BUILDING YOUR STRATEGIC INFLUENCE
There’s a ton of difference between being an expert and being an influencer. Many make the mistake of thinking it’s the same thing. Becoming an influencer is about bringing your expertise to life - activating it in a way that is attractive and commercially compelling.
You’ll require high levels of pro-activity, energy, persistence and flexibility. You’ve got to stick your neck out - even within a corporate setting. Chances are you will also have to work on your own without team support or the encouragement of positive feedback.
Building your influence requires a strategic investment of time, mental energy and effort. (I get frustrated at how easily organisations let their leaders off the hook in this regard). Be the one who shows the grit and initiative to get on the other side of this work. It can be hard, but it’s also greatly rewarding and enjoyable. Most importantly - Believe! This stuff works.
My model illustrates the combination of actions, attitudes and resources you’ll need to grow your influence. It describes 3 focus stages and 3 levels within each stage. Start at the bottom left and work upwards through each state.
I. DO THIS
1. CREATE (content that distinguishes)
The first focus stage is about what you need to ‘DO’.
Information is overwhelming and everywhere. We now value those who can make sense of it by creating content that helps us to understand and solve problems. Less is usually more. Often this is about giving ourselves permission to put our ideas out there, rather than to rely on prevailing or dominant market thinking. Be brave! Have fun!
2. ENGAGE (connect with prospects/people)
Experts and leaders often present an aversion to selling, rather trusting that the sheer weight of their intelligence or status will seal the deal. Many subscribe to the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. In my experience they don’t! You’ve got to be continually connecting your ideas and in-build this process into everything we do. You need to think twice - first about what you want to communicate, second - what’s the most engaging way to do that.
Elegance, energy and environment are all variables we can use to maximise the impact of our ideas - and therefore our success in selling them - either for money or to persuade those we lead or partner with.
3. EXECUTE (flawless and impressive)
It’s no use having amazing ideas if you can’t make them real and wow your customers, clients, staff and peers. Today’s technology, means all of us can create amazing projects, products and collateral. There really are no excuses, so up-skilling in this area is critical. From client ‘first contact’ through to project delivery, follow up and invoicing - we need to make sure we are professional, timely and impactful.
So that’s what we ‘DO’. To ensure we consistently build our Influence over time, we also need to get into the right mindset. This is the focus of the second stage and is about how we need to ‘BE’.
II. BE THIS
4. Productive (get more done faster)
If you are going to earn serious money for yourself or your company by commercialising your expertise, you have to become highly-productive. This has always been the case for solopreneurs. Increasingly, organisational leaders are also being expected to act like internal entrepreneurs. The gap has closed remarkably. Gone are the days of PAs and spare people. You need to become ruthlessly good at getting more done and develop a constant vigilance around your output levels.
5. Strategic (sequence actions and skills)
We need to have a clear plan of where we are going. This means doing the right things at the right time. It’s easy to embark on too-many projects or to get distracted. This is where 90-day horizons and strict weekly, monthly and quarterly plans are crucial. You need to schedule your activities and say “no”. It’s about developing the discipline to finish what you’ve started (and avoiding shiny project syndrome).
Leaders and organisations have to place the same importance on meeting e.g. content-creation deadlines (blogs, vlogs, presentations, speeches, videos, podcasts…) as they do on the weekly sales figures. It’s easy to get lost in the gravity of business as usual, so you need to become ruthless in staying on track.
6. Accountable (take responsibility)
Most of us can’t do this alone. The best way to stay the course is to hold yourself accountable to someone else. An external mentor is the perfect person to challenge and correct us and also to encourage us to keep delivering on our agreed actions and targets.
I have Mentored hundred lot of leaders, consultants, coaches and entrepreneurs through this journey. I usually find that the people I work with are amazed with what they have achieved and how they have grown after only 6 months.
The combination of our ‘doing’ and ‘being’ is a great start to developing and deploying our influence. The final column details the things that we need to be ‘building’ over time. These are fundamental in sustaining us to enjoy long-term success.
III. BUILD THIS
7. Resilience (know the game)
The pressures of work and life don’t disappear when we commit to building the profile, positioning and commercial impact we need to become market influencers. Trust me, you WILL experience knock-backs and discouragement. Colleagues will say you are wasting your time, that it doesn’t work. Projects will fail. Ideas will be rejected. You will doubt yourself and wonder if it’s all worth it.
You must counter this by learning to expect and accept this fact of life and to develop your resilience muscle. You must also never lose sight that you are making a significant investment in securing your future success and happiness.
8. Support (spread the load)
To help manage your resilience, to stay on strategy and to thrive in a potentially lonely environment, it’s important to build a supporting community. As you develop your network, you must actively seek out and commission those who you ‘get’ you and what you are about. These are the kindred spirits, willing to support your growth. You will be amazed and delighted by the people and resources that emerge as you develop your reach.
9. Community (find your tribe)
The ambition to become a business and market influencer can seem unrealistic and even arrogant. If you’ve got this far, you probably think you have something to offer the world. GOOD FOR YOU! You’re probably right.
Once you step out on this path, you will be amazed by the new connections, friends, colleagues, mentors and resources that your efforts reveal. In just a few months you’ll probably look back and wonder how you remained so stuck for so long.
Understanding the 9 elements of this model is clarifying. It’s easy to get lost and discouraged on this journey, or to fixate on a few of the pieces. All are important over time - especially once the initial inspiration has passed. Keeping a lightness of touch and a good sense of humour and humility is also useful.
Finally, contact me if you want help. I work closely with over 35 professionals every year to help them build the confidence, thinking, content and mindset to build their personal brand and activate it.