Influence is the ability to connect with other people to achieve a certain desired result. In the short term, someone can have an extraordinary impact, but how does that translate into long-term influence? Create raving fans “all day, every day” as gangsta rap advises.
Influence is constant work to be relevant and forward-thinking, and make things happen. Consider who you are working with, and what you’ve accomplished lately. People want to know where you are visible in the industry. I do a lot of things and go to a lot of conferences just to be engaged and involved, therefore, when someone decides their company needs a strategic planning facilitator, I am top of mind because I have been visible at trade shows. Visibility creates results. People want to see you in action.
Ask yourself this:
Identify your raving fans! Develop relationships. Be the person who is good at remembering names. Be the person who is good at building affinity. People want to be around people who are like that, and that builds influence. Play golf or grab drinks with people. These settings are critical to influence and appearing accessible. Also, be the teacher’s pet—the person who is always happy to help!
Two other key factors in building influence are professional designations and philanthropy. The can create a pre-existing affinity or bring people into your fold who want to be associated with those groups. People like to be around people who support the things they love.
When I was writing “The Strategic MVP” with Mark Thompson, I had the opportunity to meet Ingrid Vanderveldt, a high-powered businesswoman. One of the things Vanderveldt said that was powerful to me was, ‘Influence creates an exponential impact.’ Think about it. First, you get a greater outreach. Second, businesses – especially big businesses – want to work with a person of influence because when they dedicate resources to that person it has impact on a grander scale. That person’s influence touches so many other people.
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Frank Diekmann is the cooperator-in-chief at CUToday.info, a news organization for the credit union industry. He has launched multiple businesses and believes in challenging the status quo and keeping people on their toes. Diekmann advised that an important question to ask yourself is, ‘What is it I am seeking to do?’
“So many people think networking is exposing themselves to others, but really the best way to think of networking is exposing others to yourself,” he said. “You may not agree with what someone has to say, but learning where other points of view lie is so critical. I have learned a million times in my career I am not right.”
Diekmann sees a lot of “unarticulated knowledge” out in the world. He said there are a lot of things people know that they don’t know, and they don’t know that they know. “Exposing yourself to the unarticulated knowledge that exists in every industry is as valuable as any class or course you could take,” he said. “I have always tried to conduct exit interviews with retiring CEOs, because they take so much knowledge with them.”
Branding is an overused, Diekmann said, but just as a business can put on a new coat of colors or create a new slogan, any person can rebrand. However, “It’s not about the logo; it’s really about the experience,” he said. “It comes down to, how authentic are you? We always come back to the basics. If you tell me my call matters to you, then you should answer it. Authenticity, following through and just listening are the key components in networking. People think networking and influencing is you doing the talking, but the irony is, by listening, people think you are talking. They like being listened to.”
It's not about the logo; it's really about the experience. It comes down to, how authentic are you?
When it comes to building a business, Diekmann said his strategy has always been to simply outwork other people. “I wish there was a fancy word for it, or I could claim some great insight, but that’s what it comes down to. If someone else gets there at 7 a.m., I’ll get there at 6 a.m. If someone else works six days, I’ll work eight. I think that gets overlooked in this day and age of killer apps. People think, ‘I’ll build an app, I’ll have an IPO, and then I’ll retire.’ Those are misleading examples for a lot of people.”
Social media has had a well-documented effect on the journalism business. Diekmann said it has made for a lot of noise. Anyone with a smartphone is the media now, because they can broadcast the news – or at least their opinion of that news – and it has a real effect. “The flip side is, social media has allowed legitimate news organizations to prove their worth. If you are getting your news from social media, you are pretty much uninformed,” he declared.
Diekmann lamented he never has had a mentor in his career. “I probably would have benefitted from one, because it would have saved me from a lot of mistakes,” he explained.
One of those errors, he recalled, was when he was a young reporter covering banks and was asked to go to a credit union meeting. He went in with a bias that credit unions were the JV team. “It is a mistake to march into something with a preconceived notion or bias, Diekmann said. “Eventually, I realized what I saw as a weakness was, in fact, a strength.”