Solution Saturday: A Job But Needs Authority


Dear Dan,

I am charged with bringing three independently running programs under one umbrella. Each program coordinator must adapt their program and practices to the others.

Unfortunately the Director did not consult with the coordinators before appointing me and there was (and is) limited buy-in for the project.  Additionally I am NOT the line manager of these folk.

I have done some vision creation work and they agree with the ultimate goal, but they keep going away from meetings and doing their own thing.

I would classify my leadership type as vision orientated and I recognize I get frustrated when decisions and actions are slow.

I have read your postings on authority and see that you don’t generally like it.* Surely, however, unless the Director sets everyone down and states that aligning the programs is now a focus (thus giving me some authority) I can’t progress.

Am I really out of kilter here with this thinking?

brag about others to others.png

Dear Needs Authority,

Thanks for your email. Your frustration reminds me of times when I felt powerless.

Your assessment seems accurate. Lack of communication from the Director has put you in a frustrating situation. Let’s assume the Director won’t change.

10 suggestions:

  1. Include the Director. Could you have a meeting in the Director’s office? Call it a “Progress Meeting.” What’s the best outcome?
  2. Listen to “No.” Don’t push back on push-back. Say, “I hear what we can’t do. What can we do?”
  3. Win small. My experience with vision oriented people is sometimes they struggle to break down vision into small achievable steps. At this stage, a small win feels big.
  4. Brag. When you achieve a small win, brag about the coordinators to others. (You’ll still be frustrated with slow progress.)
  5. Stop repeating behaviors that don’t work. You have preferred strategies for getting things done but, “They … keep doing their own thing.” Whatever you’re doing to get things done, it isn’t working.
  6. Create pain. Another approach might be to make the present unacceptable and ask them what can be done.
  7. Include others. Who has led change successfully in your organization? What might you learn from them?
  8. Make it about them not you. When we feel frustrated with people, we start thinking more about ourselves.
  9. Ask the Director for a milestone and a deadline that you can share with the coordinators.
  10. Read, “Urgency,” by John Kotter.

Bonus: Here’s my TEDx talk on conversations that move the ball down the field. It might apply, although it’s focus is one time encounters.

Best for the journey,


What suggestions do you have for “Needs Authority”?

*Regarding authority. I see where I leave the impression that I don’t like authority. I should be more clear. I don’t like the abuse of authority.

Note: I don’t include reader emails in my 300 word limit.