How to increase your influence at work
The amount of influence workers have isn’t always reflected in their job titles. You can determine your own informal value to others by reviewing the extent to which people – your top internal stakeholders – help you succeed in your job, and in turn, by what you offer them.
Start by listing the top 10 employees at any level who help you get things done. Give each a score from one to 10 based on how much you depend on them, taking into account the degree of difficulty you would have in replacing each person. Consider what each stakeholder can offer:
- providing you information that helps you perform your role better
- giving their own time and that of their colleagues or subordinates
- providing you with equipment that enables you do your job more efficiently
- being a sounding board for ideas
- helping with mentoring or career advice to you
- giving you better access to decision-makers, etc.
Next, give yourself a score from their individual perspectives. What do you offer them and how difficult would they find it to replace you? For instance, when I was corporate affairs manager with a national engineering and construction company, my boss, a business unit general manager put a high value on the early, confidential tips I could give him of a forthcoming press conference or a public announcement for the company. This early information helped him to get his mind around the topic and to be knowledgeable in any related discussions or meetings he had with other executives.
Finally, look for warning signs: Do you add value mostly to one person or team? Do your stakeholders help you more than you help them? Are most of your contacts based in one function or business unit? Do you have a significant number of senior managers, including your CEO, on your side?
Internal stakeholder relations program
If your stakeholders’ contribution to you is much greater than your contribution to them, plan how you can improve on the imbalance. Review your resources of information, time, expertise or equipment, and decide what practical initiatives you can undertake for them as a communicator. The more value you create, particularly for decision-makers who have power over you, the more important you will become to them. In effect, you are initiating an internal stakeholder relations program.
Firstly, you should check on the background and interests of each stakeholder so you can understand them better. Then your program could comprise some of the following:
- giving them advance briefing on forthcoming issues
- making sure they are invited to hospitality events, corporate announcements, product launches and so on
- arranging media and presentation skills coaching
- developing business unit messages to support the main corporate messages
- organizing attendance at corporate briefings, eg. on crisis or issue management, so they better understand the impact of communication on their area
- setting up networking opportunities
- arranging for them to host relevant stakeholders at the corporate box at sporting and cultural events
- arranging internal publicity for them in your organizational intranet, employee publication or internal social media
- obtaining publicity for them in professional publications, your organizational Facebook page, or other external social media
- contributing or ‘ghost-writing’ articles in their name in industry publications.
You could arrange a communication audit in each stakeholder’s area to assess the effectiveness of their communication, and to identify the ways in which their area would benefit from your support.
You can also use this type of analysis to review the extent of your perceived value to external stakeholders – and their value to you. For instance, consider your external contacts such as suppliers, distributors, customers, journalists, consultants, industry contemporaries, and office-bearers in professional associations.