Titles often conceal what capabilities lie dormant in someone or what value they are adding to the organization.
I just got done watching Netflix’s new Jack Ryan series. This Jack Ryan is played by John Krasinski (better known as Jim Halpert on The Office). In contrast to others who have played this role (Harrison Ford, Chris Pine, Alex Baldwin, and Ben Affleck) Krasinski really is believable as “just an analyst.” Though he gets picked up from picnic parties in a helicopter, plays cat and mouse with seasoned bad guys, and spearheads a hostage rescue, there is a part of you that thinks he would be content spending the rest of his life behind a desk, looking at Excel spreadsheets, drinking coffee, and clocking 9 to 5.

Hence the uselessness of titles. They often conceal what capabilities lie dormant in someone or what value they are adding to the organization.

Prevailing management theory seems to have recognized this. Deloitte’s 2018 Workforce Trends Survey1 finds: “88 percent of respondents were reorganizing their companies into a flatter, more networked team structure—2017’s number-one trend.”

Because what is happening in workplaces around the world is exactly what is happening in the Jack Ryan series; people are taking on more responsibilities and are accountable for solving problems beyond their functional area. Again from Deloitte; “In 2018, 91 percent of respondents say that their organizations’ employees spend time on projects outside their functional area, and 35 percent say that employees do so on a regular basis.”

It is a truly liberating trend. Because an analyst is no longer just an analyst. But rather someone with influence, if they want it. This is especially true in today’s more flat, agile workforce where traditional hierarchies have given way to distributed leadership characterized by both top-down and bottom-up decision-making.2

What It Takes To Be An Influencer

Curiosity, according to Forbes3 contributor, Mark Fidelman, is perhaps the most important attribute of an influencer. These are the people that ask, “What’s important here?” They have other qualities as well including:
  • Ease with public speaking
  • Ability to make the mundane interesting
  • Exceptional interpersonal skills
  • Passion about interests
  • Ability to find the positive in things

But becoming an influencer at work is not always easy. Nick Morgan4, author, “Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact,” shared with Harvard Business Review (HBR) the difficulty of catching and keeping people’s attention in high-pressure work environments:

“It’s never been harder to influence others, because they’ve never been more distracted,” he says. “Information overload and the pace of our digital lives have [led to short attention spans].” And yet, “it’s more important than ever to be able to command influence, because of the increased pressure on getting results.”

Experts in influence building advise using the following techniques to overcome this difficulty:
  • Build connections
  • Listen before you try to persuade
  • Mind your body language (and your tone)
  • Develop expertise
  • Map a strategy
  • Give people what they want

What HBR makes clear is influencing is all about connecting.

One of the best ways to make the connections necessary for becoming an influencer is to join a professional association like IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants). IMA offers a host of professional networking opportunities including a members-only online network, LinkUp as well as in-person meet-ups via local chapters and councils. In-person networking is especially important in the digital age, as people increasingly come to value the face-to-face interactions they once took for granted. It is like what is old is new again when it comes to networking.

These networking opportunities can be complemented by attending IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo. IMA’s Debbie Warner, vice president of education and career services, shared with Strategic Finance magazine tips for making the most of networking opportunities. Her five pieces of advice are as follows:

  • If offered, attend the orientation session for first-time attendees.
  • Before or after a presentation, start a conversation with someone sitting nearby about the presentation topic.
  • After a session that sparks your interest, introduce yourself to the presenter and ask specific questions regarding the concepts covered or how you can obtain more information.
  • During networking events such as meet and greets, group meals, or cocktail parties, seek out individuals who are standing alone, whom you haven’t met, or whom you’ve met in a prior session.
  • Small group activities like conversational roundtables or exhibitor showcases allow for additional one-on-one time with other attendees as well as opportunities to meet with exhibitors to learn about their services.
No matter what your approach to networking, it is important to challenge yourself. It must be approached just like any other competency. Finally, I want to share one of my favorite quotes about leading and influencing from author, John C. Maxwell: “No matter your title, people will not follow you if they don’t trust you.”

  1. ”The rise of the social enterprise,” Deloitte Human Capital Trends, 2018.
  2. ”What Kind of Leadership Is Needed In Flat Hierarchies?” Fast Company, May 2015.
  3. ”25 Things Influential People Do Better Than Anyone Else,” Forbes, September 2013.
  4. ”How to Increase Your Influence at Work,” Harvard Business Review, February 16, 2018.

About the Authors