There is a word that gets thrown around the interwebs a lot these days: Influencer. If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s okay. But chances are, if you don’t know what one is, then you’re not one. And that’s not okay.
So here’s the deal. As you probably guessed from the root of the word, an influencer is someone who influences you, the consumer, to buy or believe or invest or whatever into a product or idea or strategy or philosophy or whatever. In many cases an influencer is synonymous with conspicuous consumption, that unhealthy thirst to always crave the Next Big Thing… kind of like that old phrase, “keeping up with the joneses.” Trends-based influencing is a marketing tool that promotes product envy at its worst and, at best, it can make you broke really fast.
There is, however, a time and a place where you want to not only pay attention to influencers, but you want to position yourself as one, too, and that’s in the workplace. Being an influencer in the workplace is less about hyping a particular product than it is about establishing yourself as someone whose opinions matter, suggestions are gold, and whose mere presence or “attaboy” can motivate another’s contributions.
Let’s face it. Influencers carry a lot of weight and it’s good to be THAT gal or guy who everyone looks to lead them through challenges or innovations. Yes, there’s pressure but it’s the good kind of pressure.
So, how do you amp up your reputation to become an influencer, assuming you’re not one already? Here’s five steps.
- Asserting: you insist that your ideas are heard and you challenge the ideas of others
- Convincing: you put forward your ideas and offer logical, rational reasons to convince others of your point of view
- Negotiating: you look for compromises and make concessions to reach outcomes that satisfy your greater interest
- Bridging: you build relationships and connect with others through listening understanding and building coalitions
- Inspiring: you advocate your position and encourage others with a sense of shared purpose and exciting possibilities
Your influencing style is most likely made up of traits you were born with. But the good news is that if there are traits you’d like to further develop, you can identify your weaknesses and engage in exercises to tap into them better. There are influencing style indicators available by an array of companies but beware of their hefty price tags. Apparently, becoming a leader doesn’t come cheap.
Be Emotionally Intelligent. You can be the smartest gal in the room, or the funniest guy, but if you don’t have a clue about how your actions and words affect your co-workers, you will never be considered an influencer. Why? Because you lack the capacity to show empathy toward others and you clearly aren’t self-aware. No one wants to work for or with someone like that.
Value Partnerships. If Maverick is your idol, chances are you’re not much of a team player. But just like Tom Cruise’s character turned things around, you can too.
This study shows that 82% of white-collar workers feel partnerships are necessary to completing their tasks. Partnering is more than just having a co-worker to share stories with at the water cooler. These days, partnering is about sharing knowledge, collaborating on ideas, and coming up with cooler things together than they could’ve apart. If you show you’re co-workers that you value them both at the annual company kickball game AND at your weekly brainstorming sessions, they’ll probably value you as well.
Read. Ask Questions. You have to know what you’re talking about. Shooting off at the hip and expecting people to be ‘wowed’ by your statements is probably not the best strategy toward gaining people’s trust in you as an influencer. But when you don’t know enough about what is being discussed, show some curiosity (it’s not weakness) and ask questions about the subject. The simple art of engaging with people by asking them questions shows them that you care about what they have to say and how they learned that information. That’s a win win. You connect with them on a level that makes them feel important and empowered, and you’ve gained a key source on which you can collect new information. And remember, a good influencer, always gives credit where credit is due. DO NOT pass off others’ ideas as your own. That will backfire in a big way.
Get Personal. This blog analogizes that your influence is like bricks to a building. Each brick in your ‘influence house’ is made of trust and respect. One of the ways to earn this trust and respect is to spend time with your peers, bosses, and co-workers outside of the office. Social activities give you valuable time to listen, absorb, interact, assess personalities and share vital information about yourself. Yes, in order to be an influencer, you’re going to have to get comfortable with putting yourself out there. This is a great line from the blog:
“At the rank and file level, the staff are more responsive to your strategy and vision, because you have met many of them individually, gained a greater understanding of the collective “psyche” of the group, and tailored the messages accordingly. When the message comes down, your influence is felt because they really KNOW you, and they feel you are talking to them, and not just pushing down orders.”
Hey influencers! We want to hear from you! Whether you’re a pro at pitching products or an effective team leader who really spent time understanding your workplace and the people that make it tick, we’d love to hear how you built trust and keep it. Send us your comments below.