I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Office Influencers are in High Demand” that talked about the efforts companies are making to engage, and dare I say “use,” those who are good connectors and in turn, good influencers. Salesforce.com has an internal platform called “Chatter” and elevated those who post and comment a lot to an elite class called “chatterati.” Let’s be clear, in every office, company or environment there are always one or two people who are great at engaging, knowing and influencing behavior, ideas and thoughts, and this is nothing new. What is new is the effort to identify and engage these people for the benefit of the company.
The article defines Influencer Traits as:
- Outgoing: Extroverted and exuberant but also good self-monitors.
- Empathetic: Approachable and able to sympathize.
- Accessible: Fully present and welcoming.
- Energizing: Fellow employees feel invigorated by them.
- Optimistic: The focus on solutions, not what can’t work.
Just to be clear, I have no problem with doing this because it identifies a person’s “gift” or “talent” and helps them to become better at it. Essentially, it’s like placing a professional sports player in the right role and in the zone. Nirvana. What I do have a problem with is saying that all employees should do this, as some companies have done. It’s like asking a musician to become an IT specialist. One size does not fit all
And a really good influencer will only do so for good – meaning they are not going to support something or someone they don’t believe in just because they are on the payroll or told to do so. I do think it’s important to look around your company and identify those who you feel are the influencers and be aware of who their current circles include. Then you should ask yourself, how can I help them help me? What are you both aligned on or what do you need to be aligned on to help the company? What do they need help with? Leadership training? More time to help engage the team? Communication training? There will be something that they are interested in learning or doing, because it’s how they are wired. Make it a two-way street and you have a winning combination.
If you attempt to use the influencer to promote something that is not aligned with their beliefs, you will have it backfire on you very quickly. Be sure there is very clear alignment at the beginning and get out of the way and watch good things happen
The traits we are talking about are also the traits of great salespeople or account managers so perhaps you may want to promote your newly identified influencers? Another great place to have them help you is outside of the company, with PR and connecting with those you’ve been unable to get an audience with. Influencers know people and they know how to get to those they don’t know. They are like human versions of LinkedIn.
Influencers and connectors are essential in any successful business, just be sure to identify it as a talent and don’t expect everyone to be as good as the naturals – and don’t take it as a negative if someone does not have these skills as they will, (or at least should), have other important gifts and skills to contribute to the team.