they are working in. Set meetings and calls as thoughtfully as your own schedule allows, and include group meetings on a regular basis as a way of touching base and offering encouragement.

Ask your team for feedback. What works for them? What isn’t working? What can you improve or create differently? If you encourage feedback and listen thoughtfully, not only will you learn important information about your employees and the project, but you may also find new leaders within the group; people you can work with and those you may promote for future leadership roles.

Be respectful of the individual group members and the team as a whole. This feeling of respect and community will go a long way toward building trust, and engagement, from a team that takes pride in delivering top-notch performances.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com

Photo: Thought Catalog on Unsplash