How to Influence Without Authority by BestBuy Sr Product Manager

The art of Influencing Without Authority involves understanding and empathizing with different sets of people. As a Product Manager, it is important to propose strong and innovative ideas, while ensuring that the right people understand the benefits of them. You need your teams to follow you, and your stakeholders to understand the decision you’re taking, all without official authority.

Siddharth Bhaskar

Siddharth Bhaskar is an expert at building digital products having extensive experience over 13 years. He is presently working as a Senior Product Manager at Best Buy. His passion lies in keeping consumers informed, helping them own the right products, and to make sure they have the best experiences possible.

The Art of Influence Without Authority

A Product Manager is a leader who doesn’t necessarily manage the regular tasks of the employees, but yet leads them with ideas, supports them and participates in program execution. A Product Manager performs the role of a leader with their irresistible ability to influence people. The following key points dictates the magnitude of leadership for a PM.

  1. Charm is the biggest take away
  2. Influence is the key
  3. Different skills are required for influencing different people

What does a Product Manager do?

  1. Comes up with a vision to solve a problem or develop a product
  2. Works on customer development, defines the target customer & takes care of them
  3. Sets goals and prioritizes them
  4. Executes ideas
  5. Markets the features
  6. Monitors the success

Challenges of a PM

  1. Triple calendar booked. Multiple products will be running at different stages. Handling and prioritizing with utmost efficiency
  2. No authority. A PM won’t have a team reporting to them
  3. When the team is not motivated, he/she is expected to motivate people and drive them to achieve the targets
  4. Various external factors will be acting to pull you down
  5. Unknown situations causing delays
  6. Organization bureaucracy
Paperwork meeting

Soft skills required for a Product Management

  1. Public speaking
  2. Documentation
  3. Motivating People
  4. Influencing people

Why is influencing important?

The art of getting others to believe in what you believe, and getting them to support your cause is called influencing people.

Influence is absolutely crucial for taking an original idea from concept to actual product, and to eventually bring some change in the market. The factors that affect the process of influencing are:

  1. Original idea
  2. Organizational bureaucracy
  3. Actual outcome

Who does a PM have to influence?

Product Managers work with a lot of people like UX Developers, QA, Other Product Managers, Product Leadership Managers, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Legal, Customer Service, Sponsor/ Stakeholder, etc. 

The UX developers and other software developers form the inner circle. A PM has to engage with them closely and influence them for their idea to be congenial. The other PMs, and Tech Managers make the Middle circle. This circle helps in building confidence over the idea and representing it in-front of the higher officials.

The outer circle is made of marketers, finance, operations and customer service. They all have different objectives and it is more difficult to influence them. A lot of effort and planning has to be made to influence this circle.

Microphone

Influence Your Inner Circle

It’s very important to make the inner circle believe in the cause. They are the direct set of allies, who will be working from idea to product. Involve them in the discussion phase and work on various options and solutions.

Influence Your Middle Circle

Do not be solution focused. Remember, problems create emotions. So work with people on the problem, explain and display the problem’s effects and then propose the solution. Be open to receive criticism.

There is a difference between convincing and influencing:

Convincing vs Influencing graphic

Ask these questions before you set out to influence people on your idea:

  1. What’s the problem I want to solve? 
  2. Do I know their goal? 
  3. Will solving my problem also address their goal? 
  4. Is my goal more powerful than theirs? 
  5. Do I promise to share my success with them? 
  6. Will they have a stake on this with me? 
  7. Can I tweak my goal to also impact their KPIs? 
  8. Will they feel passionate about my problem?

Restate the problem statement to positively involve the people and hold a position for their opinion and correction. This improves the chances of buying allies.

Influence Your Outer Circle

Gauge the interests of people, earlier. Try to align them with your objectives and then approach this set of people. This keeps them in agreement with your idea.

Methods of influencing

1. Repeat, Repeat & Repeat informally 

  • Lunches
  • Happy hours
  • At the Ping Pong Table

2. Strong customer & business documentation

  • Press Release
  • White papers
  • Projections & have stakeholders contribute

3. Let others champion your cause (VP, Fulfilment VP, Operations PM, Fulfilment Amie, Product Manager)

4. Shared Objectives & Key Results (OKR) Objective

Siddharth‘s Final Thoughts

  1. Influencing is key to product success
  2. Understand the inner and outer circles and influence in different ways depending on the situation
  3. Shared Objectives = Shared Obsession
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