This is a follow up to a blog post I wrote about being an opinion leader. According to the authors of the book Influencer, being able to influence people to make large-scale change requires that an “influencer” be: knowledgeable, trustworthy and accessible. In many cases, being influential is less about the title that you hold in your organization, and more about your personal traits. In this post, I offer tips for how to be seen as knowledgeable without being seen as a know-it-all.
If you want to be influential, you need to know your stuff. That “knowing” encompasses more than being intelligent—you also have to be informed. According to the authors of Influencer, a key part of being an influencer is that you draw upon many sources to keep your expertise fresh. But these days, keeping up with the latest information, technology and emerging trends can be daunting, even for the most intelligent person around.
Here are five ways to stay current:
- Do a mental checklist of your facility’s layout—which areas have you not laid eyes on in the past few months? Those are the areas that you should go investigate. If you’re a leader, it’s especially important to take a walk around your business to uncover new sources of information and input.
- Maintain your internal and external networks. When you stay plugged into what’s going on with other professionals in your field, you learn about innovations and processes you may have overlooked. Devoting as little as one hour a week to connecting with others means you make nearly 50 contacts over the course of a year.
- Tap into your industry’s web curators. It used to be that “curator” applied largely to people in charge of selecting appropriate pieces for their museum’s collections. Not anymore. With the amount of available data increasing exponentially (some estimates say it’s doubling every 72 hours), you need to find someone or something who sifts out the noise and leaves you with high-quality content. Learn how to use an RSS function like Google Reader. Subscribe to aggregator news services. For example, because my professional interests are leadership, workforce development and talent management issues, I get daily feeds to the SmartBrief on Leadership and SmartBrief on Workforce news service. Not sure where to start? Ask the people in your network from tip #2 above about the services they use.
- Look for inspiration in unusual places. Professionals who are in-the-know draw from unlikely sources to feed their minds. Go somewhere that is the complete opposite of your current life situation. Are you an empty nester? Volunteer for an afternoon at an elementary school. Live in the suburbs? Go for a walk downtown. Live in a high-rise downtown? Check out your local farmers’ market and talk to a farmer that’s using the latest agribusiness techniques.
- Here’s an exercise that’ll help you check out the reality of your perceptions. Select a business initiative that’s about to or has recently launched. Make list of stakeholders impacted: customers, finance department, product development, operations, marketing, custodial staff, etc. For each entity, write down what you believe to be their perceptions. Put that list in your pocket. Now, when you go walking around (as in tip #1), seek out these stakeholders and ask them what they think. Compare it to your list. Granted, they may not give you the completely unvarnished truth, but you’ll get a sense of how closely your perceptions match theirs.
These are just a few of the ways you can stay informed. What are your favorite ways to stay current in your organization and industry? Feel free to add them to the comments section.
photo credit: istockphoto.com