All posts by Julie Masters

How to Get Stakeholder Buy-In

It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are, without stakeholder buy-in they won’t get any traction. Can you improve this?

buy-in
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

True innovation comes from true influence. However, the painful reality is that it often doesn’t matter how good your ideas are. If you can’t get buy-in from other people, from the stakeholders in your organisation, then it will end up at the bottom of the pile.

Whether you are trying to implement a new program, in a difficult meeting at work, or attempting to convince your spouse or children of a different point of view, getting buy-in, or being able to influence others, is often the difference between success and failure.

Yet getting buy-in has nothing to do with how loud you are, how great your idea is, or even how confident you are of being right. So what does it involve?

Getting Crystal Clear

Like all important things the key to ‘influence’ is simple – but not easy. It means getting crystal clear on what you actually want your audience to ‘think’, ‘believe’ or ‘do’ differently.

However, in order to do this effectively, you need to craft a message based on what your audience are thinking, believing or doing right now.  

How you go about this depends on who your audience is, but it is possible to get a good read on the think, believe, do in any situation.

For example, as procurement professionals, you have a multitude of stakeholders. So you might want to start by investing in some market research. You might start by inviting some of those key people to lunch, then asking them what their biggest challenges, pain points or questions are in relation to your world.

Crafting the Message

Once you’ve been through that important exercise, break it down: Right now, what do they believe about your value? What are they thinking? What are they doing?

When you know this information, it is much easier to craft a message that speaks their language. However more importantly than that – a message with a clear and engaging path to action.

Once you become experienced in this process you can apply it to any topic. For example: What does marketing need to know right now in terms of procurement trends? Start there – ask the right person (or people) about what they are currently thinking, believing and doing in relation to the topic. Then use that language to bridge the gap between their current reality – and the reality you want to create.

Illuminate a Path

One of my favourite interviews for my Inside Influence podcast was Nancy Duarte. Nancy is a global communication expert, CEO and bestselling author. While discussing her core advice for those looking to become compelling communicators or storytellers – she explained something I wanted to shout from the rooftops.

She said that if you want to create real engagement – rather than a short burst of attention – then turn that engagement into actual action – your primary role is to ‘illuminate a path’. What does she mean by that? She’s saying that it’s not enough to tell people what to do – you also need to give them a compelling enough ‘why’ – followed by a clear pathway to action.

A clear pathway to action doesn’t have to be huge. In fact, going for a ‘simple yes’ is far more likely to result in action that a complex plan of execution. It could be something as simple as: ‘If you want to talk more about some of the possible results we could get from this idea – let me know when you’re free for a brief phone call’. Or ‘In order to take full advantage of this procurement trend we would need to do three simple things…’

An Idea to So Much More

It’s a simple path to action (what you want them to think, believe or do differently) that takes our communication from being ‘just an idea’ to so much more.

So what’s next if you want to increase your buy-in – or influence – in any situation? First become a student of the world of your target audience. Ask the right questions, of the right people – and then use that language to illuminate a path to the promised land.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or Julie’s website.

“It’s Not About Me” and Other Myths About Becoming an Influencer

Want to be an influencer in your space? And still think it’s not about you? Then think again – because it really is.

being an influencer
Photo from Tookapic on Pexels

“It’s not about me”.

That’s one of the sentences I hear most when working with people who want to become an influencer in their space.

It usually comes hand in hand with, “I know I need to stand out more. I know that the best way to a seat at the table is to focus on contributing as an authority. I know that I need to step out from behind my role and own my space as a thought leader.”

Then I usually hold my breath and wait for the next line.

“I just…don’t want it to be all about me”

Unfortunately, influence, like leadership, comes with one golden rule. It’s always about you. Now, I’m not talking about narcissism or arrogance, or stealing the spotlight or conversation away from other people who deserve the recognition. I simply mean it comes with responsibility. The willingness to stand behind your words and ideas, to take full ownership of the vision as well as the possible consequences.

Basically to step in the arena without the safety of the crowd.

However, just as important as that is another golden rule. For any idea, company or movement to be its most compelling, it needs a human face. Think about where Tesla or SpaceX might be now if Elon Musk, who is basically an introverted engineer, didn’t take the stage at any point to talk about his vision? Or the impact of the recent climate change protests without the courage of Greta Thunberg?

Here’s a simple framework for stepping out into the arena and building influence as a procurement professional without gambling with your integrity:

Accept That It Is About You

Here’s the rub. If you want to be a thought leader in your space, it is going to be about you. You are going to need to stand up and own a unique point of view and take responsibility and drive a conversation.

And that, at its very essence, is going to be about you – your ideas, your DNA, your unique standpoint.

Try this for a useful reframe: “What is the highest contribution I can make here?” By asking that question it becomes less about your identity – and more about your experiences, everything you’ve learned and what you can see that others might miss. It also gives you permission to speak from a place of high integrity – focusing on contributing something useful – rather than simply seeking attention.

So, what’s the highest contribution that you could make right now inside your organisation? To your stakeholders, or to potential talent that might be looking to join your team? It’s by answering those questions that we begin to build trust as an authority.

Remember It’s About Us Too

Now that you’ve thought of the highest contribution you can make as an expert. How can you then pull in members of your team – or other talented people in your organisation or network? Shining a light on their ideas and combining your voices and make an even bigger impact?

