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Community Team at Fairygodboss

As rigid business structures give way to small, project-based teams and specialized channels of business, influence is more important than ever to individual success. Even performing your day-to-day tasks requires the buy-in of multiple individuals when you work on a cross-functional team. But influencing people to vouch for you to receive extra responsibilities, make that sale or give that presentation can catapult you past simply fulfilling your role and open new doors for your career. 

Are you on the right track with regards to your informal power? How can you measure your influence, if it doesn’t always manifest itself with a “senior” title or a monetary bonus?  

Maxim Sytch, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, outlined a “power audit” process in the Harvard Business Review. The audit helps you measure your informal power, while also pinpointing the power players in your network and how you can strengthen your relationships with them. 

Here are Sytch’s three steps to measuring your influence:  

  1. Write out the top 10 people you contact to get work done. They can be within or outside of your organization. 
  2. Give each contact a score between one and 10 that indicates how much you depend on them. If a contact would be very difficult to replace and provides lots of value, give them a 10. Remember that a contact can provide value through emotional support, career advice, knowledge and access to resources. 
  3. Give yourself a score from the perspective of each of your contacts. How much value do you offer to each of them, and how hard would it be to replace you?

After you've completed the audit, Sytch says you should look for red flags: 

  1. If all of your contacts work on one team or in one building, you may have little ability to generate value beyond the simple requirements of your role. 
  2. If most of your contacts provide you more value than you offer them, you are in an asymmetrical power relationship. It seems that your contacts hold all the power. 
  3. If all of your dependence scores are low, you are engaged in transactional relationships that will fall apart without quid pro quo.
  4. If all of your dependence scores are high, you may be making your professional relationships too personal and basing your valuations on emotions rather than calculations.
  5. If all your value is concentrated in only a few contacts, you may be in a vulnerable position. If you lose these contacts, your power will be limited. 

Does your power audit have some red flags? There are several ways to boost your informal power. First, find new ways to deliver value to your contacts. Develop your skills, and offer to help people with the skills you already have. Leverage your role to work on cross-functional and cross-organizational projects. Also, develop personal relationships with your collaborators. Knowing coworkers on a personal level makes exchanging favors less awkward, and puts you in the position to offer value to someone in many different ways.

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