Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
As the end of the year approaches, you may be thinking about what you can do to move initiatives forward in a bigger way in 2014, ultimately we just want to hear more “yes!” Let me suggest that you start with giving some thought to the role of influence and what you can do to grow your level of influence within your retailer in the New Year. When you have influence, you receive more “yes.”
In a previous article, we’ve discussed the importance of influence and how it’s critical to business success. Webster’s Dictionary describes influence as “the act of power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.” There are several essential elements of influence, and I like to call these the “Five Cs” of influence. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Credibility: Credibility is at the heart of influence and it is based on truthfulness and integrity. This is your backbone. Credibility is defined as being trusted, convincing or believable. As dietitians, our science-based approach is what underpins our credibility. And as dietitians, we are accustomed to credibility being granted on the basis of professional credentials. But remember, you don’t work in clinical any more…assume that no one in retail understands your background. This is precisely why communicating your professional brand is so important (more on that later). Credibility is a reflection of the quality of your work.
2. Care: When you passionately care about something, it’s attractive and contagious— you don’t have to “sell.” When you care about something, people naturally take notice and become interested…and then your passion spreads (i.e., you’re influencing). But you can’t focus solely on your personal passions as a retail dietitian. You have to cultivate a broader passion for the business of retail, and most importantly, the success of YOUR retailer. A key part of this is being curious about all facets of retail, and in particular, the vision and concerns of your retailer’s leadership.
3. Communication: Without effective communication, credibility and care will not get you further than your desk. In order to influence others and get them on board with your thinking, you must clearly articulate who you are, what you’re all about, and why your interests matter. And moreover, you must be visible. Work on your elevator speech. Have regular touch points with your supervisor where you report on results, discuss hot topics, etc. Most importantly, stick to it…when communication stops, you risk becoming invisible.
4. Collaboration: Effective collaboration is the act of connecting with and working toward a goal with someone else. It is grounded in humility—so you must check your ego at the door and get ready to co-create. Collaboration is the mother of rapport, which enables influence. Collaborative efforts must come from a genuine and deep-rooted interest in others, which often has to be cultivated. Collaboration is essential because this is how you build advocates (and thus, increase your level of influence).
5. Create Solutions: You’ve heard it a million times: your supervisor doesn’t want to hear about your problems, they want to hear about your solutions. In order to gain influence, you must stay in a solution-oriented mindset. Your solutions must always support the business and must be innovative—think outside the box. When you’re problem solving, use your critical thinking skills to carefully evaluate all options. And most importantly, know which option you will recommend and why. You’re able to create win-win business solutions when you understand the business case for your solution and recommend it with confidence.
Over the next few weeks, give some thought to how you can further develop these attributes and skills to advance your level influence in 2014. Influence takes time to cultivate. And as your influence grows, you’ll find that your support base will strengthen and you’ll hear “yes” more often.