Your voice alone might be compelling enough – but combine that with other experts, other perspectives from other fields. Not only will the volume of your voices be louder, but the combined network (and collective influence) you bring to the table will be exponentially larger than going it alone. Not to mention the amount you will learn on the journey.

So, who can you collaborate with either internally or outside your organisation in order to drive a more powerful conversation? What credible perspectives would you need to get the right people’s attention? Who already has a network you need to tap into?

In this day and age the people we look to most as an influencer are the ones who can pull together the best information and sources – and then convert that knowledge into clarity.

Let It Be All About Them

When you start thinking about contributing to a conversation in your industry, first think about the questions your target market are currently asking. What pain is your organisation currently experiencing? What opportunities are out there that aren’t being capitalised on?

Take these and compile a list of the top five questions important to your target audience about the space in which you operate.

Now here is the most important part of this approach – avoid using jargon. Often the moment we feel people’s eyes glaze over when we present new ideas. It has nothing to do with the content and 100 per cent to do with the language we’re using.

Every target market has what we would call ‘charismatic language’ – which is basically the words and phrases they use in relation to this topic. Figure these out and you’re well on your way to cut through.

Influencer: Contribution Not Attention

So – the bottom line. It is about you. However it’s also about us – and about them.

The most compelling influencer isn’t in the business of seeking attention. Instead their focus is on contributing to the highest level, driving forward important conversations and collecting a variety of points of view to shed new light on the space they own. Focus on that – and whether it’s about you or not will no longer feel important.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the weekly podcast Inside Influence – an exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or via Juliemasters.com.

5 Steps to Building an Amazing Presentation

No matter what you’re doing, it’s hard to think you’ll avoid doing a presentation at one point or another. So how do you deliver thrill rather than dud?

awesome presentation
Photo by 祝 鹤槐 from Pexels

If the thought of delivering a presentation to your team, key stakeholders or even the C-suite leaves you in a cold sweat, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Presenting might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you will be able to avoid forever, particularly as your procurement career progresses. At some point you’ll be required to communicate the profession’s value-add or pitch ideas to decision-makers in your organisation. And that means it’s worth getting your skills up-to-speed so you are ready to step up to the plate in style when the time comes.

Fortunately, whether you are delivering a keynote to an audience of thousands or to two members of the senior leadership team, there’s a proven formula to getting it right every time.

One person who I always look to as a mentor in this space is Colin James, an expert speaker and facilitator who has spent the past 25 years working with senior executives around the world, helping them to master their presentation and storytelling skills.

In a recent conversation with Colin for Inside Influence podcast, we discussed the key steps to getting it right when you’re given that all-important hour to present to the CEO or CFO.

Step 1: Walk the (right) walk

The very first thing that you do on stage or in a meeting is vital – it sets the tone for the rest of the time you have. When you enter a room for your next meeting, ask yourself what the way you walked in says about you, your attitude and your intentions for that meeting.

When someone arrives with energy and urgency, sits upright in their seat and makes eye contact with others it signals something very different to a person who slops in and collapses in a chair.  The latter says “I don’t care, I’m exhausted, what am I doing here?” Incredibly, this is all being communicated without a single word being uttered.

What your physiology says about you in the first 30 seconds really counts. Colin’s main simple but effective tip (especially for people seeking to build their professional brand) is this: simply walk faster. Walk faster into the room; walk faster into that meeting or onto the stage – walk faster everywhere you go! The increase in pace will increase your energy – it will also increase the perceived urgency of your objectives.

Step 2: Start strong and finish strong

Any good presentation needs a clear concept (a title) that makes it immediately clear to the audience what your presentation is about – and what you’re trying to achieve. A misleading, ambiguous or dry title could lose your audience just as easily as a muddled or confused structure.

You can’t impress people that aren’t in the room – so first rule of thumb – get a title that’s going to peak the interest of your target market.

It’s also important to bookend your presentation with strong opening and closing statements. The reality is that information communicated at the beginning or the end of an educational episode is far more likely to be retained by your audience than the content in the middle.

The age-old advice on public speaking is useful here – “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them again. Then tell them what you’ve told them.”

Step 3: Divide (into chunks) and conquer

Colin recommended embedding three or four major themes – chunks – into the body of the presentation. These are the ideas, or principles, you want to get across to your audience.

Each chunk should have a principle, and each principle will support your overall concept. The connected detail, i.e. the stories you tell within each principle, should validate that principle and ultimately connect to your concept and title.

So as an example – what three things would your audience need to think, believe or do differently in order to take advantage of what you’re offering in this presentation?

Step 4: Tell a story

Once you have the principles in place – now it’s time to bring them to life through storytelling. Colin recommends that within each principle you need at least one story that illuminates the application of that principle in the world.

This can be a story from the past, an imagined scenario, or a potential event; so long as it is something that allows your audience to see your ideas applied in the real world. Telling a good story requires the following structure:

1. The event: The where, when, who, how and what.

2. The point: Your story needs to come to a clear point. If you’re pitching to decision-makers, this means you want someone to say yes to your idea. People are naturally influenced by social proof. If other people have done it or supported the idea or concept you are pitching – tell them! We don’t search for online reviews and testimonials for no reason – positive social proof makes us far more likely to take action.

