How to find, engage and empower your internal influencers

Follow this guidance to unleash the full messaging might of your hidden heavy hitters.

How to empower internal influencers

We are all under the influence of influential people.

The workplace is no different. When influential, charismatic colleagues speak out, others listen. The more respected and trusted they are, the more powerful their words and actions prove to be.

How do you get these internal influencers on your side, and how can communicators use their clout to enhance corporate messaging? First, you must identify them.

Here are five key traits of organizational influencers:

  • They are well-liked.
  • They have a wide network.
  • They are good communicators.
  • They understand the organization’s mission, vision and values.
  • They are upbeat about their work and eager to help others.

These sorts of engaged employees are not limited to positions of power. McKinsey found that influencer patterns almost never follow the organizational chart. Communicators should look for internal influencers who represent every level of the pecking order.

If you’re not sure where to start looking for potential candidates, try these tips:

  • Conduct an organizational network analysis. This is a formal, structured way to sketch out how communications, information and decisions flow through an organization. It can help reveal the people who are central to the exchange of ideas and information. (Deloitte explains how to conduct an organizational network analysis here.)
  • Send out snowball surveys. This tactic involves issuing anonymous surveys that ask questions such as, “Who within the organization gives great advice?” or, “Whose help and support do you most value?” When you see the same names appearing repeatedly, you’ve found your influencers.
  • Talk to people. Ask your colleagues whose insights and opinions they value.

How can you maximize the impact of internal influencers? Here are five foolproof ways to get those workplace heavy hitters on your side:

  • Keep them informed. Ask influencers what information and which resources would be most useful to receive, and keep them in the loop on what’s coming.
  • Listen to them. Listen, but also act on what they’re telling you.
  • Keep your friends close and your influencers closer. Check in frequently, and consistently ask for their feedback.
  • Make it a two-way street. There should be some benefit for internal influencers who help reinforce your messaging. Find out what motivates them, and deliver on it. Prioritize recognition—private and public.
  • Buddy them up. Consider connecting influencers with a mentor. Engaged employees tend to be continuous learners who crave connections and professional development opportunities.

Working closely with internal influencers will improve the flow of corporate communication—in both directions. Seek out those hidden heroes in your company who hold social sway, and empower them to become respected leaders.

A version of this post first appeared on Alive With Ideas.

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