Unlocking the potential of your institution's informal influencers
An invaluable resource for your organisation, informal influencers take many forms, and can be vital sources of information – as well as excellent ambassadors.
Added by Tricia Scott, March 2011.
Informal influencers may not have any formal role in influencing strategy and practices in the institution, but they can tell you a huge amount about the identity and mood of your organisation – and affect the effectiveness and reception of formal communications. By enlisting their support, you can get an invaluable insight into what makes your organisation who it is.
Where do you find the informal influencers in your organisation?
In some cases you’ll need a bit of institutional knowledge to spot them. Examples of the types of people they may be:
- People who have been working for the organisation for a long time
- People whose role involves talking to a lot of different staff
- People with access to people in senior leadership positions
- Outgoing people who are born networkers
- People with a very strong commitment to the organisation
- People who have spoken on behalf of the institution (or their part of it)
- People whose opinions other people quote
If you don’t know who the opinion formers are: how do you find out?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- In gatherings, who do people gravitate towards?
- Who speaks up, and who listens?
- Who would know? Ask a trusted colleague
How do you get value from informal influencers?
To be able to tap into the organisation through these people, you need to understand what motivates them and deal with their concerns.
Examples of motivating factors
- Sense of ownership
- Pride in the organisation
- Fear of change
- Concern for the future
- Loss or acquisition of power and authority
- Feeling valued by colleagues
- Feeling valued by the organisation
- Doing the right thing, or doing what’s best for students and colleagues
- Enjoying having the word to spread
- Enjoying being an opinion former
Be as inclusive as you can: take time to respond to their concerns. Show them how the plans for the institution fit with their concerns and motivations; or if they don’t, be honest, discuss the reasoning for the plans, and look for ways to satisfy their legitimate needs in other ways. Seek their contribution, because this enables you to open up conversations with them that tell you a lot about your institution’s identity.
Topics: Guiding your internal decisions.