in·flu·ence

the power to change or affect someone or something; the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen

Influence is important. In our matrixed, flat organizational structures today, we don’t always have the authority to make things happen. However, we all have the power of influence. No matter where you sit in the company, influence is a tool you will need to use at one time or another – perhaps every day. We are expected to be agents of change, to drive results – not to wait for orders on how to execute. Very often, you will not be manifesting this change yourself – you will need others’ support. Utilizing influence, we can garner support from others over whom we have no direct authority. There is some homework you will need to do to create the influence you want:

  • Know what you want. This sounds obvious, but often times we don’t take a comprehensive look from various viewpoints of the solution.  Know the upsides and the downsides.  Know your must-haves and nice-to-haves.
  • Know how your proposal contributes to your company’s goals. This will be a key connecting point as you discuss your proposal with others. This is not a win for you but a win for the company as a whole.
  • Be a trustworthy partner. Setting the foundation with your colleagues that they know you are someone they can trust will go a long way to having them listen and potentially advocate for your proposal when the time comes.
  • Identify opinion leaders. Although you may need the CEO to ultimately sign off on your proposal, remember that the CEO has her own network of influencers. Find out who they are – they will be important allies.
  • Be passionate, but be open to differing opinions and input. As you share your proposal with others, listen. Their push-back and ideas are critical to understand and potentially incorporate in your proposal.
  • Consider how you communicate. Be thoughtful on how you choose to share your proposal with others – consider the preferences of your audience, whether you need to be face-to-face, what kind of message will resonate with them.
  • Win-win. It might seem like a trite phrase, but it’s critically important to getting things done. Carefully consider the needs of your audience in advance so that you can address them directly.

Go forth and be influential!

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