Modern organizations have a matrix structure, which means that often the work you do requires support from people who do not report to you. This is tricky as you have no formal authority over people doing the work.
You may still follow the same fundamental principles of defining what success looks like, setting clear roles and responsibilities, following up on progress, problem-solving, etc., but managing across or sideways requires you to be more thoughtful and deliberate about how you do each of these.
You need to seek diverse perspectives, invest time to understand what excites different players to contribute, what else they have going on, what motivates or discourages them, etc. You need to develop human connections and build bridges across the organization.
Building relationships is not about eating lunch together occasionally or asking about the weekend plans from your colleagues. There is much more that goes into it.
Look at the colleagues you need to work with across the organization, and rate yourself on the following aspects on a scale of 1 -5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest –
- You know their strengths, weaknesses, and experiences.
- You often engage in meaningful conversations with them.
- You proactively offer to collaborate for better results.
- You acknowledge them for their contribution personally and in appropriate forums.
- You know what they hope to accomplish on the professional and personal front.
- You take the time to communicate your why and contextualize your ask from them.
- You are often happy to give more than you get.
- You are comfortable giving and receiving feedback.
- You know your biases and what colors your perception while dealing with people.
You would do well to strengthen the areas where you have rated yourself below 3 to connect more deeply with your peers and enhance your influence.
There will always be challenges at work, however, a good network of peers will give you access to diverse perspectives, information, expertise, and collaboration, making it easier to navigate those challenges.
If this has been a challenge for you, don’t keep struggling. Get help! Reach out to explore executive coaching as a solution for you.