My advice to those joining a new team has always been to be an observer during the first few weeks. You want to listen, learn the new content, meet the team members, peers, clients and management of your new group. You also need to pay attention to the roles that people play on the team and the style of leadership that they display in and out of meetings. You will begin to see the dynamics of the team and the roles that they play. There will be leaders, decision makers, followers, subject matter experts and of course the influencers.
It is important to understand what roles people are playing so that you can leverage them appropriately. Now that you know who the influencers are in the group, you can build a relationship with them. Most influencers are not the necessarily the ones in charge, but they have a lot of power and the ability to influence the decisions that are made by the leader. The influencers already have the trust of the leader and have proven themselves to be credible. When you are new to a group you don’t necessarily have that credibility yet. This is why it is key to get the influencers on your side to leverage their credibility.
Take your change to the influencer and sell your idea to them first. Ask them to provide feedback on it. They will be able to tell you what changes should be made and how best to present the new idea to the leader. An influencer knows what types of questions you may get, how much detail to present and how to prepare for the discussion. If you have their alignment, they will be your ally in the room to help you sell your idea.
Leveraging an influencer is important to do whether you are new to an organization or have been in the group for a while. It applies in big or small companies especially when you are having senior level conversations. When the leader has a decision to make, they will look to the influencers for input. Having the support of the influencer will help ensure that things go much more smoothly to get your approval to move forward.
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