Influence is a key leadership skill, and we'll be talking about it throughout April. I want to kick off the discussion by looking at a blind spot some women have around influence: the power and influence of their network. As an executive coach who specializes in working with high-performing women leaders, I've noticed that women often don't think about whether their networks include the right influencers to help them achieve their business or professional goals.
This involves taking a step beyond creating a network of leaders who support you. It's also making sure that people with the power and influence to help you advance your goals are in this group.
Think about the business results you have committed to delivering or how you want to take your career to the next level. Who needs to be on board to make your goals happen? Be strategic about making sure that your network includes those people.
This approach can make some people uncomfortable, so I want to stress something. Being strategic about who's in your network does not mean you have to be disingenuous. Sometimes women get stuck here because they assume that they can't strategically build their network and still be authentic.
I help the leaders I work with learn how to add key influencers to their network in a way that’s true to who they are. I'll tell you what I tell my clients: Start by clarifying your intent around your network-building. In other words, how would it benefit the organization and your team, even if you will personally benefit? With that in mind, what words would you use to engage someone while keeping your values and leadership principles in mind? If you are someone who is always focused on doing the right thing for the business or adding value, below are three examples of what you might say to initiate a conversation.
“I want to learn more about the priorities and challenges in your part of the business so that my team knows how to best work with you and develops solutions to meet your needs. Can we schedule 15 minutes to talk?”
“I want to keep expanding my knowledge of the business, so I better understand where my skills and experience can add the most value. Can we meet for a few minutes?”
“I’m committed to growing and learning, so I can fully leverage my skills at the company. Can we meet for a few minutes so I can ask you what’s made the biggest difference in your career?”
This week, I challenge you to identify and engaging one influential person in a way that aligns with your values. Let me know how it turns out.