3. The link: Your stories should be linked to the outcome you seek. In other words provide an actionable path to a desired outcome for our target audience.

Step 5: Take out 50 per cent

According to Colin, the most common mistake presenters make is to overpack their presentations with content. His advice? Design and plan your presentation for whatever time you have – then take out 50 per cent of the content.

It’s exactly the same concept as packing for a holiday. Most people going on an overseas trip over pack and then spend two weeks dragging around an enormous amount of excess stuff they neither use or wear. The same goes for presenting. Less is more.

So why is all of this important? Most presentations don’t fail because of a lack of good, valuable or important information. Or due to a lack of skill, intent or commitment from the person delivering. Most instead fail because the structure of that information isn’t compelling enough to hold our attention.

Like any exchange of energy – there is a formula we can replicate to get the right results. Once we break that formula down to its most simplistic components – and start consistently applying those rules to our own presentations – the impact takes care of itself.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or Julie’s website.

Your Top 4 Tech Tools for Influence

Want to up your influence and get some engagement for new ideas? Then you need these tools to help out-contribute the competition…

Photo by Elijah Macleod on Unsplash

Influence is always a matter of consistently making a more valuable contribution to your target market than your competitors. The challenge is that consistency takes time – how much time depends on how smart you get.

Recently I was speaking with a procurement professional who was struggling to find time to create content. His influence within his networks was growing, but he was stuck in the trap most of us get caught in – focusing on stakeholder management. My advice was to apply the 6:3 rule. Schedule and commit to six solid hours once a quarter, then three hours every week to ‘out-contribute’ your network.

To break 6:3 down into its simplest form – once a quarter you focus on creating a large piece of cornerstone value. This could be a video, podcast interviews or an emerging trends report. The most important factor is that it’s tailored and valuable to your target audience.

This then gets broken down into a number of smaller pieces of content over the next 90 days, such as articles, social posts or ‘Trend Update’ emails. The three hours each week is then spent keeping on top of industry news and trends. Pulling out key insights, saving them for the next quarters content drive and sharing them within your network via email or social media.

Sound like too much? Consider this. The latest research shows that it takes 10 ‘touch points’ to get someone to take action on a new idea or product. However unfortunately most of us give up after one or two attempts to get real engagement. The good news is it’s easy to increase your output with the right support. Here are my top four simple tech tools to keep your influence on track:

Flipboard

Flipboard runs my brain. It’s an online magazine that allows you save articles straight from your smart phone under a variety of different topics. Any time I find something interesting, I save it to my Flipboard magazine and then once a week (usually early Monday morning over coffee) I go through everything and decide what to share. I have a magazine for content, one for possible podcast guests, one for industry events, and so on.

Buffer

Buffer is a great social media scheduling tool. There are tons out there at the moment, with varying degrees of functionality. However I’ve found Buffer has the simplest interface on a mobile device – which is where I spend most of my time. It basically allows you to create and then schedule posts across nearly every social media platform. In just half an hour (again usually a Monday morning) I can schedule the core posts for the week and then just top up as the week unfolds.

Unroll.Me

This website changed my email life. It’s a free tool that takes your email address – then scours your account to find every single subscription – creating a long list from which you can unsubscribe en mass. However that’s not all. You can then add the rest to your ‘Rollup’ – which gets sent as a short summary of every single newsletter you wanted to keep – all in one email. Hours of Inbox space given back. You’re welcome.

Canva

Canva has been a complete game changer for graphic design. A super-simple design platform – it offers a huge amount of quality free presentation slides and social media templates for those that want impact without the hassle. However, if you want to take it up a level – you can also upload your own templates and change the text and images as you need them. Best of all you can do it all on your smartphone in 30 seconds from the back of a cab, which is my test for anything that claims to be time-efficient.

Staying ahead of the ideas and trends in your space – then having the time to translate them with your own insights takes work. If it didn’t, everyone would do it. But if you can get the right schedule and tools in place, “I don’t have time” should never be an excuse.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or her website.

Stop Freaking Out, Checking Out and Burning out

So much to do, so little time to do it. Are you one of the people who need to stop freaking out long enough to stand out?

Photo by Atul Choudhary from Pexels

You’ve got a million and one things to do today. The house must be immaculately clean before bedtime, you haven’t made lunch for the kids, a three-hour morning meeting in the office looms and you simply can’t delegate a single task – because only you know exactly what needs doing and how it needs to be done.

In times like these it might be worth taking a step back, reflecting on your current state of mind and getting your boundaries in order before you freak out, check out or burn out.

We’ve all been there, or know and love someone who’s been there. It’s easy to feel trapped in a cycle of self-inflicted pressure and high expectations. But according to Alison Hill, a professional psychologist (or self-titled “head mechanic”) who has spent many years tweaking the minds of top performers in some of the world’s largest companies. It is possible to stop oscillating between these three states and embrace a fourth alternative: to stand out.

I recently interviewed Alison for the Inside Influence podcast and she offered some amazing tools to stay in that mode.

Know your boundaries

For Alison, knowing your boundaries means being really clear about what’s ok and what’s not ok for you personally. When you set your boundaries in any given situation; whether it’s in the workplace or in your personal life, you need to establish what’s your ‘flex’ and what’s your ‘non-negotiable’ line in the sand. When you take a moment to unpack where all of your energy is going and where your biggest frustrations and anxieties are coming from, setting your boundaries becomes easier.

