When I was the Education Manager for a corporate university, the company VP used to say “When people know you and like you, they find a way to do business with you.” There’s truth to that, but it doesn’t tell the whole story – at least not for women. If it did, women would be way ahead of the game. As it is, too many women who are good at what they do wait for others to notice. It’s a solid part of the “good girl” credo – and it gets you nowhere.
Jean Otte, founder of the women’s leadership training company, Women Unlimited, and whose story of victory is a chapter in Victorious Woman, wants women to understand influence. Ms. Otte explains influence simply: “it’s not what you know or who you know, it’s who knows what you know.”
Here are three ways you can talk up influence:
1. Know your role and your specialty.
Be able to explain what you do and how you do it, clearly and in twenty-five words or less. You say nothing when you tell someone that you manage a department, are administrative assistant for the CEO or work in human resources.
You must find a way to explain your skillset. Here’s an example from one manager that tells the listener that she’s in training, has both research and organizational skills and implies a position of authority: “I make sure our emloyee training includes current topics and the right blend of classroom, e-learning and blended learning to meet their personal development plans.”
2. Plan in advance
If there is a person or group with whom you want to gain influence, start practicing what to say to them.
Ask yourself what’s so good about you or your suggestion that they should take you seriously.
Write it down – even if you just brainstorm in your journal, start developing that center of influence in your imagination
Practice – do it while you are driving to or from work or while you are taking a walk. Don’t be embarassed to record a conversation or role play it with a spouse or partner or friend. You never know when the opportunity to influence will come up – be ready!
3. Make Your Point
Sometimes we spend so much time setting up our premise that we dilute our message and, by the time we make our point, others have stopped paying attention. Here’s how to change that:
- Start with the headline: “We have an urgent need to decrease distractions and increase productivity.”
- Make three points that support your headline
- Why it’s a problem
- What you recommend
- Suggestions that support your recommendation
When you expand your centers of influence, others know you and you have clearly explained and/or demonstrated what you do and how well you do it.