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No authority? Lead them, anyway

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Team and project managers often need to depend on people other than direct reports. That means they have none of the usual levers—salary, bonus, promotion, etc.—to control behavior.

If you find yourself in that boat, you’ll need to keep people rowing together. Three ways to do it:

1. Win commitment by showing commitment. Meet with members one on one to find out what else they’re working on, how much time they can give your team and their biggest challenges for both your project and their other work. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that your project isn’t their main assignments. And once you know about their other goals, spend time brainstorming and lend some resources.

If one of your team members is distracted by a product launch and she needs beta testers, become one. You’d love it if she made your work a top priority, so make hers a priority for you.

2. Stay ‘top of mind.’ Ever attended a day-long project kickoff followed by six months of silence? Maintain frequent—even daily—contact with your team members. People will remember many short encounters more than one long one,and your project will become part of the landscape of their days.

Eschew meetings. Instead, advance each person’s work by increments. Put them in touch with each other (“Do you need help on that? Did you know that Aaron was working on it?”) Make it fun. Besides troubleshooting, include some light conversation about their hobbies and loved ones.

3. Keep it in context. As long as everybody is generally committed to the organization’s work, you’ll advance your cause by showing how your project fits in. Continue checking in to see what else is going on and how you can help with other priorities. Ask for suggestions on making your project succeed.

Caution: If morale is generally low, proceed more gingerly. Make the goals personal instead of organization-oriented.

— Adapted from It Takes a Lot More than Attitude …To Lead a Stellar Organization, Stever Robbins, Acanthus Publishing.

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