Are you an influencer or an individual who impacts your client’s business? I met with a long-term partner recently and, as we caught up, he asked me a fascinating question. Now that you’re recognized as an influencer in many of the fields you work in globally, is your job harder or easier?
This person has known me for over 30 years. He was with me during the times in my life when I needed flexibility to take care of terminal parents, friends and family members. He was next to me asking great questions when I worked in hospice. His question didn’t just get me thinking, it stopped me in my tracks. Not an easy task when you’re as active as I am.
I thought I’d share my answer as I kick off the next phase of my business and life. I realized that as I became an influencer, I started to see part of what made my unique leadership brand change. I even started to worry about achieving bigger and bigger numbers. Vanity numbers as CMO friend calls them. I got a bad case of the vanities.
As an influencer, you are responsible for impacting more and more potential people. You may even discover that your partners do not have a well-thought-out strategy on how to align their influencer program with the organization’s strategic goals. Outside influencers only get limited time with senior executive leadership, if any. Oddly, we outside influencers get more time than their own social strategists.
Over the last year, I’ve spent more time with the many. I’ve invested less time with the critical few who could help me better understand the state of an emerging market. I even started to believe industry hype and promises.
My father used to say the only person you must answer to is the person in the mirror and, after a few moments, he would say and help others see themselves more clearly. This was why I became a trusted performance partner to my best clients. My father would have insisted being an effective influencer was about helping others see and better understand their options. Then help them develop the strengths they need to get there. You should be there to greet them before they arrive.
One of my earliest clients was an influencer. He spent his life teaching engineers both inside and outside the company how to see the impossible and make it real. He would speak at every conference talking about the technologies his teams were developing. He was everywhere. He was an influencer before it became a popular marketing idea.
He even brought me in to teach his graduate students and new product development teams how engineers can become more creative. It was such a radical concept at the time. My client’s Dean for the School of Engineering got a call from an employer saying why was this Professor wasting his engineers’ valuable time. We didn’t pay all that money to help our engineers to be more creative.
My friend and client had the ability to help others see the future. He did this through his ability to influence other people. He brought in people like me to help shape the conversation with his executive bosses.
Part of being an effective influencer is the ability to see and apply new technologies and capabilities for future use. He allowed his engineers to dream. His ideas are starting to show up in the marketplace now almost 20 years later. Our work together is considered a foundational element of the Internet of Things.
Would you ever consider using an influencer to shape the direction of your company, and your market, for future generations? You can’t generate influence by sharing content alone. Part of the role of influencer, or its predecessor, marketing strategist, is help you shape conversations both inside and outside your organization. Good influencers are good at marketing strategy and creating new market opportunities.
But to get back to my partner’s question, I realize being an influencer has made my job harder. I believe I have less influence today than I have in the past. In the past, I would pick up a phone. I could get a return call from Fortune 100 CEOs, INC 500 entrepreneurs, governors, senators, or doctors working on advanced medical procedures. Just about anybody returned my calls because they saw me as an influencer on what they did.
Many of today’s up and coming leaders are very good at avoiding calls. Then they wonder why their sales teams can’t get through.
I had an incredible amount of influence on the markets I was working in. Today, I might write a blog in hopes of attracting their attention. Might even write a guest blog on a large platform no one is reading any more.
I’m going back to my influencer tool of choice…the telephone. Many older leaders take at least one call. Make sure it’s a good one! Younger leaders love texts. My Apple iPhone 7 plus does both. The influencer returns!
So now that I’ve answered my clients most challenging question with a clear and concise answer. I will share what his follow up question was. Great coaches always can laser focus on what’s really happening in their clients’ lives. They have built-in smoke detectors.
His follow up question was more powerful than his first. He asked, “How do you want to impact the world as you move into the second half of your life?”
A powerful question, one that made me wonder if I might ever find the answer. I’ve been working on this question for much of my life. But one night it came to me, as most of the other important things that have shaped my life.
After reading a great spiritual text and I meditated on its deeper meaning. In other words, I fell asleep. I woke up instantly and knew I had found the right answer for me, but you’ll have to wait until next week to find out what it is!
See you next week.