For example, if you’re due in a meeting that you know you don’t have the capacity to be present at (physically or mentally), there are more options than simply going or not going.  As Alison suggests, you could attend some but not all of the meeting, give someone your notes to take along, join the meeting via Skype to avoid unnecessary travel, talk to someone on the phone to get the key points, or send a representative in your place.

Go guilt-free

So many of us want to live a big, bold life. We want to influence the world around us and do grand, amazing things. And yet, we often come to the realisation that this desire impacts our energy, time, health and well-being.

Alison came to a point where she was completely overwhelmed. Her ongoing worry was that if she were to drop just one ball, her whole world would come crashing down. When she finally allowed herself a day to rest and recuperate, there was so much noise reverberating in her head: “What are you doing? You can’t do this! This is valuable family time! How can you be so selfish that you take a day for yourself?”

Yet, she argues, it has to be ok to just let it all go. Hating yourself for being selfish will mean you don’t get anything out of this reset time. Spending time justifying your actions to yourself and alleviating guilt lays on too much pressure to be perfect; to be high-achieving even in a time that’s supposed to be relaxing.

Support freak outs

If you’ve managed to maintain your boundaries and reined in your lifestyle to reach a level of contentment, how do you then support those around you who are going through a period of freaking out, checking out and burning out?

When someone enters a meeting flustered or agitated, the natural response is to go into solution or fix-it mode. Your troubleshooting instinct is to immediately get to the bottom of what’s going on and determine how to fix it so they (and you) can move on.

Whilst this can be useful, Alison argues that the most important response is compassion. Think about what you can do right now for that person. It might be as simple as making them a cup of tea or listening while they get something off their chest. Or it might be something they can’t talk about at that moment, and need some time away from the office.

It’s also important to avoid taking on a colleague’s freak out as your own. Often we can find ourselves getting caught up in a story that may have nothing to do with us. Let that go, listen, support and focus on being a role model instead.

Live a stand-out life

The idea of living a stand-out life conjures up images of fame, celebrity and influence. But, for Alison, that’s not the point. This point is really focusing on building alignment between your intention and your purpose.

Having a clear sense of purpose can transform even everyday things – such as conversations with a colleague or time spent with your children. Ask yourself: why am I having this conversation, why am I spending time doing this activity? What is the intent, and does it match with my overall purpose? Then act accordingly.

Standing out comes from a combination of decisions. However most importantly, it involves focusing on the things that light you up. Then deciding to no longer waste precious energy on anything that involves you freaking out, checking out or burning out.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or http://juliemasters.com/inside-influence/.

How To “Flip” Fear As A Driver To Greater Influence

Everyone – without exception – lives with fear. But only a few know that fear and anxiety can be turned to your advantage. Influence guru Julie Masters discusses the keys to dealing with fear with former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb.

Whether we’re in critical negotiations with suppliers, asking for a raise at work or presenting in front of our peers, fear is one of those unwanted emotions that we find ourselves encountering all too often.

Like it or not though, fear is something we have to deal with, and the sooner we can make it work for us, the more effective and influential we can be in our own lives.

Recently I was fortunate enough to interview Brandon Webb on the Inside Influence podcast to talk about doing just that.

Webb is a former US Navy SEAL sniper who worked as an experimental aircraft pilot, helicopter Search & Rescue swimmer and an Aviation Warfare Systems Operator.

After completing four deployments to the Middle East, you would be forgiven for assuming that Webb is as close as they come to being fearless.

It’s surprising to learn then, that Webb had to deal with his own fears and anxieties throughout his entire military career, gradually teaching himself how to identify and change the conversation that took place in his head.

Webb has since left the military and has gone on to become a successful entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author, sharing the journey he has had with fear and the methods he has used to overcome it in his book Mastering Fear.

Webb’s message is applicable to anyone facing fear, no matter the context – whether it’s being involved in a life-or-death situation, or standing up in front of work colleagues to deliver a presentation.

Here are Webb’s five tips on mastering fear to increase your influence.

Redirect the momentum

If you see fear as the enemy, you’ve already lost.

Fear can never be overcome, beaten, or evaded. The feeling of fear is part of our physiology and treating it as an adversary will only set you up for failure.

Rather than treating fear as a wall that you need to break through, Webb suggests using the power of fear as a force to harness and redirect.

Try to observe and acknowledge the feelings that come up – the adrenaline, the nerves, the tension – and use those feelings to propel you to achieve the task that’s in front of you.

It’s the difference between telling yourself “I’m not scared”, versus admitting “I am scared, but I’m going to use these feelings to help me move through this situation.”

Imagine what you could achieve if you stopped fearing fear itself. How many times would you put your hand up to speak? Offer your expertise or ideas? Request that seat at the table – confidently backed up with all the reasons you can add significant value?

Flip the mental switch

We’ve all been told that staying at our peak is more about mindset than it is about our physical state, and mastering fear is no different.

Monitoring, recognising and changing your internal dialogue – the mental chatter in your own head – is a key step in mastering fear.

This often involves taking a step back from the situation that’s brought up those feelings, recognising those feelings for what they are, and making a conscious decision to take a different direction rather than remaining overwhelmed.

