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When I think about who influences me at work, I think about a lot of the people I have worked with here during my time at Rep Cap and Managing Editor, particularly our amazing, funny, eloquent, Einstein-level-genius hosts Mary Ellen Slayter and Elena Valentine. They have influenced me more than —
I’m just kidding. Yes, they’ve both been big influences on me, and so have numerous other people. But as I was getting this episode ready for release, I spent some time thinking about who has influenced me since I’ve been a grown-ass man in the workforce.
I thought about one person in particular: a director on a reality show I worked on. And it wasn’t because he set an amazing example with his artistic vision or work ethic. Actually, it was just the opposite.
I worked the night shift on two seasons of a reality show, helping the crew out when the cast got back to their shared house after spending the day doing whatever competitions the producers had dreamed up for them. The night shift was slower, and it would involve a lot of waiting around. The director and members of the crew directing the shoot were stationed in a control room, kind of like Ed Harris and his team in “The Truman Show” — in fact, basically exactly like this, but without Jim Carrey.
We had rotating directors, but this one, in particular, was awful. Rumor had it he was double-dipping, directing a different reality show during the day and ours at night. Supposedly he was sleeping in his car. Now, was he? I don’t know. But he was a grouch to be around. He mocked the contestants, dismissed the show constantly, and sucked the energy out of every room he was in. I would dread the simple act of getting his dinner order, just because he was such a terrible person to be around. And even though I was trying to get him a free meal, he never seemed to be in the mood to give me his order.
However, he was also in charge. And I learned a lot simply by observing him. I got a master class in how not to act on a set, an office, or as a grownup. He should probably talk to the people behind the MasterClass app — he’d be a great fit.
Now, did I think any of us were smizing our way to the top on this show? No. But I know the difference between someone having a bad day and having a bad vibe.
So if you’re going to be influencing people at work, remember this: Make sure you’re doing it with good vibes. Because you don’t want to be remembered for the bad ones.
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What Does It Mean to Influence?
Laurie Ruettiman is the host of the Punk Rock HR podcast. She is also a speaker and the author of the forthcoming book "Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career." In other words, she’s what you call an influencer at work. And an influencer on work.
And while many people turn to Laurie for insights into HR and the future of work, she points out there she’s had influencers in her own life. “I have this weird theory of influence that we are influenced by people who fill our deficiencies,” Laurie says. Perhaps are people who are wealthy. Or people who seem to have an authenticity about them. Either way, we are looking to model actions or behaviors in others.
It’s a responsibility Laurie takes seriously. But she also feels responsible to do something else: Push the conversation forward. Sometimes, that might mean you’re a bit of a lonely voice. Laurie was an early evangelist for Twitter, and she recalled giving a talk at an HR conference where she discussed using the platform. The response was not positive. “Trust is so subjective,” she says. Laurie had not earned the audience’s trust yet, but she was right. But when you’re influencing, following your convictions is part of the game. “I just had to believe that laying the seeds early was important,” she explains.
“Sometimes you just have to have the courage of your convictions and go first.”
Make a Decision
Mike Wood is the industry relations manager at Workhuman, where he helps cultivate Workhuman’s relationships with influencers in the HR tech space.
But what makes someone an influencer at work? For Mike — as well as Laurie — it isn’t just saying you’re an influencer or expert. “If you walk around saying you’re the expert at something, you’re probably not the expert,” Mike says.
Instead, Mike says that influencers are often people who take action. He points to history, which is full of people who’ve taken action, rightly or wrongly. And if you want to influence people in your workplace, then taking quick, decisive actions is a proven way to build respect. “Even if it’s wrong, make a decision. And once you find out it’s wrong, just pivot,” he says.
“The real influencers that I know are the people that have an opinion that say, ‘Hey, we should be doing X, Y, and Z.’”
People Featured in This Episode
- Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It by Peggy Klaus
- The Influencer Code: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming an Online Success by Amanda Russell
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