Find influencers – I would argue that the age-old adage which says, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” is a misnomer. It is only partly true, because in my experience, it is a very rare case where a complete and total doofus (love that word doofus) appears and excels in the long-term. Sure, doofuses appear all the time, but they just don’t last. Eventually, an ill-placed individual is found out and removed, or marginalized to a place where they can do little harm. So, first you must know something and then you must find the person that can help you become successful. That person is your influencer.
Many times, influencers are created by establishing rapport with those in the highest levels of the organization. Other times, it might be realizing that it’s the receptionist, or mail clerk that can help move you along your road to success. Figuring out the puzzle pieces and putting them together is up to you. The art is found in putting your influencer’s success over yours. When you help them, they will in turn help you.
A vital part of this process is to keep your relationship with influencers subtle and largely unbalanced. By unbalanced, I mean that you should do much more for them than they do for you and do most of what you do in the background. It’s not an overt process like meeting them at their car each day to carry their brief case into the building, or bringing them lunch or cookies on a frequent basis. That would move you into a suck up category and rarely is that an effective strategy.
When you have established an influencer relationship, you enjoy a little referent power that you wouldn’t otherwise hold. It is here where you must be careful to not abuse that power while continuing to appreciate and nurture the relationship.
I once worked in manufacturing plant and one of my influencers was the plant manager. He didn’t know me well, but knew of my work and how much I championed his causes. One day, I needed special approval from him for a personal request of some time off without pay. When I presented him the form, he promptly tore it up and said, “don’t worry about and have a good time off.”
Who are your influencers and how can they help you?