Influencing is the act of affecting the behaviours and actions of others.
P3 managers can rarely achieve their objectives through direct authority alone, so their ability to influence others is a core skill. Even in those instances where authority can be exercised, it is better to temper it through influence. In this way, actions and behaviours become willing rather than simply obedient.
Successful intervention can be measured though changes in attitude, behaviour and decision-making that reflect the aim of the influencer. Success can also be seen through acceptance, support and agreement to the influencer’s proposals or objectives.
In order to be effective in influencing others, individuals or groups need to be able to assess and understand their own patterns of attitude, behaviour, emotion and decision-making.
Such patterns will be formed from a complex range of experiences, cultural aspects, contextual situations and emotional states. Influencing, at all levels, is inextricably linked with negotiation, conflict management, leadership, communications and teamwork.
Effective influence requires:
- sensory awareness (understanding your own behaviour and that of others);
- emotional intelligence (representing your own feelings and those of others);
- communication skills (flexibility in approaches, methods and media);
- negotiation skills (ability to persuade and find a mutually acceptable position);
- contextual awareness (ability to select the appropriate time, place and contributors);
- cultural awareness (understanding the wide diversity of factors, from background, race, gender and learning styles, to communication, values and beliefs).
Influencing can be overt, discreet, conscious or subconscious and can be applied to any, or all, stakeholders. The actions of an individual or group can also indirectly influence others who are not stakeholders. For example, a team working on a new product or service may be very positive about their task. This enthusiasm then becomes general knowledge and leads others in the wider organisation to ask about the work and even to seek to participate in it or use its products.
An individual’s influence is demonstrated through their behaviour. It can be related to job title, position in the organisation and perceptions of power and control, but does not have to be.
Influence evolves as relationships are built between parties. Relationships can be based on positive factors such as shared values, ethical positions, trust and genuine liking and respect. In some situations influencing is wholly based on perceived authority. This can be negative as it provides an ability to influence based upon fear and insecurity. This, in turn, can easily become a form of control that leads to compliance without commitment.
A project manager has nominal authority over the members of a project team. However, in a matrix environment team members may also report to line managers who are responsible for their conditions of employment.
In leading the team, the project manager cannot rely on authority alone. Influencing skills will be required with individual team members and also with their line managers in the case of conflicting demands.
The relationship between the project manager and the project sponsor is central to the success of a project. The two roles have different perspectives on the project so they will use influencing skills with each other to develop a common approach to the project.
The most obvious target for pure application of influencing techniques is with project stakeholders who are not part of the project team and not subject to the project manager’s authority. Some will be supportive and others will be antagonistic.
The project manager will use influencing and communication skills to encourage active support from some stakeholders and mitigate the objections of others.
The programme manager employs similar influencing skills but has to temper these efforts based upon the level of interaction they are able to achieve with their project managers and stakeholders. Given the more strategic nature of programme management, the ability to influence can be more dependent upon job title and the reputation of the individuals involved.
The range of stakeholders that need to be influenced on a programme is large. A programme manager needs to ensure that stakeholders are engaged at the appropriate level.
Whilst a particular stakeholder may only be concerned with one project, the relevant project manager may be of insufficient status to exert the necessary influence. Where a stakeholder is affected by multiple projects, it may be best for influence to be applied at programme level to ensure that different projects do not attempt to influence in different directions.
A defining aspect of programmes is that they implement organisational change and impact the operation of business-as-usual activity. This is an area where the use of influencing skills is important.
Organisations cannot be effectively changed through authority alone. Influencing is a primary skill in establishing change that is durable and long lasting. Programmes will have business change managers, who will be responsible for influencing the many stakeholders who need to actively embrace change in order to achieve the required benefits.
The strategic nature of portfolio management inevitably requires the involvement and support of executive teams and management boards throughout the organisation.
They must establish corporate visibility and create the right environment to enable the benefits from portfolio management to be realised across the business. Strong influencing skills will be required to facilitate decision-making and action in all phases of the portfolio life cycle.
A portfolio is the most visible aspect of P3 management to the outside world. If the host organisation wishes to influence shareholders, public opinion, customers, etc., then ownership and commitment to the portfolio are required at the highest level.