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Influencing Without Authority: How One Non-Profit Got it Right

Posted by Rick Lepsinger March 22, 2018


Water For People (WFP) is an international nonprofit organization whose goal is to help community members, governments, and business owners feel healthy, safe, and empowered. While a major focus of these efforts is building up water and sanitation infrastructure for the billions of people across the world who don’t have access to safe water, this isn’t the only thing they do.

By co-investing with local governments to develop infrastructure rather than fully funding every project themselves, Water For People helps build a sense of ownership and responsibility for the water resources they help develop.

Recently, OnPoint conducted an interview with Mike Ksenyak, the Human Resources Manager for Water For People. We spoke with Mike about the challenges the nonprofit faces in meeting its goals and managing people in a globe-spanning organization with over 100 people who all work locally within their own country.

Here are a few highlights from the interview:

Water For People’s Biggest Challenge

According to Mike, “one of the biggest challenges is enhancing overall communication.”

This issue is to be expected for any globe-spanning organization, especially when most of the people working in any given country are all local to that area. Teams may speak completely different languages, or different dialects of the same language that have different grammar, pronunciation, and idioms.

This leads to an increased risk of miscommunication between the different teams, which then had the potential to impede Water For People’s progress towards its goals.

The nonprofit needed a way to get everyone to work together—even when people didn’t really have a clear, authoritative relationship.

Why WFP Started Using Influencing Without Authority

According to Mike, Harry Whittenberg, a consultant with Autodesk (one of WFP’s major donors and a client of OnPoint Consulting), was working with Water For People to help them improve their global communications and teamwork. It was through this training that Mike and WFP were first introduced to OnPoint’s Influencing Without Authority (IWA)solution.

As Mike Ksenyak said:

“The Influencing Without Authority training was carried out by Harry… We found that they kept referencing the training and I thought it was worth sharing.. IWA gives people at all levels a way to influence and make requests with specific tools like creating ‘win-win’ situations and cohorting. My new goal is to get people to be aware of how they can use IWA tools and share these tools with the rest of the organization as a whole.”

After sharing the IWA program with Water For People’s main teams, Mr. Whittenberg went to WFP’s India-based offices to perform additional training—which Mike said “went really well.”

Why the Effective Use of Influence Was Important to WFP’s Success

As Mr. Ksenyak said, WFP’s main goal was “to help the team cooperate more and develop a sense of leadership and empowerment at all levels of the organization. At an organization like ours that is small, everyone has a purpose.”

One of the benefits of effective use of influence and making employees feel empowered is that, as Mike noted in the interview, “empowered people ask questions they may have been timid about because they thought they lacked the authority to do so.” By empowering these people using the influencing without authority program, Water For People could make all of their teams across the globe more effective at fulfilling their mission of helping people.

How Influencing Without Authority Helped Water For People

According to Mike,

“Overall, the program has reinforced our performance. It helped us break down work silos at the headquarters so everyone could work better together and even enhanced communication between teams and program offices around the world… We have seen some improvements for things like employee engagement and productivity. We also did a survey after the IWA program and received some positive feedback from people about leadership development opportunities. Some of our people in Denver brought the program up as a positive experience in the employee engagement survey. The program was a hit, all things considered.”

The Impact of Influencing Without Authority

As was mentioned earlier, the program had an overall positive impact on their employees. What was really notable was that, as Mike said:

“One of the objectives was to look for professional development. And, we found that after trying a number of things before IWA, IWA was the first thing that really stuck with people.

It was a tangible success that really delivered and helped people. It even helped my interactions with other people—even when working remotely via Skype, I found that the program helped me communicate better with others and get people committed to what WFP wanted to accomplish.”

Mike’s Advice to Others Who Might Be Thinking About Using IWA

When asked about what advice he would give other nonprofits or businesses considering using the influencing without authority program from OnPoint, Mike said, “I’d like to say ‘give it a try.’ If their people have communication issues, this could be a really useful tool to open up dialogue and I think they’d see real results with it.”


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