Influencing without Authority

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I have spent a fair bit of time recently working with people who don’t hold senior positions in their organizations and inevitably, the conversation comes up about how to influence without authority.  That, together with a new course on the same topic, has prompted me to come up with a model. It’s brought together a number of ideas I believe about leading from wherever you are.  The stage that people seem to struggle with the most is 2 – embracing the world of the other, probably because in a lot of cases the people who we most need to influence are quite different from us and it can be difficult to understand vs judge the other’s world.

The other phase is 5, in particular when to let go.  Being overly attached to a particular outcome and not knowing when to let go and move on keeps people stuck and feeling powerless.

1.  Know yourself

  • Your strengths
  • Your sources of power
  • Manage your ego and triggers

2.  Embrace the world of the other

  • Assume all are potential partners
  • Walk in the other’s shoes
  • Understand what matters most to them

3.  Know your priorities

  • Must have vs nice to have
  • Short or long term
  • Task or relationship

4.  Build trust and relationships

  • Understand and live your values
  • Be transparent
  • Build a wide and diverse network

5.  Influence through give and take

  • Leave people with a positive impression
  • Give more than you take
  • Know when to let go


Being strategic

A number of the people I’ve coached over the years have received feedback that they are not “strategic.” What it usually boils down to is that while they are good executors, sometimes this propensity towards taking action and “doing things” leads to a narrow view of the longer term challenges and opportunities in their organizations. Strategic leaders pop their heads up, park their day to day “to do” lists, take time to think, and identify the trends and patterns that are happening around them.

If you want to learn more about strategic leadership, Dave and I are teaching a 4 day strategic leadership program on May 6-9 in Victoria. We’ve taught this course several times now and participants find it engaging, insightful, and provocative. We’d love to see you there!

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Systems Blindness

As organizations grow more complex, the old parable of the blind men and the elephant remains amazingly relevant. How you make decisions and even communicate with others depends upon what part of the system you “see.” Do you have a hold of the tail or trunk but fail to acknowledge the ears? Once we recognize that we may be blind to other parts of the system, we are less likely to personalize actions from others and work harder to understand the whole system before we ourselves take action. Using this parable to guide problem solving meetings forces us to slow down and understand the system before we engage in the favourite activity for most people, coming up with solutions.

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The power of stories

Another of my favourite sessions at the IABC Canada West Conference was Jennifer Wah’s engaging and interactive session on the power of using stories to engage people. I had a great time hearing the “make a difference” stories from the people in my small group, and was reminded of the many reasons to lead with stories that touch our hearts and minds. I was intrigued to learn more about Pecha Kucha and inspired to see how I might integrate them into my own work. Stay tuned as I would love to turn it into a video to share in this blog.

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Hell or High Water: Lessons from the 2013 Calgary Flood

One of the most powerful sessions at the IABC Canada West Conference was given by Kurt Kadatz, Director of Corporate Communications with the Calgary Stampede. I was especially moved by this presentation as I used to live in Calgary and return there a lot for both professional and personal reasons, AND flew over Calgary during the worst part of the flood.

Given the devastation I saw, I was truly amazed that the Stampede did in fact happen. The videos Kurt showed during his presentation documenting the clean up were moving and inspiring. Kudos to those folks who didn’t sleep for weeks to make it all happen.

The most fascinating part of Kurt’s talk was that it was the fans who started the hell or high water campaign, and how important it was to put their brand into the hands of fans. This is a great leadership lesson. How open are we as leaders to the initiatives started by others?

For more details of Kurt’s talk, check out Rob Cottingham’s sketch.

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How are you using games?

Dave and I were excited to be asked to present 2 sessions at the International Association of Business Communicators Canada West Conference this past weekend. Kudos to all of the organizers for their hard work in putting on a world class conference! My next few blogs will highlight some of my learning.

Fresh in my mind today is the closing keynote about gamification by Shel Holtz who gave an engaging and informative talk. I have been intrigued by the idea of using games for training for years and it was fascinating to learn how many organizations are using games externally to develop their brands and internally to increase engagement. I have highlighted a few companies and games in the black squares and some of Shel’s observations of why games are so important in the white squares.

Dave and I developed a teamwork deck of cards that we have used with our training participants, but this presentation has got me thinking about what our next iteration might be! How are you using games?

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On being right

One of the biggest “ah-has” I had as a young adult was what it cost me to be right. I remember someone asking me many years ago, “would you rather be right or at peace?” Seductive though it was to be right, in important matters I have chosen peace over the years. It seems to me that strategic leaders have learned a version of this. Strategy involves playing the long term game and that only happens when we can give up being right and actually be present for what is happening. If we are truly present, we pay attention to undercurrents, see patterns, and empower people. We don’t get the immediate hit of ego but we do build trust and goodwill. What’s your being right, being present ratio?

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Stop arguing about facts

It’s very easy to get sucked into potential conflict situations by arguing about the facts and who is right. But the real issue, according to Douglas Stone et al, is the notion that the heated conversation is generating emotions and threats to one’s identity. It takes skill to step back and listen for the emotions in the situation and even more skill to reflect upon how the conversation is threatening both yours and the other person’s identity.

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Closing the gap

We are preparing to debrief a group of leaders about their 360 results and I find the impact, intention concept a powerful one to help them make sense of feedback. We judge ourselves by our intent, but others judge us by the impact we have. Self-aware leaders practise curiosity to understand and close the resulting gap. Great leaders are clear about their intent and ensure their words and actions match that intent.

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