Worker's Compensation

How to Lead (when you’re not the manager)

Are you in a position where you’re waiting to be given authority to finally make some things happen? Are you frustrated with your manager’s shortfalls and inability to lead your team properly? Or maybe you’re working in a role but you know you have a lot more potential? Newsflash – it’s time to stop thinking you need more ‘authority’, stop critiquing others, stop waiting, and start doing! You’ve probably heard that you need to be doing a role before you’ll be promoted into it? It’s true. But whether or not you’re actually promoted is beside the point. If you want to get bigger things done, it’s time to start learning how to be more influential. Being a leader is less about being a loyal workhorse, and more about having influence – regardless of your official position. Here are three important areas and techniques to learn how to lead and extend your influence.


Create a High Performing Team

Whether you recognize it or not, your team already has a set of processes and norms it follows. How could these be improved to help the team and each team member get better results? In almost every work situation, teamwork online is an essential capability that needs to be created. Maybe you work with a remote team, team members that work from home, or even if you’re in the same office but not sitting physically next to each other, figuring out how to work together as a team is one of the most important steps you can take to becoming more influential.

The first step here is to understand the components of a high-performance team. Aside from having the best team members (which you may not be able to change), this is things like; creating a shared and inspiring vision, having transparency across each other work, getting feedback on your results, having systems in place for great team communication, and valuing each team member as an individual.

Once you know what components are missing or deficit in your team, you can start making improvements. Put your ideas up as a suggestion and ask others for their opinions. Take on the role of coordinator to help everyone do better work and get credit for their work. Just because you’re not officially the team manager, that’s no reason not to take the lead on making some improvements. For example, you could suggest a new system for communicating, ask everyone for their input at team meetings, discuss the need to have a clear team vision, etc. Your manager will probably be relieved that someone else is taking some initiative.


Manage Your Manager

Rather than focus on your boss’ imperfections, become their greatest ally. Think of yourself as your team’s spokesperson that keeps your manager in the loop, communicates their expectations to the team, anticipates their needs, and enables them to perform their best work. Understand what parts of their role they enjoy and excel in, and which areas they need support. Then help them to fill those gaps – possibly by the improvements you’re making to the team dynamics, but possibly in other areas. For example, if you’re discussing a new direction for the team, you might suggest that you present this together to the broader group during the next meeting to help get support and buy-in from more senior management. Or, you might discreetly let your manager know that a team member is feeling a bit demotivated and it might be time for a 1:1 meeting.

Managing your manager is not about covering up for someone, nor is about sucking up to them. It’s about finding the optimal way to help them do a better job, by using your influence in the best way possible.


Lead by Example (Manage Yourself)

Of course, the foundation of all of this is to manage yourself first. In practice, this means being positive, offering solutions instead of problems, thinking strategically, being disciplined with your time, and being collaborative. It means taking the higher road and not letting yourself get pulled into office politics and pettiness. And above all, it means staying focused on the company’s vision.

Yes, it’s important to be a good worker but know that the value you bring is not really related to the hours you work or even quantity of your output. Your value is the influence you can have on the future of the business.

Remember, power does not equal authority. If you need positional authority to gain influence, you haven’t understood what it takes to be a good leader. Stop waiting for someone to give you permission and start using the influence you already have.

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