Why (and How) to Build More Influence at Your Company
When it comes to presenting at board meetings, quarterly reviews with leaders, or even internal lunch-and-learns, tech folks are often not the go-to speakers. We’ve all had that moment when we know we’re doing the great work that moves our company forward, but we’re brought back down to earth by someone who just doesn’t get what we do.
No matter your title, it’s likely that no one outside your immediate department is particularly aware of your contributions, especially if your work is more day-to-day operations, or worse, behind-the-scenes, rather than the big splashy public reveal. Sometimes you might not even recognize the impact you’re having. I once had a conversation with the head of engineering where I asked him to reprioritize the development of a feature as it could bring in an extra $50,000,00 in revenue. He told me no one had ever attached the work his team was doing to a revenue number! I kindly reminded him that all of our revenue was due to us having a product that his team had built — an important detail that somehow still gets lost sometimes.
My engineering colleague could have benefited immensely from a strategy to build influence with other members of our organization. Helping others understand the value and impact you and your team have is essential for moving up in your career, for job security, and for staying motivated. From your peers and colleagues to your manager and the executive team, the more influence you wield, the more you can control the narrative, and hopefully the more fulfilling job and career you have.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but how do you achieve this? Read on.
3 Tips to Build Influence Within Your Company
- Identify touchpoints in the organization
- Learn how to speak the language of your key stakeholders
- Go outside your team to develop influence
Identify Touchpoints in the Organization
The first thing I do in any role is identify the “touchpoints” I have throughout the company. These are the areas that go beyond my own department or projects but where I can still have influence. I take a look at which programs within my company are most strategic, and how I can make an impact on them from my role.
People think of marketing as a lead generation function. But I discovered I have touchpoints across the entire customer journey: I could help define feature sets for product, use marketing intel to help develop scripts for sales, and create content for easy adoption and onboarding for customer success. When you put these together for your role, you can map out influence in a way that increases your visibility and, quite frankly, your chances of success at the organization.
Learn How To Speak the Language of Your Key Stakeholders
As you look across the organization to understand where you can build influence, it’s key to develop a strong understanding of other people’s goals, pains, and even the language they use and the way they look at things. In marketing, we talk about marketing qualified leads, but if you’re talking with sales or your CEO, revenue is what’s important. Tailor your reports with that in mind.
I was working with our head of customer success one time, and she complained that product never shifted the roadmap based on what customers needed most. She asked if I could help her explain to product why it was critical. We built a short deck with some points that helped put context around the impact these changes would have. The explanation helped product and engineering understand the value of the changes. And we built up trust, which then allowed the customer success head to have more influence. She no longer was in a defensive mode when trying to explain things and get features on the roadmap or reprioritized.
No matter your role in an organization, it’s important to spend time thinking about, learning, and getting to know what is important to everyone else. When you’re talking to people outside of your sphere, shift your language so they relate, become enthusiastic, and figure out ways to work together with you. This is a surprisingly simple step that many people overlook when they’re working across teams.
Go Outside Your Team To Develop Influence
When people think about increasing visibility, they might consider ways they can get face time with executives or managers that have sway over their career. But the best way to develop influence is by identifying the key stakeholders for success wherever they’re at on your company’s org chart.
I once had a tense boardroom moment where I shared some key marketing results that seemed to fall on deaf ears — so I had follow-up conversations with the sales team and some board members. We shared our definition of a true lead, and together agreed on the definition, so the next time I made a plan or reported progress we’d be on the same page. We also spent some time defining what our targets and company goals really were so that we had an agreed-upon definition of success.
Building influence within your company means getting a seat at the table, where decisions are made, and presenting the value you provide to the company in a more expansive way. You’re doing this work already, but branding it as your own, and following simple communication principles to help people understand it better, will help everyone else understand you’re a rock star, too.