The Bulleted Library Technician

November 18, 2008

Influence Without Authority

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Michelle Hawkins-Thiel @ 1:51 pm

I attended an ACRL webinar today (actually I attended the first 60 minutes of a 90 minute presentation.) Here are my notes.

Speaker: Melanie Hawks from University of Utah

Ask yourself: why / who do you need to influence?

  • Many webinar participants are coordinators of their peers, but not actually their supervisors (ex. Instruction coordinator, collection development coordinator, etc.)
  • Some webinar participants want to “influence up” – the deans, presidents, CEOs, etc of their organization.

Think of a spectrum between authority and influence. What words do you think fall in this spectrum?

Webinar participants placed these words…


  • administration
  • policy manual
  • budget
  • hiring

… in between

  • purchasing software
  • building community
  • consensus


  • advocacy
  • liaison work
  • coordinator
  • training peers

1977 book “Men & Women of the Corporation” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter discussed successful strategies to “climb the ladder” of the organization.

  • Do the right things
    • Dependable performance
    • Extraordinary activities (beyond official job duties) – ex. leading a project, taking on a new assignment
    • Visible activities – if what you do is never seen by anyone, it will be difficult for you to exert influence
    • Relevant activities – is your work aligned with the organization’s goals?
  • Cultivate the right people – this does not mean manipulate, it means develop relationships
    • Superiors – these may be difficult to cultivate if you don’t interact with them often
    • Subordinates – they are the people “on the front lines” who get things done, it’s important to have them on your side
    • Peers – probably the ones you can form the strongest bonds with

Raw materials of influence

  • You
  • Your message
  • The audience


  • Start where the client *is* — respect their reality, don’t impose your reality. Relate to them in a sincere and empathetic way.
  • Survey the terrain – find out who & where your audience is, tailor your message to them. You can’t reach everyone, so you have to choose some subset(s) to concentrate on. It’s not effective to try the same exact message with every subset.
  • Turn off your filters and see them from their own perspective.


  • How do others see you?
  • Factors that impact your credibility
    • Consistency – Warren Bennis’s leadership studies show that people would rather follow someone that they don’t entirely agree with but who is consistent, than someone they agree with who is inconsistent.
    • Integrity – do your words match up with your actions? Do you do what you say you will do? See the books of Kouzes & Posner.
    • Competence – do you have the credentials or expertise for people to believe in you?
    • Benevolence – do they see you as caring and helping, or malevolent?

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