Influencers aren’t made overnight. It takes commitment, effort and time to build your reputation and become an effective agent of change. But know this...EVERYONE has an inner influencer within them...just waiting to come out. And, yes, that includes you.
Tapping Into Your Inner Influencer
Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP and co-founder at SOLVE Services, joined our Entrepreneurial series to offer a structured, proven checklist of actions to help draw out your inner influencer. As a notable influencer herself, she knows full well that without the proper cred, you can’t incite people to take action and make change.
Geni stated that influence is critical to get “people to do stuff.” She continued, “And as accountants, we are always trying to get people to do things—actions that drive positive results for clients, that influence prospects and clients to work with our firm, that move people to seek us out, and to engage and really get people to listen to what we have to say.”
Have we influenced you to read on? We certainly hope so, because you won’t want to miss the gold mine of ideas, tips and tactics that follow—all designed to lead you toward tapping into your inner influencer!
Make a List: Loves vs. Hates
To be an effective influencer, you have to be driven by your true passions. People will only listen if they really believe what you are saying. And you’ll never sound authentic if you don’t believe in your own “cause.”
To identify the things that you are truly passionate about, start by making a list of your Loves versus your Hates. Dig deep and be honest with your answers.
Before building her own influencer status, Whitehouse found herself at a crossroads. “I was a partner in a CPA firm, but I didn’t feel like I was relevant to my clients...I didn’t feel like I could truly help them. So, I left the firm and got into technology so I could be more relevant, build better connections with clients, and to really have my finger on the pulse of what mattered to them.”
However, she didn’t blindly jump from one ship to the other. She took the time to figure out where she wanted to land. She made a list...and it looked a little something like this:
From her list, Geni was able to hone in on her two big professional “loves”— technology and helping people succeed. This led her to a career focused on technology and connecting clients with the right solutions to fuel their success. She also identified a few personal passions that have helped make up her personal brand, such as her love for wine and Basset Hounds. Whitehouse attested that personal “Loves” are important to identify because they are part of your authentic self.
“Most of us have more than one passion, both professional and personal. The key is figuring out how to bridge multiple passions with the messaging you put out into the world. This is what makes you unique, makes you stand out from the pack and helps you emerge as an influencer.” She added, “If you are grits, be grits!”
Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP
Tip: Develop your own list of Loves and Hates to determine who you are and why you do what you do.
Find Your “Real Me” Voice
Most of us have two main voices in our heads: The critic and the “real me.” When challenged with the hard stuff, it’s often our critic voice that takes over...telling us that we are not good enough...that we don’t have what it takes.
It’s at these moments that you need to dig deep and find your “real me” voice. Geni recounted a time when her critic voice challenged her inner influencer as she prepared for her first TEDx talk.
“I was really wrestling with my message. And it was during my own internal battle with myself, about how incapable I felt as a TEDx speaker that I realized I had two distinct voices in my head. The first was the critic, limiting what I could do...slapping my wrist and telling me I was wrong. The other was my real voice...the one that took me back to my authentic self. The one that drove me to speak from my heart and about what I love. Once I tuned into my real voice, my personality came out and I soared.”
Tip: Actively tune in to your “real me” voice and be true to who you are as you enter the world of influencing others.
Get to a Place of Clarity
The biggest hurdle most prospective influencers face is doing too much. It’s easiest to equate this with how you run your firm (or how the firm that employs you operates). Do you offer a refined list of services and only serve your ideal clients? Or, are you all over the place—taking on any client who walks through the door and customizing services at random, client by client? The latter leads to chaos.
The same holds true for building your influencer status. You must first define your areas of passion and then stick to them. Trying to be an influencer in multiple, disconnected categories only splinters your messaging and will confuse your audience.
Whitehouse affirmed, “You can’t do everything and do it all well. Get to a place of clarity about your passions and then shine in those defined areas.”
“You can’t do everything and do it all well. Get to a place of clarity about your passions and then shine in those defined areas.”
Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP
Tip: Further refine your list of “Loves” to get to a place of defined clarity.
OWN Your Personal Brand...and Then Build It Up
Geni Whitehouse is adamant that your personal brand is every bit as important to your professional growth and success as your resume. While transactional skills and expertise are certainly key to advancement, your personal brand is also integral in propelling you onward and upward.
“At the end of the day, you need a personal brand. I don’t care who you work for or what you’re doing, you can never lose who you are to your organization. In today’s world, that personal brand is your ticket to everything...your ticket to standing out...to building your influencer status,” said Whitehouse.
For those who have lost themselves to their employers, Whitehouse recommended working on redefining yourself and bringing more of your personality into the work culture. To do this, a good first step is to write a new bio—one that focuses on your passions and what you’ve done to get to where you are, including the lessons learned along the way. In other words, focusing on the events and loves that have formed your authentic self.
