Influencing without Authority
How Building a Community Can Change Everything
Congratulations on leading the new Customer Engagement initiative for your company. Yours will be a highly visible role and will lean on your strengths in cultivating relationships with enterprise-level customers and training thousands of sales representatives on successful product launches.There’s just one problem.Your CEO hates conflict, so he decided to give you a budget and a few clearly defined yet aggressive goals, but no title. You see, he’s worried that because you are younger than most of the very tenured leadership team, they might react negatively to your new title and the power it confers.
So for the past month, you’ve endured the blank stares when you join the leadership team planning sessions. Your reputation as a gifted trainer and Strategic Account Executive doesn’t seem to carry much weight when you present your ideas in the Customer Engagement strategy meetings.
While the boost in pay was terrific, the overwhelming goals, the daily addition of new projects on your to-do list, and the lack of buy-in from the top are starting to wear on you. Reasoning with your boss about the “currency” the right title could confer has led nowhere.
Before you quit in frustration, there are a few things you can do to influence peers positively and build a collaborative community both internally and externally.
Gauge the caliber of your internal and external relationships
Who are the most collaborative and talented people across department or product lines? Who already treats you like a peer? Who are the influencers within the organization? Now is not the time to start building a coalition from scratch, but rather, a time to further cultivate your best alliances.
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.
The second best time is today.”
~ Stephen M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust
Once you have determined your most influential allies, visit with them one-on-one to see how you can help them. Look for alignment of goals. Figure out what’s in it for them before you ask for help. Keep your conversation positive and focused on the outcomes your CEO has outlined.
External stakeholders include suppliers and consultants, among others. Where are your strongest alliances and influencers among these groups?
Look for the greatest levers
Once you identify the influencers among each of these groups and find the areas of greatest alignment, you are ready to map the kind of steps that will boost Customer Engagement. For instance, if your largest three customers are all asking for the same features in your customized software offer and your software development consultant sees this as the inevitable future, you have the beginnings of a plan. If you can demonstrate the competitive threat inherent in not addressing this gap, you can take this information, and proposed Customer Engagement solutions, to your CEO.
An “ask” your CEO can support
If your CEO is concerned about openly discussing your new role, let’s face it, that’s a big red flag. It is unlikely he will change his tune and make the announcement which would pave the way for you to roll out a strategic initiative. Furthermore, if this CEO is the long-term answer at your company, you might rethink your future there. In the meantime, what if you could ask for different kinds of meaningful support?
For example, you could persuade the CEO to set a strategic meeting among internal influencers, key clients, and external stakeholders. With his blessing, and you as the facilitator, you and your community of influencers can map a plan that drives the desired outcomes and agreed upon common goals.
It’s a less than ideal solution. However, you can bring the persuasive impact of your internal influencers, top customers, vendors, and consultants to bear on a significant initiative. Your quantifiable success and strengthened community of alliances could be the lever to finding a better opportunity.