Responsibility Without Power: Leading Teams

You have an exciting new assignment: lead a project team. The subject matter interests you and it’s an opportunity to meet other people in your organization. The problem? None of the other team members reports to you, so how do you lead a group over whom you have no power?

This is a classic example of the CIA principle: you want to figure out what you can Control, what you can Influence, and what you need to Accept and work around. Since you can’t control the others on your team, you’ll need to learn how to influence them. How to do this? Here are several tips:

1. Develop common goals and interests.

2. Figure out how the success of the team will help each member of the team – and communicate that. Usually it will be something beyond “it will make our bosses happy,”  but if that’s all you have, use it.

 3. Focus on getting the work done, not on being “in charge.”

4. Share your own expertise and make your own contributions to the project that are separate and apart from being the leader.

5. Acknowledge each team member’s role and accomplishments sincerely and regularly.

6. Think of the assignment as “relationship building” and approach it from that perspective.

7. Run productive, efficient meetings with good agendas, structured follow-through, and so on. If negative emotions or comments start to interfere with the meetings, address this promptly.  Our earlier post on improving meetings provides some approaches.  Having some fun at the meetings doesn’t hurt either.

8. Function with integrity, honesty, and openness. Listen.

So what about the team member who just doesn’t get with the program and instead seeks to undermine or ignore the project, and you? A one-on-one conversation may help. Ask him or her if they have any concerns, need you to do something different, etc. If that doesn’t work? At this point, you may need to go to either your or the problem team member’s supervisor to see what can be done to get him or her off the dime.

What has your experience been in leading teams when you have no authority over the other team members? ~Amy Stephson

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One response to “Responsibility Without Power: Leading Teams

  1. For more information on this topic, one of the best books I know is Getting Things Done When You’re Not in Charge by Geoffrey Bellman (a local guy!). It’s specific, easy to get through (always important to me) and full of additional practical tips.

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