Pay Attention in a Matrix Organization to Achieve Results

June 10, 2018

How can you GET and KEEP People’s Attention in a Matrix Organization to Achieve Results?

Matrix organizations are tough. They force leaders to work cross-functionally, across geographies and across business departments. Successful matrix management requires self-awareness, tenacity, patience and intentional attention.


If leaders want to shine in this environment, they must show strong communication, networking, advocate building, influence, and powerful personal brand skills.


Attention is necessary to successfully leverage relationships, communicate across time zones, and recognize different company cultures in an environment where reporting lines are tricky.


The benefits of paying attention include opportunities to meet (and impress), other leaders, attract and retain top talent, accelerate project completion and career advancement.


Tips to succeed in a matrix organization:


Build relationships – Networking across business units and levels in your company is important. When people see your email, do they answer it immediately? Do others respond quickly to your text messages? Do they gladly accept your meeting invitations? If not, you may need to invest time creating stronger relationships and networking in a variety of ways.


Identify informal leaders – Every team has an informal leader because every team has someone without a title, but with great influence that the whole team knows are the ‘go-to’ person. Find them, network with them, and learn as much as you can about team dynamics and their leadership style. This person will help you navigate the team, company politics, and leadership. They may even become an advocate for you as well.


Create advocates – Improve your relationships and seek people with teams who can become your advocates. Advocates are people who know what you’re responsible for. The understand your responsibilities and projects and are willing to help. Furthermore, they can communicate your value, make introductions, and advocate in meetings and with senior leaders. This long-term strategy requires a dedication to relationships building. Create a monthly appointment in your calendar to reach out to your list of advocates.


Systemize thoughtfulness – Paying attention requires systems because systems create freedom. Can you schedule a monthly appointment to call people you want to stay top of mind with? I have 20 people I consider invaluable, so I send them tokens of thoughtfulness during my scheduled appointments. Books, articles and TED talks you believe would benefit them are excellent ways of staying top of mind.  How can you set aside time each month to spot relationships you want to build? Create a list of advocates and finally, systemize thoughtfulness to build those relationships.


Articulate your role – Learn to quickly articulate your role, the value you add and then, provide a project update. Be prepared to share your team’s achievements and how they add value.  Learn how to communicate the impact your work has on others. Furthermore, be prepared in every meeting, teleconference, and town hall or if you run into a leader in the elevator. Look for opportunities to promote your team and build relationships.


Book 15 minute tele-coffees – a tele-coffee is where you make a coffee and I make a coffee, and we talk on the telephone (I do tele-cocktails on a Friday… love those). When you schedule quick catch ups with other leaders internally, you will build relationships and understand their objectives. Focus on sharing your team value and quickly assess if you need their support and engage them in future.


Attend team meetings – Offer to attend other’s team meetings to learn about their challenges, objectives, and workflow. Furthermore, offer to update them on your team’s projects or responsibilities so you help educate others.


Know communication preferences – Learning the best way to communicate to others in a matrix organization will help decisions and workflow. Know if your internal clients prefer email, phone, instant message, and text or in-person meetings. Once you learn people’s preferences, make a note and share with others on your team.


Get creative – Do you have to attend every meeting? Do you have to be on every teleconference? Before you join a meeting, know the purpose and if your presence is required. Decide if you can send a team member, or receiving notes would be just as effective. Be creative in the way you contribute to other teams by using technology when you can.


Monitor time zones – Be kind when scheduling across global time zones. Consider everyone’s availability, especially if they are located across the country or work flex hours.  Choose different timeframes, being considerate to everyone. If the meeting time is going to impact you personally, speak up and ask for alternatives.


Respect protocol – Organization structures exist for a reason. First of all, don’t go over someone’s head or around someone when possible. It’s disrespectful. So, respect roles, responsibilities and hierarchy. If you aren’t achieving the results you need, consider talking to people’s peers before you approach their leadership. Be kind. Show respect.


Demonstrate expertise – Add value to every conversation: meetings, presentations, town halls, webinars, training sessions and social activities. Be the subject matter expert and don’t speak up just so you can hear yourself speak. Ask yourself if that question or comment will add value to everyone in the room. If not, be quiet. If it will, share freely.


Make an impression – Know the rules, strengthen your personal brand, develop relationships and navigate politics. As a result, you will be a successful, attentive team member in a matrix organization when you are mindful of others. Be prepared to promote your team, your project and be willing to listen to others.


If you want more strategies on how to personally and professionally be more intentional with your attention, to grow your personal brand, develop your communication skills and accelerate your productivity, check out Attention Pays for many more ideas.

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