Does anyone have advice or resources for managing up when you have proposal contributors or stakeholders who are Sr. to you? (Especially when they have no idea of proposal best practices but they still have...opinions). -- Etiak Y.
Learning to influence without authorityI love the way Etiak worded that, "but they still have... opinions."
My inability to manage or influence without authority hindered my own career. I didn't even know until a few years ago that it had a name.
Because my title (Senior Systems Engineer) did not match the titles of the supervisors and directors whom I was supposed to monitor as part of my job, I limited my attempts to influence them, even when they needed somebody to hold them accountable.
Because I did not see myself as having authority and did not know how to "influence without authority," those in authority did not see any reason to promote me. Remaining at the same level for decades will stunt and eventually kill your career.
Challenging authority challenges experienceBe sure you have a good case before challenging the stakeholders. What is the authority of your "best practices?" Have you considered the impact of the changes you want to make? What will stakeholders have to change in their current practices and relationships in order to make the changes you want? Will it really make a difference? Are you sure the customer is ready for the new practices?
Communicating the challengeYou might consider laying out, side-by-side, the old and new ways. Be ready to explain, "if we do it this (old) way, then (problem). The Standard recommends doing it that (new) way, which prevents (problem) and (other benefit)." Appealing to logic does not always work because "old ways" take root in the subconscious. You want them to visualize (fear) the problems of the old way and visualize the benefits (reward) of the new way. Communicating through story can help.
If you get buy-in from the stakeholders who are in your chain of command, then you move from a position of influencing without authority to influencing through the halo effect. That is, you borrow the respect given to those who wrote the standard; and as a representative of those who do have authority, you can get the other stakeholders to at least listen.
Manage issues with changeIf you have to ask stakeholders to re-write their sections because you failed to communicate your needs, it will reflect poorly on you. Announce that the format will comply with (standards) at the very beginning. Help them do their parts correctly the first time by describing the purpose and methods at the very beginning. Give them templates or easy-to-follow guidelines.
Be sympathetic when people whine and moan, but remind them of how the new way provides a way to escape the problems of the old way, remind them of the rewards of the new way, and thank them for their flexibility.
More on influenceYou can find materials on influencing without authority in various places. I just finished reading The Science of Influence, by Kevin Hogan (Wiley, 2005). Understanding more about influencing others will give you the side benefit of having more power to influence your own behaviors.
(c) 2014, Richard Wheeler