Saumil Mehta, an experienced leader in the tech industry, shares tactics for leading with influence, especially in situations where one lacks formal authority. Drawing from his own journey from a rookie product manager (PM) to a senior leader at Square, Mehta emphasizes the importance of picking the right problem, finding a suitable sponsor, and effectively using persuasion and influence to drive progress.
- Selecting the Right Problem: The first step in leading with influence is to choose the right problem to tackle. Mehta stresses the importance of defining the problem accurately and ensuring it is impactful, feasible, and within a realistic scope.
- Finding an Appropriate Sponsor: Identifying someone with authority who is also interested in the problem is crucial. This sponsor can provide support and legitimacy to the initiative.
- Becoming the Directly Responsible Individual (DRI): Gaining formal recognition as the person responsible for solving the problem, either through appointment by a sponsor or a manager, is a key step in influencing without authority.
- Engaging and Understanding Peers: True influence is earned by understanding peers, involving them in problem-solving, and respecting their viewpoints, rather than relying solely on authority.
- Creating and Presenting a Comprehensive Proposal: Mehta advises consolidating input from all stakeholders into a well-structured proposal that clearly defines the problem, its impacts, underlying assumptions, and potential solutions. This helps focus attention on the most critical aspects of the issue.
- Securing Public Approvals and Handling Dissent: A leader should encourage open discussions, including dissenting opinions, to avoid groupthink and ensure that the best ideas prevail. This process culminates in making a well-informed decision on the problem.