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