First things first. I'm new to MT online, though I'm a long time podcast listener, so please move to the appropriate forum if I am mis-placing this.

BLUF: Given the fact it is more important to have influence than authority in order to be effective, what drives the need for a step up the organisational hierarchy in order to be effective? By this I mean that I recognise that influence is essential to be effective but when is that insufficient and organisational hierarchy in forms such as job title and authority required? To some degree it must be or why is there any hierarchy at all?

I work in a function that is new to our organisation. The nature of the function means that it cuts across the existing structure which pretty much the entire Enterprise is aligned to support. The organisation looks to that structure for guidance and decision making. It does not recognise the need for our involvement or our decision making authority even though we have very senior level support for our roles.

This includes GM responsibility that cuts across the existing authority of Director level colleagues. Our job titles sit 2 levels below the Directors that own GM down their reporting line, all of whom by the nature of our structure own less GM than we do (ie. Enterprise GM shared among 6 Directors in one direction and amongst 3 in our team in a perpendicular direction).

I believe that we can achieve some of our goals through influence and effective delivery (though this is exhausting given an organisation that actively pushes against us at every turn!). Our management are willing to discuss our position in the organisation but share the view that it will not be a silver bullet.

Where I am struggling is that as a general principle I understand the importance of influence, but when do you need some level of authority in order to be effective? At the present time I can exercise influence but have no decision making authority by virtue of of my organisational position. If I truly own GM I surely need some authority, else I can't be accountable for it.

I'd welcome any views, whether supportive of my view or not!

mmcconkie's picture

Organizational / role power is needed for feedback and coaching (as a start). These two are based on the fact that if the direct report does not follow the instruction from the role power holder, then disciplinary action or even firing follows. Without role power, you can use the Peer Feedback model (but it won't be as effective as the traditional Feedback model). 

I think that typically organizational structure and role power make the employees much more effective. One of the possible exceptions to this could be an organization that pays employees largely on commission. I used to work for a residential mortgage company where we were paid on commission. We had a coach that would have scheduled calls individually with the employees very frequently. In that case we had an incentive to follow her (the coach's) recommendations because we knew that she was a very accomplished mortgage loan officer and that she was there to help us make more money. 

In a situation where your employees are salaried, feedback will be more difficult to deliver and enforce. 

That's my opinion - but I'd be interested to see what others say. 

Good luck!


NLewis's picture

There's compliance and then there's commitment.  By expanding your role power you can certainly force complianceI'd rather have commitment any day.  You don't need role power to coax that out of people. Then again role power is guaranteed (if they want to keep working there) whereas persuasion is not.  Persuasion can also take a lot more time.  Forcing people is more direct and faster but in my experience seldom leads to better results.

Without knowing the exact dynamics of your circumstances it's hard to say what sort of tack to take.  Your post demonstrates that you are sincerely commited to accomplishing the company's goals.  That must shine through first in everything you're doing.  I've found facts and particularly measurables compared to company standards to be effective when presented in a positive way.  It's hard for a salesperson to argue that their techniques aren't burdening the company when their lead times are half the standard 60% of the time, even if they rank you.

You don't need role power to be effective.  There's many that have it that can't lead.  You can lead from right where you are if you can find a way to get them to follow.  It may not be easy - but that sort of challenge is why we're managers. 

scm2423's picture

It sounds to me like the GM's in your organization do not see you as adding value and therefore are not using the services of your group.  Unless the senior management of your organization has instructed their businesss units that they must use the services of your group there is not much you can do to force them to use your groups services.  With this lack of authority your best option is to find a group that is willing to work with you and use them as an example of how your unit can help with their problems.  These may be small victories at first but as they come you have to talk them up so others hear about how you are helping other groups.