All The Responsibility, None Of The Authority!

If I were to sum up Project Management in one mantra, it would be “All of the responsibility, none of the authority.” Unless you work in a Projectized Organization and have ultimate authority of all things related to your Project, then you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

As a Project Manager I am use to being held accountable for tasks that are beyond my authority to influence. So, I find that I have to take a different approach to working with people. I also found out that just because I have no real authority doesn’t mean I am powerless to make things happen that are in the best interest of the Project and the people around me. Are you confused yet?

I’m going to talk about how you can use some very simple tricks to help persuade people to work with you, and help them see your perspective and the big picture without all that unnecessary confrontation and involvement of managers. How nice would it be to be able to just ask someone to do something and have them do it? It’s not QUITE that simple, but it’s really not all that difficult either. Before I get into that, I have a very important topic (or maybe caveat) I would like to share.

Persuasion is NOT Manipulation

I believe it’s important to understand that there is a fine line between persuasion and manipulation. I am in favor of using persuasive techniques, but it is not okay to out right manipulate. So what’s the difference? In short it’s the intent. Let me demonstrate:

We’ve all been “sold” something in our lifetime (more than once for some of us). If the sales man has persuaded us to buy the product you will walk away feeling good about your purchase … and a week later you will still feel good about your purchase because the sales man’s intent was to sell you a product that would benefit YOU. On the other hand, if you feel that “buyer’s remorse” after the sale chances are you’ve been manipulated because the seller was only interested in benefiting him/herself.

So if you decide to employ these techniques you have to take a moment to ask yourself “who does this really benefit in the long term?” and if the answer is you and only you … don’t do it! If the answer is the other guy then go right ahead. The bottom line is that a persuasive person will make long term friends … a manipulative person will not.

How to be a Persuasive Project Manager

If you believe in what you are saying then you are half way there because. Now days most people can sense when you are being self-serving, so having a strong belief that what you are doing is fundamentally right for the masses is a huge step towards success. The second half is understanding and employing these three simple tasks:

1. Get to Know Your Audience

First, and foremost, you absolutely have to know your audience. Before you can persuade you have to understand what makes that person tick. Getting to know that person will also help you build a bond and will open the doors to the next part which is building rapport.  Building rapport is about creating a bond or a connection with your audience, but before you do that you should probably know more about his/her culture, beliefs, positions, what they know and don’t know, and get a feel for how that person’s mind works.

2. Building Rapport

Building rapport is very important because you want to be a part of that person’s inner circle of trust. Simply put, you have to become friends with the person you are trying to persuade and connect with him/her.

So, how do you build rapport? There are a number of techniques you can use in combination that will help to build that rapport which include: Matching kinesics, matching language, matching paralanguage,

Matching kinesics is the act of matching another person’s body language and since nonverbal communication weights more than verbal communication, this is the best way to build rapport. This method typically includes matching gestures, posture, and movement of the body including arm and leg movements. Just to be clear, this does not mean you mimic the person’s movements because that would be too obvious and he/she would notice. You need to be careful and subtle so that the connection can happen on a subconscious level. If you’re caught the gig is up!

Matching language means just what it says, we use language to help build the rapport. I’m sure you’ve heard that everyone has a primary learning style whether it be audio, visual, or kinesthetic. Well, would you be surprised to learn that everyone also has a primary representational system as well? They’re also audio, visual, and kinesthetic and you can learn that person’s representational system just by how he or she talks.

Let me demonstrate, if that person says things like “I see what you mean” or “I get the picture” then he or she is using a visual representational system. Likewise, if he or she says things like “I hear what you’re saying” or “That rings a bell” then he or she uses a visual representational system. Finally, people whose primary representational system is kinesthetic will use “feeling” or “hands on” oriented phrases like “I know how you feel” and “how does that grab you?”

Finally, matching paralanguage is matching the person’s speech patterns including tone, speed, rhythm and volume at which a person talks. Most people are not aware of their own speech pattern and sometimes this is considered the most effective way to build rapport. Personally, I still feel that matching kinesics works better.

3. Anchoring

Anchoring is a technique used to associate a particular emotion with a gesture, sound, visual, etc. The basic idea is to be able to recall the emotion in your subject on cue. When something is anchored, we generally respond without thinking. I’m sure you’re thinking “That’s great, so how do I create an anchor?” The answer is simple … through repetition!

I’m sure you’ve heard of Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning? Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, let me tell you about Ivan Pavlov’s experiment briefly. He found that if you present food to dogs and ring a bell at the same time, eventually the bell will be associated … or anchored … to food. The dogs began salivating just when they heard the bell because of that anchor.

Humans are the same, we associate emotions with all of the representational systems including audio, visual, kinesthetic, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste). That means with a little time and repetition we can create a happy feeling when we shake someone’s hand and it’s completely on a subconscious level.


We rarely have the authority we need to meet the accountability of our position as Project Managers. However, we can still have control to make things happen on our projects. Take some time to learn more about Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP. Learn how to be persuasive and be sure you’re persuading and not manipulating and you will do great!


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3 Tips To Being a Persuasive Project Manager
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3 Tips To Being a Persuasive Project Manager
Don't settle for all of the responsibility and none of the authority on your project, take charge with these 3 steps to being a persuasive project manager.