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Five Tips for Getting Your Way Without Authority

Five Tips for Getting Your Way Without Authority

By Margaret Steen, for Yahoo! HotJobs

In today's team-based work world, success depends not only on the quality of your work but also on your ability to get others to work with you. This is not always easy, especially when you need to enlist the cooperation of your boss, a peer or even a potential customer.

"Everybody has to influence beyond their formal authority," said Steve Levin, an executive coach who teaches a course for leaders called "Powerful Conversations."

Experts offer five tips for persuading even when you don't have authority:

1. Know What's in It for You

What is the larger purpose for asking your colleague to call a potential customer for you, or your boss to offer his support for your project?

Make sure you can answer, "For the sake of what?" about each request, Levin said. Is the goal to keep a key customer happy? To save the company money?

2. Know Why You're Asking

You don't need to spell out an exact exchange each time you ask someone for help. But you do need to understand what the other person's goals are, and frame your request in a way that shows how that person will benefit.

If you ask a colleague to call one of your accounts, your colleague could say, "It's your customer -- why do I care?" And you need an answer, such as, "Retaining this customer will enhance our reputation in the marketplace, and that affects all of us," Levin said.

3. Tailor Your Request to Your Audience

Some people are best persuaded with a lot of data; others respond better if you tie what you want to a big-picture goal.

"Communicate with the person the way they want to be communicated with," said Glenn Parker, a team-building consultant in Princeton, New Jersey, and author of Team Players and Teamwork: New Strategies for Developing Successful Collaboration.

4. Ask for a Commitment

Often, meetings with colleagues have "a lot of discussion and not a lot of clarity" about who is to do what, Parker said. If you're asking for help from people who don't work for you, you need to be especially careful that everyone understands who has committed to what.

Casually asking, "Can you pay extra attention to this client?" may get your colleague to say yes, but she may not be committed to doing anything differently, Levin said. A more precise request, such as, "Will you call this client before the end of the day?" is more likely to elicit a "meaningful yes."

And don't worry that a specific request will make it easy for the person to say no. "We actually want them to say no, if no is their answer," Levin said.

5. Be Fearless

Many people "give up before they try" to influence beyond their authority, Levin said. But don't assume that others won't listen. Instead, remember why you're asking: You want to help the company keep a customer or implement an innovative, cost-saving measure.

If you're asking for selfish reasons, you probably won't be successful anyway. But if you're asking "on behalf of something larger" than yourself, Levin said, "that's exactly what every leader wants people to do. That's called taking initiative."

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