If you’re paying any attention to today’s trends, you’ll know that talk of social influence and branding is everywhere. This is because simply doing quality work and providing value is not enough to be chosen for opportunities. What matters most is the reputation you’ve built for your expertise.
To get the breakthrough opportunities you need in your career will require a new strategy that involves selling yourself as an influential expert. When you become known as an expert and a thought-leader in your industry you will be more likely to get the career and business opportunities you want, have increased job security, and get paid much more than average.
So what’s the key to developing your reputation as an expert in your field?
Step 1 – Up your presence
Those who look the part get the opportunity to audition for the role. People choose to hire those who fulfill their vision for what their expert should look like. If you met a guy in a tuxedo who says he’s a plumber would you believe him right away? Not likely.
Your goal is to create the immediate impression to others that you are a competent expert at what you do, so they will be more likely to trust you.
Experts are also extremely confident and they are great at connecting with others. By mastering personal body language that sends the signal that you’re competent at what you do and that you absolutely want to help the person you’re trying to work with you’ll be more likely to be chosen for the role.
Step 2 – Become an authority
Just looking the part is never enough to solidify your expert reputation. It’s important to develop a resume for success that will validate the claim that you’re good at what you do.
How do you accomplish this?
Check in with people who are already known as credible experts in the field and talk to them about what they’ve done to reach the top. Take note of anything they share that they believe was a true catalyst for propelling them forward and identify the easiest items to start adding to your list to speed up your rise to the top.
If you’re new to an industry it’s helpful to find high level leaders with a large following and offer to help them for free. To get the full benefit, you’ll need to be straight-forward with them and ask for a trade up front – free work in exchange for social proof in the form of testimonials and recommendations.
Step 3 – Get in front of the right people, a lot
Who needs to see you in order for you to get noticed as an expert and obtain the opportunities you want in your life?
If you’re in a corporate job and want to get a promotion, you’ll want to find opportunities to showcase your capabilities in front of key decision makers. Make a list of those people and write down ideas for how you can get in front of them on a consistent basis. Visibility creates familiarity and consistency builds trust. You’ll need both in order to succeed.
If you’re a business owner you’ll want to consider places where your ideal customers hang out. Are they at hobby clubs? Are they in sports bars? Do they like social media? Find opportunities to get consistent visibility in those places to gain the familiarity you need to build with your potential customers.
Never go without a written strategic plan. It doesn’t need to be long – a simple one page plan will do. Research shows that those who write their plan down are more likely to achieve their goals, and you want to be one of the ones who succeed!
For a more in depth explanation of this topic and lots of workbook pages to build your strategy pick up a copy of The 4 Keys to Influence.
And if you’re in the Denver area check out this upcoming live 3 hour weekend strategy session.
I was probably 19 at the time, it’s been so long I can’t quite remember, but the experience is still fresh in my mind. It was review week and this was the second time I’d seen this on my report “rarely speaks up to take on new assignments.”
Was this a running joke, or were people really not seeing me for the powerhouse employee that I was? I put so much energy into doing a great job, went above and beyond in my projects, and took on other people’s projects when they couldn’t complete them. I had to say something this time. They can’t just tarnish my reputation with imperfect remarks without an explanation for how they’re measuring “speaking up,” so I went to the manager. “Can you please take a moment to explain what it means that I don’t speak up to take on new assignments?”
“I know you do good work, but some of the other employees speak up more than you asking for new projects and taking on assignments as I bring them up. You don’t do that.”
“Yes, I’ve seen them do that, but do you recognize that I have taken on several of their shifts when they overbooked themselves? I only take on work I can handle while they continue to over book and then end up needing me to pick up the slack,” I replied.
“Now that you mention it I have noticed that. And were you the one who redesigned our productivity spreadsheet?” the manager asked.
“Yes, that was me. I had some downtime during one of my shifts and I saw that it needed to be updated with our new strategy, so I took the time to make the changes. I figured you’d notice when you looked at it in the morning,” I said.
“I did, but it could have been from anyone during the day, so I didn’t immediately assume it was you. I was waiting for someone to say something. This is what I’m talking about, how can I know how to rate you if I don’t know what you’re doing? I can’t read your mind,” he replied.
This was when I began to realize the pattern I had fallen into. At each job I had been in there were people who stood out and continued to get more opportunities than me even though I knew I had an impeccable work ethic, but work quality alone is not the route to the top of the ranks. To get there, it’s important to stand out and become a well-recognized resource to the company management.
The people who succeeded in receiving promotions and opportunities for growth exhibited several behaviors such as:
Taking on highly visible assignments - Those who accepted high profile assignments such as those specially requested by higher levels of management received a great deal of praise even if the projects were small in nature. When they did a good job they were praised by leadership, which gave them additional clout.
Pointing out their accomplishments - People who earned the most attention from leadership also did quite a bit of bragging in the form of storytelling. They’d share war stories from their latest projects starting with how big the project seemed in the beginning, how they strategized to solve the problem, and how through their wits they were able to conquer and win. They brought other people into the conversation giving them praise for their parts and receiving it back publicly, further advancing their brand.
Building rapport with leadership - Employees that spent time building deeper bonds with managers in decision making positions always seemed to get ahead much faster than anyone else. If your work is comparable to another person, what do you think will become the deciding factor in a promotion? This doesn’t mean you have to be inauthentic or kiss anyone’s butt undeservingly, but make it a point to establish a relationship, so when the decision comes to down to who they would prefer working closely with they can picture spending long hours with you.
For me, it took several years to really start getting to work on building some of these skills. I recognized what was happening around me, but I still couldn’t quite get the hang of doing it myself. It just didn’t feel natural.