Despite what we may think about what it takes to be a Navy SEAL, Webb points out that mastering fear isn’t about being stronger, tougher or more aggressive. It’s simply about being able to change the conversation going on in your head – something anybody can do. 

The most influential people I have ever met – in industries, politics and organisations – all have that ability in spades. The ability to identify the internal story that keeps them – or their idea – on the sidelines. Then shift it to one of empowerment.

As a place to start, ask yourself these questions: What currently stops me from making the highest value contribution I could make to this space / industry / conversation? What would be the first step in letting that story go? How would I feel if I did?

Use the charge

A typical adrenaline rush (a hormonal symptom of fear) can briefly turn us into superhumans – our heart rate increases, our blood pressure spikes, we can take in more air, and our blood is quickly redistributed to our muscles for increased strength.

Webb likens these physical changes to a “static charge” that can be harnessed to electrify rather than paralyse us.

Successful procurement professionals proactively seek out this charge as one of nature’s best tools to sharpen their abilities when they’re under pressure, especially in tough negotiation settings.

Harnessing this energy is a great way to take fear and proactively use it to move forward, rather than remaining paralysed when the going gets tough.

So the next time you feel the charge – stop, feel it – and then consciously decide to channel it as the super human burst of energy it was designed to be.

Use fear in rehearsal

When Webb was working as a search and rescue helicopter pilot, he very nearly lost his life when a mission went wrong.

One of the two pilots he was on a flight with suddenly suffered from vertigo, dropping the helicopter from altitude and plunging its bottom half into the ocean.

The pilot was overwhelmed by fear – unable to act or respond to the crew screaming at him to regain altitude.

The co-pilot, however, was able to calmly lift the helicopter out of the water and back into the air, saving the lives of Webb and the other crew members.

Webb’s theory is that the panicked pilot had, until that point, rarely experienced a level of adversity or stress throughout his life – that would have allowed him to work through the situation in his head. He had effectively ‘frozen up’.

His co-pilot however, had come from a lifetime of adversity. He had been bullied at school when he was younger and had grown up having to mentally work through his fears in order to carry on successfully.

Webb recommends that even people who have led a comparably stress-free life can artificially rehearse the feeling of fear – by role-playing frightening situations and having to move through a level of decision-making to get to an effective outcome.

You might be familiar with role-playing at work – usually practicing ideal scenarios – but how many of us role play difficult scenarios? Where we’re really challenged to make tough decisions and actually work through our fears?

So what now?

While we’re all undoubtedly going to experience fear throughout our lives – especially in the quest to become more influential. The tools that we have on hand to deal with that experience can make all the difference when it comes to cracking under pressure or rallying successfully.

So as a first step – start recognising fear as an energy source that can be harnessed, that we can make work for us in incredible and unlimited ways. If you can master that – you will have truly ‘flipped’ the power of fear to your advantage.


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3 Ways To Amplify The Profile Of Your Procurement Team

Influence expert Julie Masters demonstrates how online employee advocacy can supercharge the amplification and cut-through of your procurement content.

By Africa Studio/ Shutterstock

While we’re all searching for the latest and greatest way to get our company and brand out there, you might be surprised to find one of the most effective and underutilised methods sitting right under your nose.

Employee advocacy, where employees share company content and stories about what they’re doing at the office and the projects they’re working on, is now seen by some as the holy grail of content marketing.

Compared to the traditional method of sending out communication on social channels via the ‘company account’, employee advocates are shown to have exponential reach and have far more trust in the marketplace than a company or brand ever could.

MSL Group has shown that brand messages shared through personal social media accounts are re-shared 24 times more than when that same content is posted by the brand itself.

The reach is also substantially more via an employee network. Recent studies show that if you were to add together the contacts of all the employees in your company, that network would be 600 times larger than the network of the company itself.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, those surveyed were also twice as likely to trust communication from an employee than the CEO themselves.

These factors make employee advocates a significantly more powerful amplifier than a single channel of communication from the company or brand could ever reach alone.

And it’s not always about gathering more ‘Likes’ or having a positive public persona.

Nearly 10 years ago, IBM managed to harness the power of employee advocacy to show how it could translate directly to the bottom line.

Back in 2008, and faced with one of the largest recessions they had seen, the marketing team at IBM launched the “Smarter Planet” campaign.

The campaign was designed to explain how a new generation of intelligent systems (the Internet of Things) and technologies could be put to use for profound impact and to encourage further thinking.

Rather than lean on an advertising agency to create the message via the traditional mediums, the team at IBM peopled these ads with the company’s own employees.

They went deep into the organisation to uncover the stories, expertise, knowledge, and insights that were held by specialists who already worked at IBM.

They shone a light on the people who worked with them – from master inventors down to systems engineers.

But they didn’t stop there.

IBM also asked their customers to partner with them, shining a light on the customers own technological challenges and aspirations live on camera.

The result was nothing short of extraordinary, with IBM’s own employees and customers amplifying the campaign exponentially, rocketing IBM’s share price by 64% that year (against a market average in their space of 14%) and generating $3 billion in additional revenue.

This is a great example of the power of employee advocacy, the power of storytelling and shining a light on the amazing work that was being done within IBM.

But having employees enthusiastic to talk to others about the work they do, let alone share it on social media, can be easier said than done. Current data indicates that only 3% of employees currently engage in advocacy for their own company.

