Authority to get things done. Influence to get things done without authoritative power. So, how do we relate authority and influence?
Influence Without Authority– Product Management
Anyone familiar with the job profile of a product manager must have heard the immortal phrase– ‘influence without authority.’ As far as the literal meaning of the phrase is concerned, it is often concluded on the same terms as selling. In other words, selling your ideas to your team, company, and peers without using your authority or position may be. It is done to influence the development process of a product with your ideas by winning over your team members with charisma or talent. That’s how product management works.
When a candidate appears for a topgrading interview, the interviewer asks several questions about ideas and how to bring the ideas into reality. The questions do not stop there. It is simply because the product manager’s role is not limited to product development; instead, they need to analyze the future scope of growth, improvement, and further development of the product in question. All this requires a Product manager to be a team player and lead the ship like a captain until you reach the sea-shore.
Bring Unity In Diverse Teams
A product manager does not work alone; instead, they bring cross-sectional teams under one umbrella for the development process. So, as a Product Manager, you’ll have to bring a bunch of tech professionals like UX and UI designers, software engineers, data scientists, etc., to one table to make a functional and valuable product. But how to make that happen without authority?
PMs are known to be closest to the CEO levels, with one difference– authority. A CEO has all the power in his hands, but as a PM, you have none. The only way you can exercise authority is by influence. Influence without authority is the skill of telling people what to do without actually using authority. For example, a product manager can use his soft skills to influence the UX team to add a CTA option in a mobile application or remove it. But, he needs to be reasonable while putting forward his arguments; only then would the team listen to him.
But Who Does a Product Manager Answer To?
Product development is a hierarchical process. The product team begins with iteration, brainstorming, wireframing, prototyping, and a few more steps until they make a functional product. Many cross-functional teams work together in this process until the required goals are met.
Similarly, product management is a subjective title, where different companies have different roles set for their PMs. Owing to the uncertainty of job profile and responsibilities, we are left with very vast numbers of choices and can not say where the PM of your company fits in this hierarchy.
Sounds confusing; fret not. Here is one example. Suppose you are applying for a product manager position in a startup. Now, to whom would you send reports? Probably, the CEO, or maybe a CTO.
On the contrary, if you work in big tech companies, there is a clear set of hierarchical others to which all PMs adhere. Take Google, for example. If you are applying for a PM position at Google, you may need to answer to a senior PM, a Head of Product, a Director of Product, or VP of product, etc. Your position keeps changing as per the company’s scale, and so do your responsibilities.
Okay, so authority may or may not be with a PM, then how to influence the decision-making process centering on the product?
What Does Influence Signify In Product Management?
The literal meaning of influence is the power to make other people agree with you without resorting to coercion, authority, and force. In product management, the literal definition of influence holds perfectly true as PMs do not have the authority to demand actions or approval from their team members. Instead, they have to be good at communicating their ideas and getting everyone involved on board.
As a PM, you are encouraged to motivate your team towards specific goals that make the product development process more efficient. Building a valuable and functional product with your team requires good communication, listening skills, and a flexible attitude. When we say you’re the ship’s captain, it does not mean you can take the ship alone. Yes, you will lead, but there is no leader without the team. The same principle applies to product development. You must align your opinion with your team and get closer to the goals. To build a successful product, a PM must act responsibly and shape the idea.
There’s a saying about Product management– ‘with great responsibility comes no power‘; which slightly holds true. To build your influence, allow your teammates to share their opinions freely, and communicate your views effectively, and that is all influence is about.
Hopefully, now you understand the difference between authority and influence. When applying for a PM position in the best companies for product managers, ensure you do not go unprepared. Check out Palarino’s other blogs for more information about product management!