Smelly sock advice how to grow your influence at work by Miriam Gilbert

I’ve just read an article advising women project managers on how to increase their influence at work. And I had to shut the browser tab in disgust (not as satisfying as slamming down a magazine, but you know - digital world…).

The article suggested that you should be known for reliability, build consensus, be confident and make sure you have experience. Ugh! What smelly sock advice is this!

  • Being reliable is important if you want to be a professional but it will not build your influence.
  • Building consensus is important if you want a successful team around you but it will not build your influence.
  • Having experience is important if you want to talk about your subject with authority but it will not build your influence.

None of those things will do, at least not by themselves. Now I am not saying you should not do these things (and many others, such as build trust, be flexible and listen to others) but if you just do those and sit back, you’ll be waiting a long time before your influence shows any signs of buds…

But I am guessing you’d rather skyrocket your impact, #amIright?

In reality, there are two ways to do that (and I only condone one of them):

• You can “play the game”, aka sleazy, slimy, sucky office politics. And it might give you a boost, at least in the short run. But in the long run, it’s gonna bite you on the a... Don’t do it!

• Or you could deliver amazing results and make sure you don’t hide your success in the dark. Success attracts, even more than your sparkling personality and if people see you as the “Get-Things-Done-Go-To-Expert”, guess what: your influence will shoot right out of orbit!

But hey, don’t you need influence to deliver results? How else can you get people on board with your ideas in the first place? How can you get them to support your project, deliver on their promises, stop the excuses and slay the objections?

Here are some strategies that work every time, guaranteed:

  • When people don’t see the need to change something, SHOW them the impact of the current situation. For example, if your project is about process improvements, don’t rely on spreadsheets or presentations - instead, arrange a walkthrough or an interview with the people who are affected.
  • When people get bogged down in analysis paralysis, don’t give them more data. Instead, tap into an emotion, e.g. conjure up the pride everyone will feel when the project has become a great success. (Word of warning: some people recommend to use negative emotions to create urgency, but that works only in the short-term as people get immune to it after a while)
  • When people get disheartened after some set-backs point to the achievements to date, the mini-successes reached (or create one to be achieved asap)
  • When people feel overwhelmed by the size of the project, shrink it down to the next task only. Focus on this one step, then the next one
  • When people say “it will never work for us”, appeal to their identities. E.g. engineers might see themselves as inventors, quality assurance professionals as the upholders of excellence and so on. Look at that identity and then show them how a person like that would definitely support your project.

Honestly, I have never seen anyone using these techniques and NOT seeing their influence rise. So Give.It.A.Go


Miriam has been helping organisations for over 20 years to design and implement agile ways of thinking and working that bring real-world benefits.

As a Chartered Accountant with international consulting experience gained with PricewaterhouseCoopers, she has spent 20+years advising organisations in Financial Services, Transport, Construction, Charities, the Travel industry and the Public Sector, delivering quantifiable bottom-line results.

As a near-term futurist, she helps CEO’s and business leaders plot their course through complex, uncertain and changing environments and devise practical strategies for business success in the digital world.