If you're anything like me, you want to start implementing these changes successfully right away, but it's important to give yourself time to adjust to trying to incorporate more visible activities into your workplace lifestyle. To get started it helps to start with a clear plan of action that details how you feel about where you are today, where you want to go and what it will look like, and chart the steps you’ll need to take in order to reach your ultimate goals.
My workbook “The 4 Keys to Influence” is a great place to start drafting your plan for getting noticed as a workplace leader. It’s only 32 pages, so it’s an easy book to read and offers lots of workbook pages to help you develop your strategy. I encourage you to pick up the paperback version, so you can write your thoughts down on paper and review them later on as you look back at your development years into the future.
If you’re on Twitter, let’s connect — @krystalgolead
We use incentive rewards as a form of persuasion in every facet of our lives, but when we use rewards the wrong way, we can get ourselves in trouble. Find out how rewards really work and become more influential in your daily life.
Rewards can make fun activities less enjoyable
Have you ever had a hobby, something you would do every day of the week for free? And have you ever been offered a financial incentive to do that hobby for someone else? Chances are you didn’t enjoy the activity as much as you did before being paid for it.
Behavioral scientists tried this very scenario with a group of children. Several preschool age children, who regularly spent their time drawing, were offered a reward for doing so. Some children were asked to draw in order to receive an award (similar to receiving payment), while others were given a surprise award after choosing to draw on their own. When the experiment was over, the children who had been ‘paid’ to draw were less likely to choose drawing as their playtime activity in the future. They essentially lost interest after being ‘paid’ to draw.
Simple and complex tasks should be rewarded differently
What this study and others like it have found is that rewards need to be used in specialized ways depending on the task and the behaviors we want to see in the future.
A reward that is conditional narrows our view. This type of reward is beneficial if you need a person to perform one simple activity and don’t require that they repeat that activity (without reward) in the future. For example, if you need a group of subjects to complete a survey, paying them a reward for completion would be beneficial. If you want a teenager to wash the dishes, paying them to do so will encourage them to complete the task in the short-term, but don’t expect them to wash dishes on their own in the future.
A random, unexpected reward reinforces behavior. For complex or creative tasks, conditional incentives can actually hinder performance. The best way to reward for these types of behaviors is after work has been completed, and making sure that the reward is not conditional (expected as a payment for the activity).
Scientists don’t have a definitive answer for this phenomenon, but they think it has something to do with intrinsic motivation. When we’re motivated to perform an action without a reward, we feel a sense of autonomy. Receiving payment for that action takes away our autonomy, but being rewarded after the fact does not have the same negative effect.
How can you become more influential?
By using incentives appropriately you can inspire others to increase the behaviors you want to see more of. An unexpected gift for a job well-done or public recognition after a project is completed can go a long way.
At home, taking your kids for ice cream (sometimes) after they complete their chores without being asked can reinforce their good chore-completing behavior. And treating your spouse to breakfast in bed for being nice to the in-laws might make the next holiday dinner less of a drama and more of a sit-com.
Source: Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Penguin Group, 2011.
Get your free copy of "The 4 Keys to Influence" workbook to create your plan for being more influential in your career.
What does conventional wisdom tell us about success in the workplace?
"Work hard and you'll be rewarded."
"It's about who you know - focus on building relationships."
"Manage up - your manager has the power to make or break your career."
I've heard all of these pieces of advice, sometimes all three from the same person; but what is the truth?
The truth is, organizations are run by people, so they're innately human. The company you work for has a pulse just like you do and that company's personality will dictate how you interact in the office to increase your power and influence.
When trying to make your mark, always remember to focus your actions on the people around you. The people in the company must choose you, so in order to get their attention, you'll need to be outwardly focused.
Here are 3 ways to increase your influence at work.
1) Find the Company Pulse
A good analogy for this is to imagine the business as a human body. There are lots of functions all happening at once and in perfect rhythm with each other. Your goal is to find a role within that body that fits who you are, and move with the rhythm so the function you perform is in sync with the others.
Tactically, this means observing the company and studying the needs of the business. Read about your business in the news, follow your company on social media, and talk to your managers about the company strategy. When you are in total awareness of the businesses needs, you can better serve the company and find yourself fitting right in and fulfilling an essential role.
2) Be Delightful
When was the last time you saw your bosses' favorite get overlooked for a promotion? Chances are, you've never seen this happen. This is because, we naturally prefer people we like. When we like someone we see them as smarter, more talented, and even more trustworthy than other people; so being likable at work is a major asset.
I'm not suggesting you become the office "suck-up" we all know there's enough of that going on. I mean finding yourself at the end of every positive comment and being a respected and appreciated colleague to everyone you encounter.
Tactically, this means shining your pearly whites when you see someone you know, looking people in the eyes, and pointing out commonalities with others, so they feel closer to you. You can also build likability by helping others freely, and being an amazing listener.
3) Become a Thought-Leader
A thought-leader is a person who is a trusted resource for a specific knowledge base. In practice, that means being really knowledgeable about something and sharing that knowledge with others at the right time.
How can you become a thought-leader?
Consider the top 3 things that you know the most about, then think about which one of those is the most important to the company you work for. That is your best option for thought-leadership.
Once you narrow down your expertise, you'll need to seek out opportunities to help people using what you know.
Let's say you're in marketing and your expertise is employer branding. By seeking out opportunities to consult your human resources department, you can brand yourself as an expert by being a helpful resource to them. Once you've helped them a few times and added great value, they'll talk about you to others and recommend you to other departments as a resource.
In one word, the key to being influential at work is VALUE. If you're able to find a strategically significant way to help move the company forward, be someone people enjoy being around, and a trusted resource throughout the company, you'll be extremely influential at work.
Get your free copy of "The 4 Keys to Influence" workbook to create your plan for being more influential in your career.