You’ve got responsibility for producing impressive results—yet zero positional power and minimal authority.
That’s the struggle of dotted line leadership, isn’t it?
Dotted line reporting has become common these days—but it often gets a bad rap because of its bureaucratic twist.
Nonetheless, when you’re managing across the line, you don’t need a pity party. You need strategies that work……
When Dotted Line Leadership Fails
You’ve no doubt experienced how dotted line leadership is different from solid line leadership.
Have you noticed that dotted line leadership is particularly tough when:
- You allow different functional areas to take an”us vs. them” attitude?
When this silo thinking creeps in, people aren’t focusing on a common goal. There’s insufficient “connection” between people. And teamwork just doesn’t happen.
- You and the other leaders haven’t agreed (or can’t agree) on priorities?
Team members often get caught in the middle. Then conflicting outcomes impact productivity.Where priorities aren’t agreed, It’s usually because you couldn’t influence the other person.
- Frustrations are swept under the carpet?
Conflict aversion and dotted line leadership are like oil and water.
Without a solid-line relationship, you can’t live without the rapport and trust that flows from respectful, candid communication.When expectations aren’t aligned, problems set in, emotions get wounded, ideas get derailed and egos get damaged.An ignored frustration often leads to more frustration—if not a full-blown dispute.
Strategies That Will Help You Lead Via A Dotted Line
For you to be a great dotted line leader, candid communication about your thoughts and feelings is essential.
When you need to assert your leadership across the dotted line, try these tips:
1. Prioritise meeting their needs too.
Talk with your dotted-line reports and their leaders about their priorities. Ask what you can do to support them. And then be candid with them about your priorities.
The interpersonal frustrations that sometimes live in a dotted-line relationship will usually clear up when the other person understands that you want to support them. As well, they’ll be more likely to want to support you.
2. Connect your need with their primary responsibilities.
It’s natural for people to put their straight-line leader’s requests ahead of yours.
Therefore, get your need on their radar by describing how what-you-need crosses the line and benefits their primary manager too.
3. Align expectations.
This one is huge!
Sit down with the people involved and (authentically) discuss your expectations of one another and how you’ll work together.
You don’t want the disagreement and conflict that shows up when you haven’t taken the time to talk through expectations.
4. Emphasise the common ground and agree a common overriding goal.
You may fall on different sides of the line, but you work for the same company.
Can you talk about what you both need—and relate that to an organisational goal that transcends the matrix?
And then, can you jointly devise a goal that will connect the people involved and create strong teamwork?
Trust and rapport don’t usually happen overnight.
But, trust me, when there’s a dotted line and you’re candid and authentic you’ll enhance your relationships and work more smoothly together.
Give me a yell if you’d value my support with this sort of stuff.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.