Clearly employees aren’t rushing over themselves to advocate for their company and there a number of hurdles that need to be overcome to really gain traction and make it a success.

1. Set boundaries but stay flexible

While there are hundreds of stories online about employees being sacked or disciplined for an ill-advised post on social media, the good news is that many of those posts were inappropriate by most standards.

In a work environment where mistakes can have severe consequences, it’s understandable that employees can be nervous about posting content that is considered ‘appropriate’ for the company.

A social media policy that is clear enough to stay within company guidelines but flexible enough to allow personalities to shine through can be a good start to lifting employee engagement around company activities.

Having designated communication ambassadors within each team – those who have a passion and talent for social sharing – can also be a good strategy for sharing and generating quality content around company activity if it’s not suitable for all.

2. Stay curious and dig for gold

One reason employees may not actively post company content is that they think what they do isn’t interesting to others.

This is often a mistaken view, as what may seem familiar and uninteresting to some are just as likely to be fascinating to others who value an insight into the working life of a procurement pro.

This could be anything from case studies to project experiences to “a day in the life” examples – anything that gives insight into the unique experiences that the company undertakes and is involved with.

And don’t forget, social posts are just one piece of the mosaic being created online which shows a vibrant, active team that others will want to investigate and join.

3. Get buy-in to amplify results

The third reason people avoid sharing company content is that employees only prefer to share information about projects in which they’ve had personal ownership or ‘co-created’.

As we saw in the IBM example though, a well-crafted theme that threads an inspiring idea throughout the whole organisation can be enough to band together otherwise unrelated departments and activities.

Drawing on the underlying ‘why’ that inspires your procurement team to do what they do, or championing a cause that is close to the heart of your company can be enough to drive your team to want to share what they do with the outside world.

So what does that mean for your team?

It’s clear to see that employee advocates can be a powerful way to build the company message in the marketplace, provided there is support from the top that allows a more democratic form of communication.

It doesn’t always have to be about the wins either.

Using social media to amplify important company changes can be equally effective – if it might otherwise be missed through the traditional office channels or intranet.

If there is a whole team of procurement professionals and stakeholders enthusiastically spruiking the benefits of the change, your message is much more likely to have cut-through.

Similarly, if individual members of your procurement team make the effort to share stories about their challenges, successes and day-to-day work, this can also serve to build up an online profile of your organisation that will make your team visible and attractive to top talent as well.

As a bottom line – what IBM learnt in 2008, and what we still know now – is that the most impactful form of communication is human stories. Preferably told by real, passionate people with a clear intention to drive things forward.

Identify those people in your team – bring them on board – give them clear boundaries – and then cheer them from the sidelines for having the courage to contribute.

Now that’s a procurement team with influence.

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How To Stand Out Through Radical Optimism

Is your news stream flooded with negativity? Do you unknowingly pass this negativity on to others? Perhaps it’s time to try something radical and be optimistic.

By Dean Drobot/ Shutterstock

As a species, the human race is hard-wired to react more strongly to fear and bad news than to positivity.

If you think back to our ancient ancestors living as hunter-gatherers, this biological reaction made sense. It was necessary to keep them alive in the wild, where curiosity about an ‘unknown’ within their environment was more likely to lead to death than it was to a positive experience.

In today’s world however, such life-threatening situations are rarely experienced, yet we still find our monkey brains on high-alert, fed by stories of drama, outrage and anxiety via social media and 24/7 news feeds.

These dramatic, fear-based headlines that are so common in today’s media prey on our anxiety and insecurity and leave us cautious at the best of times.

We find ourselves unable to think rationally or creatively or produce solutions that might otherwise benefit those around us.

I recently discussed this issue on my Inside Influence podcast with Dr Angus Hervey and Tane Hunter, the co-founders of Future Crunch.

Future Crunch believes that if we want to be more influential in our work environment, to think more creatively and produce solutions to problems that might otherwise remain unsolved – we need to become more conscious of maintaining a ‘healthy diet’ when it comes to the information we consume and share.

So how do we do that?

Change your information diet

The first step is to think of your consumption of news in terms of a diet.

Negativity is like junk food – it’s fine to consume every so often but indulge too much and your mental state will start to suffer.

Just like the physical body, the majority of your mental diet – the information you consume each and every day – should consist of healthier options that nurture, nourish and energise you rather than prey on your mental fears and anxieties.

Remember, all media news feeds (including newspapers) as designed to ‘feed’ us information that we have shown interest in in the past. Each and every time we click on headlines that promote anger, outrage and drama we’re telling these companies that we want to see more of the same.

It’s essential that we make a more conscious choice around the ‘information diet’ that we consume, to minimise the negative information stream and make sure that we’re staying in a productive and healthy mindset.

Now – let’s be clear – this does not mean ignoring important information in relation to your field, industry or the world at large. It helps no one to stick your head in the sand and pretend that bad things aren’t happening.

What this means is that – if you can maintain a healthy balance in what you consume – you will be more resilient when the bad things appear on the horizon. This means you will be able to easily think of effective and creative solutions. As opposed to being so beaten down and overwhelmed – that a fast and considered response is impossible.

Use optimism to stand out

Politicians from Julius Caesar to Donald Trump have always known that fear, drama and outrage are an incredibly effective tool for capturing the attention of others.

