Managing people who are not your direct reports

Whether you are implementing a new strategy, a new system, or a new process, you will eventually need to manage people outside your team. And depending on their priorities and pressures, your needs may be met with indifference or resistance. So how can you change that?

Apart from implementing your strategy, system, or process, you will need to get buy-in from all of those involved. Nobody likes someone coming into their area of responsibility and shaking it up with new demands. Furthermore, if that someone is not their direct manager, they’re more than likely to put those needs at the bottom of all of their own.

To get buy-in I recommend a heavy dose of endorsement, communication, engagement, assistance, and recognition.

managing-people-network

Endorsement

Whether you are delivering a company-wide or department-wide strategy, or making changes to systems and processes in your area that will affect other teams, your first step is to get endorsement from management. This step is important as it paves the way for support and compliance.

If it’s a strategy, you’ll need the endorsement from your company directors or leadership team. If it’s changes within your area that affects other teams, your endorsement should come from your manager and the managers of the teams affected.

Once you have the endorsement it needs to be presented to the organisation, the department, or the teams affected so there is no dispute on what is required by everyone involved. A presentation by management, with videos, with speeches, with Q&A time, is a great way to get the message across. The goal here is to ensure there is a directive for everyone to follow.

Communication

Communication is a key factor in keeping people involved in your change. And how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate.

Communication comes in many forms (verbal and non-verbal) and technology provides us with a variety of means to get our message across. Think carefully about the people you want to communicate with. Would they all be receptive to a presentation or a video? Would they all be checking their emails regularly to catch your latest update? Or would they prefer posters around the work area updating them on progress and achievements? Just like people are diverse, make sure the way you communicate is diverse.

As for what to communicate – that depends on why you are communicating it. Initially you will want to provide an overview of the change, why it is needed, and how everyone involved will play a part in its success. Beyond that your communication should be about next steps, progress updates, and celebrating achievements. Think about what, how and when you will release information.

Be clear and concise with all your information. Create a look and feel that is consistence and recognisable in all your means of communication. Provide timelines, milestones, and metrics. Provide images and graphs. Be creative, and try to generate some fun and excitement.

Make sure you give everyone involved plenty of heads up on what is expected by them, when its expected, and how it is expected. Provide as much detail as possible, as early as possible, so people have a chance to absorb, to plan, and to re-arrange their workload if needed. This will also allow them time to provide feedback on concerns and ideas. Encourage this feedback, and address their concerns quickly and seriously consider their ideas. Collate the feedback and communicate your replies to everyone involved; that way you don’t have to repeat yourself and everyone benefits from the new information.

Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is important for those who play a key role in your change. It is also important for winning over those most resistant. Whether you are engaging with a key stakeholder or a resistant stakeholder, your aim here is to ‘get to know them’ professionally and personally. Ask yourself – How can you influence those around you if you know nothing about them? And how can others trust you if you show no interest in them or their work?

Arrange stakeholder meetings so that everyone involved can see who else is involved. Facing challenges as a group is far easier that facing them alone. Use this time for progress updates and troubleshooting. Email the meeting discussions, outcomes, and actions to all stakeholders, regardless of their attendance.

Arrange regular times to meet up with individual stakeholders. This may be in a meeting room, while taking a walk around the block, or at the local café. Meet up somewhere you can both relax and speak freely. Use the time to get to know them. What are their roles, their objectives, and their challenges? Get to know a little about their personal lives, their families, their hobbies. Understanding their professional and personal pressures and lending an ear can make a big difference in how they decide to work with you.

Remember, they are going to have their own objectives to meet and will be protective of their patch. The key here is to build up a relationship of trust and collaboration.

Stakeholder engagement can be time consuming, but it’s worth it. Building professional relationships on trust and collaboration will not only help you with your current objectives, but will build a great support network that can be relied upon for many years to come.

Assistance

Most people are busy doing their own work; and though they may want to help you, they are restricted to do so due to the demands and barriers of their roles. This is where you should think about providing some assistance. If you have been engaging regularly, then you should have a good understanding of what demands and barriers are affecting your stakeholders.

Think about how you can help alleviate some of the pressure so they have some time to help you. Can you offer your knowledge, your skills, or your time? Can you get them in touch with other people in the organisation who may be able to help them somehow? Can you help them justify the need for more resources to their manager? Can you train them on a system they are struggling with? Or can you help them improve an inefficient process?

Helping others to help you can also be time consuming, but it builds trust and rapport, and it provides you with new knowledge and new experiences.

Recognition

Most people will want to know ‘what’s in it for them’. Why should they spend time on something that is not their priority? This is where recognition of efforts can assist. Sometimes a little thanks goes a long way, and sometimes having the means to brag about one’s greatness is just enough incentive to help out.

Publicly promoting people’s achievements can be achieved in many ways – via internal social media, the company’s intranet news page, SharePoint teamsite pages, Department communication emails, or printed posters placed around the work area. When it comes to promotion, be creative but not invasive.

Promote achievements by describing the objective, it’s value and the people involved. Be colourful and creative by using pictures, images, and graphs. Try to generate excitement, to encourage others to join in.

Another way to promote people’s efforts is to provide performance feedback to managers. This will provide two incentives through the recognition of great work and the reporting of bad performance. Advising everyone upfront about performance feedback will remind everyone that this work is management endorsed. It is then up to them to decide on how well they will perform.

Please note – managing people who are not your direct reports can sometimes take more time and effort than managing your own team. Make sure your time and efforts are used wisely.

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