6 No-Nos of Influencing Without Authority

Most of us frequently find ourselves in situations where our success depends on the efforts of people who don’t work for us, or even with us. Some call this change leadership, change management, negotiation, psychology … I personally like the phrase used by Allan Cohen and David Bradfordinfluencing without authority. If you haven’t mastered the art of influencing without authority, you are not alone.

Often influencing without authority is greeted with one of these spoken or unspoken declarations (all valid, by the way):

“It’s not my job.”

“I’m too busy.”

“I don’t know you.”

“I don’t trust you.”

Simply being nice, or charming one’s way around the above statements doesn’t (always) work. What I’ve found is when I make sure to avoid these 6 no-nos, I at least have a chance getting my way at successfully influencing without authority.


  1. Pretend you have authority.  Manipulation always comes back to bite. Instead, be transparent and honest.
  2. Ignore the influencers. These are not the people to overlook. Instead, seek out the influencers, listen, understand their concerns, and recruit them.
  3. Go solo. If you’re trying to start a massive wave, you can’t do it alone. Instead, build coalitions, or at the very least an ally or two.
  4. Be selfish. This is not about you. Instead, put yourself in the other persons’ shoes. Articulate benefits that are meaningful to them.
  5. Underestimate the timing. Communicating, listening, revising takes time. Often more than we anticipate. Instead, build in time to engage with people multiple times.
  6. Be ungracious. Sometimes we get the information, data, decision and then quickly move on. Instead, find a way to reciprocate. Sheesh, at the very least, thank the person. (A quick note ccing a boss wouldn’t hurt either.)


If you find yourself hitting a wall with an idea, request, or change, remember the 6 no-nos above. Perhaps one of them has reared its head.

Marta Steele is a Partner with PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @MartaSteele.