Last week, at the NAEM Women’s Leadership Roundtable, I had the honor of leading a group coaching
session on “Influencing Without Formal Authority”, framing it around the book Influencer (Grenny et al).
The participants, representing a variety of corporate environmental functions and leadership levels
within their companies, noted similar challenges when it came to influence and came up with some
Challenge 1: How can we get better results in a matrix bureaucracy?
Solution Option: Have that elevator pitch ready at any moment. In a matrix organization, you
never know who might help you get what you want. You need as many allies as you can get. If
you don’t know how to put together that pitch, consider joining Toastmasters.
Challenge 2: How can we get resistant co-workers to collaborate more while managing our own
emotions when we feel frustrated or disrespected by them?
Solution Option: Meet with them one-on-one, in person if possible, to develop more of a
relationship and more empathy for what they need and want. If you know this person can
trigger you, prepare what you’re going to say ahead of time, and even role play it with a friend.
If they’ve just upset you, take time to cool off before responding. Sit a good long while on that
angry email response before sending it!
Challenge 3: How can we get more buy-in for our change initiatives?
Solution Option: Find an influential advocate to champion your cause. Often this will be
someone on the executive leadership team. (John Kotter, in Leading Change, refers to this as
“creating the powerful guiding coalition.”) In some instances, the advocate you need may not
necessarily be in a formal leadership role. She or he is the person your colleagues go to for
advice, the one in the team meetings that gets asked for their opinion, who can sway a debate
with the power of their personal influence and persuasion skills. It pays to build good
relationships with the informal opinion leaders in your organization.
These were some of the many solutions generated in our coaching session. Sustainability, CSR, EHS, and
social impact professionals know the impact that their ability to influence their colleagues and
leadership has on their results. What influence challenge are you facing?