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Influence in a Matrix Environment: It Can Be Done! [Week 1 of 2]

Posted by on June 27, 2012

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Positive Power and InfluenceIn a matrix environment, employees report on day-to-day performance to a project or product manager whose authority flows horizontally across departmental boundaries. They also continue to report on their overall performance to the head of their department whose authority flows vertically within his or her department.*

Sound complicated? It is! This challenging environment can be fraught with conflicts of interest. For instance, perhaps your “vertical” supervisor is demanding time or resources you have already set aside for your “horizontal” supervisor’s project. One of the key skills sets that will set you apart from your colleagues is the ability to influence…across job functions, at all levels, and without positional power. Sound impossible? Since 1977, CGWA has been awakening individuals and organizations to the power of positive influence skills—skills which aren’t limited by power structures, be they traditional or unorthodox. In a matrix organization, these skills are especially important.

Not sure if you are working in a matrix organization? A few simple questions can help to clarify:

  1. Do you report to more than one person or line of business?
  2. Is your focus on more two or more functions or segments of the business?
  3. Must you focus on several factors at the same time such as functions, departments, regions or products?
  4. Do you work in teams with people from different departments and locations, in which there are no hierarchical relationships?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then you are working in a matrix environment! This week, I’d like to discuss the first 2 keys to influencing in a matrix environment:

1. Stakeholders

Know who your key stakeholders are in the process. A stakeholder is a person or group that has an investment or interest in something. Consider individuals, groups, and other organizations that are affected byand also affectdecisions and actions related to the business. Using a list or “mind map,” identify the people that are key to moving the process forward. Who are they? Think about regions, functions, departments and segments of the business.

2. Objectives

Be very clear about your influence objective with each key stakeholder. The ability to articulate influence objectives can make or break an outcome. Setting a clear influence objective can help you plot an accurate course to guide you through the influence process. Without a clear influence objective, your path will become confusing. Make it easy for the person that you are trying to influence by setting a clear objective that can be met.

Stay tuned next week as we discuss more keys to influencing in a matrix environment! 

*Source: Business Dictionary

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

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