“This exercise allows you to think deeply about what you’ve accomplished and what’s gotten you here. About why you do what you do,” Whitehouse explained. “It’s not about counting the years, facts and figures...it’s about telling your story. That’s what people want to hear...what connects them to you.”
“It’s not about counting the years, facts and figures...it’s about telling your story. That’s what people want to hear...what connects them to you.”
Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP
Honestly, defining who you are on “paper” can help you fuse your personal brand with your professional image.
Tip: Sit down and write your new bio, and be sure that it represents your true self.
Don’t Venture Out On Your Own
Borrowing from Whitehouse’s advice above, “You can’t do everything and do it all well,” so be sure to build a team to help you on the road to becoming an influencer. This means finding others with the skills to advance your influencer status. This can include social media, marketing and communications. For example:
If you don’t understand social media or what drives adoption, recruit a social media expert to your team.
If you are not a great writer, hire a writer/editor to ensure every piece of content you launch is well-written, on message and represents your true self. This will also ensure that you are always speaking to your audience in a way that resonates and helps build you up as a trustworthy and likeable influencer.
If you don’t have time to handle your marketing, hire a marketer or seek out consulting.
You get the point.
Becoming an influencer takes time and focus. Let others help you—whether that means recruiting full-time staff or shorter-term contractors. You don’t have to do it alone when the talent pool is so large.
Tip: Make a list of the talent holes you need to fill and then begin identifying talent to help you.
Connect with Your Core Audiences
This includes connecting with both your internal (office) audience and your external audience. Being an influencer within your organization is just as important as building your outside reputation—because it all culminates into your end goal of becoming a trusted influencer.
Whitehouse offered proven and tested tactics to help make a positive connection with your intended audience(s):
Be INTERESTED first—Listen to others and learn their stories. By default, this makes you more interesting to them.
Create a positive version of your story—Take your challenges and failures and put a positive spin on them. After all, they are part of who you are and what has propelled you to greater heights.
Leave people wanting more—Don’t hand over all the goods at once. Offer relevant, helpful information that opens the door to deeper discussions.
Be remarkable—Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd. Do things no one else is doing. Start a podcast focused on your passion or launch bigger and better social media campaigns. Essentially, shout your knowledge from the rooftops.
Be curious—Never lose your sense of curiosity. As accounting professionals, we are by nature curious, always looking deeper into the data and analyzing possible outcomes.
Whitehouse stated, “It’s our curiosity that makes us naturally interesting.”
Be reliable and consistent—If you commit to posting or speaking on a regular basis, stay the course. Followers want to know that they can rely on you to show up and be consistent in your messaging.
Be yourself—Always be genuine. People follow those they trust. Staying true to your personal and professional brand gives you a unique voice.
Tip: Keep this list close and revisit it regularly to ensure you are always following the “rules.”
Understand Your Audience and Modify Your Approach Accordingly
Influencers, first and foremost, know their audience and create messaging accordingly. No two audiences are alike, which means you have to adapt your information and how you deliver it to meet the needs of your listeners. For example, you wouldn’t speak to a group of seasoned accountants in the same way you would a group of start-up entrepreneurs.
Overall, people fall into four core categories, according to Whitehouse:
Dominance: These are your results-driven people. They are fast and furious in terms of getting things done via assertive, focused behavior.
Influence: This style is all about people, making connections and building relationships over the long term.
Steadiness: This group is focused on security. These are your team players and supporters.
Compliance: These are your “give us the proof” people. They want facts and require that trust be built. Sound familiar? This is where most accountants live.
When you understand the type of listeners that make up your audience, you are better equipped to deliver a message that will resonate, move listeners to make change, and augment your influencer status.
“What you have to learn is that for your message to really resonate with your audience of listeners (both external and internally within your firm), you have to structure the delivery of information in a way that works for them.”
Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP
Get started on your journey to building influence both inside and outside of your firm. To ensure success, be prepared for the hard work to come—understanding that it takes time and great effort to build a loyal audience of engaged listeners.
Every influencer has been where you may be now...the starting block. Geni was there at one point...in a position where her true passions were overshadowed by the outmoded practices of her employer. That is, until she did the work to define who she was and determine where she needed to be in the profession—which today is at the top of the influencer chart.
The list of tips and tactics presented here is a good place to begin your own journey to influencer status. Whitehouse warned that you can’t sit still. Even if you don’t have complete buy-in from those around you, if being an influencer is what you want...if making meaningful change is your goal...you “just have to do it!” Whitehouse encouraged.
Start here. Do the work. Influence others. Make change.
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