Take the rise of automation, for example. How many headlines have you seen out there that focus on the negative possibilities of robotics, such as mass unemployment or even an existential threat to the human race? Good news stories about how robotics will improve our quality of life tend to be lost among the negative noise because – again – we are hard-wired to pay attention to bad news.  

But here’s the secret. If a single person in your network, your organisation or your team chose to reframe these developments. Took the time to research, communicate, or write a list of exactly what opportunities these situations might create – would they stand out?

The answer is absolutely yes. To stand against this negative tide and broadcast their message through optimism and positivity – they’ll get noticed. Not only that – but my money is that that person will be the one invited to the table, offered the promotion or requested at the next high-level meeting.

The positive alternative

Overcoming our hard-wired preference for negativity isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Environmentalists around the globe are today coming to understand that they’ve made a critical error in spreading the message about global warming through a narrative of fear – talking about the disastrous consequences of climate change certainly won everyone’s attention, but progress has been slow.

Compare that to the new messages that are now appearing – where we’re being shown the limitless possibilities of renewable technologies and a greener world. Where we’re being given real and actionable ideas to help the situation.

Now that’s an approach to influence that will change things.

Optimism in procurement

Most procurement professionals will one day face the challenge of trying to get their business stakeholders on board with some sort of change agenda – whether it’s getting them to use a new system, reducing maverick spend, or simply engaging procurement earlier in their decision-making processes.

There are two ways to get people on board – through fear or positivity.

It’s a bit more complex than the carrot versus stick approach, but it boils down to replacing threats and cajoling with a positive, what’s-in-it-for-you message.

Instead of telling stakeholders that failing to engage with procurement will risk their project or earn them a slap on the wrist, educate them instead about the benefits – lower costs, higher savings, and better outcomes that align with their goals.

In the end, you want stakeholders to come on board with your initiative out of enthusiasm rather than out of fear.

In short, be aware of the power of fear and replace it with positivity wherever you can. Most of us made a 2019 New Year’s resolution to improve our diet – now it’s time to pay just as much attention on the fuel we give (and offer) our minds.

The Three Keys To Building More Influence

How are you letting perfection get in the way of offering an important (and influential) contribution?  

By Rawpixel.com /Shutterstock

Have you ever wondered why some people are able to lead and influence those around them while others are left out in the cold?

They may be less charismatic, a poor presenter or frightfully timid, yet they influenced the other party enough to move them through to a decision where perhaps you couldn’t?

In many cases, the element that stood them apart from the crowd was nothing more than trust – trust that that person was genuine, capable and had the integrity to stand by their word.

Confucius said: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”. Voltaire wrote: “Perfect is the enemy of good”.

In decades past, huge fortunes were made by organisations that understood this. Companies like General Electric, Westinghouse and Ford Motor Company all dominated their respective fields through this principle.

Very little has changed since those days – despite the increasing sophistication of advertising and corporate shine. The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey claims that only 33% of people now trust brands, while 90% of people trust service or individual recommendations directly from people they ‘feel’ they know.

I want you to pay attention to that last part – ‘feel they know’. What does it take to feel you know someone?

In my world that’s called influence. It involves sharing enough of yourself so that I trust your intent. It involves stepping out and letting your voice be heard. Having the courage to leave the jargon behind – and share real insights, predictions and opportunities based on the hard yards of your experience.

Those who can build this level of connection – either online or in your organisation – generate more engagement, have a greater impact on decision-making, a more frequent seat at the table and face less opposition when it comes to implementing change.

So how do we do it?

More process, less perfect

If the average social media feed – or corporate presentation – were to be believed, just about every single one of us would look like we’re a) getting the perfect results b) enjoying an endless cycle of tropical beach holidays, or c) tucking into the world’s best meal in the fanciest restaurant in town.

If we’re looking to create real engagement, a ‘polished and perfect’ image just won’t cut it.

It takes courage to show vulnerability and let people know that our results and lives aren’t always perfect (and therefore we aren’t always perfect). And yet – here’s the irony. That’s exactly the most impactful thing we can reveal.

Show me a mistake you made – and I will know you have the courage to pick yourself back up when things go wrong – the curiosity to get to the bottom of what doesn’t work – and the tenacity to keep going until a better solution is found.

Tell me about a question you haven’t been able to answer yet – and I will feel invited to contribute – impressed by your determination to always get better – and connected in the shared vulnerability of not knowing it all.

Essentially – I will feel something. As opposed to the disconnection we are often left with when only someone’s ‘best moments’ are shared.

Be intentional and capable

While we don’t want to portray a picture-perfect image, that doesn’t mean that we should be showing up looking tired, unprofessional or underprepared either.

If our goal is to build trust and influence others then it’s far more effective to be intentional, and to reveal those intentions to our target audience, rather than flounder around without direction.

We need to show that we’re capable of handling the challenges that are thrown at us. We might make mistakes along the way, but we also need to make it crystal clear that we have a clear direction about how we will move forward despite setbacks.

Talking about what is important to us, the ideas behind our intentions, the experiences that led us to those ideas and our goals for the future – these are the traits of trusted leaders.

Take us on a journey

If you’ve been working on your project for weeks and had to scrap the whole concept and start again with a new approach, write about it!

