Leadership and influencing skills

Google´s Five factors that impact team effectiveness are:

  • Psychological safety
  • Dependability
  • Structure and clarity
  • Meaning
  • Impact

Providing "air cover"

Air cover refers to support for and protection of a team in the face of out-of-scope requests or criticism from leadership.

Saying "No" without explicitly saying "No"

One way to provide air cover to your team is to say "no" to your sponsor's request without explicitly saying "no."

There are a few ways to do this:

  • You can gently push back with a polite explanation that their request won't be possible to complete under the current constraints—the scope, time, and/or cost—of the project.

  • You can politely offer to get back to the stakeholder with your response. This gives you time to better understand the request and to consult with trusted team members to lay out the benefits and costs of this request. And, if you are lucky, this might even give the stakeholder the opportunity to reconsider their request or forget about it entirely.

Intervening from behind the scenes

Another way project managers provide air cover for their teams is to master the challenge of delicately intervening from behind the scenes when a stakeholder is making unrealistic requests or offering unreasonable critiques.

This doesn't mean you need to come up with a solution all by yourself, however. Instead of calling a team meeting to discuss the stakeholder's request for a new flavor, you consult with only two trusted members of your team to help brainstorm solutions.

Bruce Tuckman's five stages of team development

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing A performing team has already established its working procedures. Processes and workflows should already be in place as the team works together relatively seamlessly to complete tasks, reach milestones, and make progress toward the project goal. During the norming stage, you should codify norms, communicate them to the team, and reinforce them when needed.
  • Adjourning

Framework for ethical decision-making

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University

Question the ethics of an issue by asking yourself questions about the nature of the issue. Could your decision negatively impact another person or group of people? Does the issue go beyond what is legal or efficient? From there, you can proceed onto fact gathering.

Evaluate alternative actions, questions:

  • "Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm?"
  • "Which option best respects the rights of all who have a stake?"
  • "Which option treats people equally or proportionally?"
  • "Which option best serves the community as a whole, not just some members?"
  • "Which option leads me to act as the sort of person I want to be?"

Effective influencing

Conger's four steps of effective influencing:

  1. Establishing credibility
  2. Framing for common ground
  3. Providing evidence
  4. Connecting emotionally

Common influencing misstakes:

  • Provided evidence from company surveys to set the stage for her proposal.
  • Framed for common ground by noting how a new onboarding process might increase employee productivity.
  • Established credibility by outlining her previous experience with launching similar processes.
  • Connected emotionally by encouraging her audience to reflect on past experiences they may have endured as a new hire.


  • They'll often approach their audience too aggressively, and that tends to put people off ideas entirely.
  • They might also resist compromise, which is crucial for any kind of mutual agreement. *They'll focus too much on developing their argument for the idea and not enough time establishing credibility, framing for common ground, providing evidence and connecting emotionally.
  • They'll assume that they can work out an agreement through just one conversation.

Undercut a case with aggressive and dismissive rhetoric.

Did you consider the four steps of effective influencing? To make an effective case, you need to understand your audience and their values. Keiko's top priority might not be sales numbers, so it's important to explain how you can meet their specific needs. Only then can you identify concrete examples to tell a compelling story. Listening carefully to their concerns and offering to continue the conversation can make them feel understood. Finally, rebuilding trust can help you establish credibility.

Using sources of power to influence