Create a monthly update for your team or stakeholders. Start a blog. Let your audience know that you are there to out-contribute everyone else in your field. That you’re willing to share what you’ve learnt, and as a result the future trends, opportunities or challenges you see coming in your field.

They’ll appreciate the fact that you’re letting them follow your journey – and will value the end result infinitely more if they know your history and feel involved in the process along the way.

It also gives them more exposure to you as a person, and the longer they keep you in their lives, the more likely they are to trust you.

Many project managers make the mistake of keeping their project under wraps until it’s 100% complete – and ready to reveal to their organisation with a big fanfare.

The problem with that plan is that the audience hasn’t been taken along on the journey – so the end-product they’re presented with fails to get any attention. A little like watching the final five minutes of a movie and trying to care about the characters or plot!

So – what’s the bottom line?

I want you to take a step back from any place where perfection is currently holding you back. From engagement, from sharing your mastery, experience or insights. From essentially stepping out and actually being seen.

Then I want you to ask yourself these questions – what passionately imperfect contribution could I make here? How am I hiding behind technical language and not revealing the real story or opportunity? How can I invite others to contribute and engage with the outcome?

Do those things – and I promise you will significantly increase your influence (and results) in all the places where it counts. J

Become The Translator for Your Procurement Network

You may have thousands of contacts in your professional network, but how many of them are you actually influencing?  

By Lemon Tree Images / Shutterstock

In the age of big data, “vanity metrics” are a plague that affect every profession. Anyone who has a website, for example, will know that page views and “likes” may make you feel good, but are very difficult to link with key business drivers.

Vanity metrics to watch out for in procurement might include measuring team activity, counting your total POs, your number of suppliers, or number of projects without actually measuring the value that they’re delivering. A team member who brags that they’ve had 100 meetings with key suppliers in the past six months is talking about a vanity metric, but if that same person provides numbers around the savings and other value flowing from those meetings, then we’re talking about real value. 

Online networking is another area rife with vanity metrics. No matter whether you have 500, 5000 or 10,000 connections across LinkedIn, Procurious and other platforms, your network risks being nothing more than a dormant asset unless you contribute. By “contribute”, I don’t mean that you “like” something they wrote or share photos of your holiday – I mean that you share your mastery, your insights and your experience. For the majority of us, it’s rare that we contribute meaningfully to our networks.    

Remove the collection addiction

I believe we have a collection addiction in the business world. In previous years we collected piles of business cards wrapped in rubber bands – which often (if you’re anything like me) ended up gathering dust on a forgotten corner of the desk. These days it’s about racking up the number of connections either online or within our databases.

Both these situations have the same outcome – a massive potential network and no influence. I would rather you have 50 people who are highly engaged in everything that you do – commenting, joining the conversation and sharing your insights among their own networks – than 5000 people on a list that have never been touched.

In other words, popularity is the wrong metric – focus instead on influence. Focus on having people engaged enough with what you’re doing – so much so that they would happily share your ideas, insights and achievements with everybody that they know. In other words influence is the ability to say ‘look over there’ and have people engaged enough to look. Your responsibility then becomes making sure that what you point them towards, what you contribute, is and valuable as possible.

Engage rather than collect

While collecting contacts is a vanity metric, engaging with contacts is a value-driving activity. The best way I know how to engage with others online is to become the ‘primary translator’ of your space.

A translator is someone who goes out into the areas where others don’t have the time, nor the bandwidth, nor the experience to go, and bring relevant information back for their network in a language they understand. If you want to stand out and build your influence, you need to become the translator of valuable information for your target audience. What does that look like? The best place to start is to make a list of the top questions the people you are wanting to influence are asking in relation to your area of expertise. If you’re not sure – ask! Then systematically go through that list and find the best way to contribute the answers. It might be in the form of articles, videos, internal presentations, checklists, how to guides, insight reports or even preparing in advance in order to contribute more actively in meetings.

Another good exercise is to take a moment to think about the translators that you follow. Whose work do you consistently follow or read? Now think about what they translate for you; the value they bring, and how they go about it – do they present the information in essay-length blog articles, or bite-sized posts? If you consistently give them your valuable attention – I guarantee you they effectively translate something important to your world.

Speak the language of the business

You’ll notice I mentioned that the first step in becoming the translator – is getting to know what questions are important to the people you’re trying to reach. For procurement professionals this means understanding what questions your business stakeholders are asking. What are their challenges? What are their opportunities? That they may or may not have seen? Then it’s up to you to access your own expertise and bring that information back to them – not in procurement technical language, but in their language – in the language they already speak.

Translators know that they need to be able to speak the language of the business, and also understand that a multitude of languages exist within every organisation. This is often referred to as ‘charismatic language’. Every group and community of people has one. Your finance function, for example, will speak a very different language – use very different and specific words – than your stakeholders in marketing. What they do have in common, however, is that neither group of stakeholders will want to hear you talk about RFPs, RFXs, or tenders.

Become the trusted authority

Take time to revisit your network of stakeholder (both online and in the office) and think about what subjects you can translate for them – within your area of expertise. Doing so will capture their attention and help build their perception of you as an influential subject matter expert. However – much larger than that. They will know that you care about – and have real value to share in relation to – the issues that are important to them.

It’s this decision – to become your organisations primary translator and contribute your mastery in a format that resonates – that will quickly accelerate you to the role of trusted authority.

Now that’s the metric of real influence.