A Team Under the Influence

Last Updated Oct 1, 2007 2:12 PM EDT

In the world of fads and fashions, there are tastemakers. In any business, there exists a similar phenomenon, opinion makers. They are a select group of people within the company who have the personality and the reputation to earn the respect and to bend the ears of a large group of people in the company. In other words, when they talk, people listen.

If you want to get resources, help or just plain support for your team, these people can be priceless. Especially if you work in a far-flung business, or for a company that handles many different types of tasks. This is when collaboration among the different functions of the company is most useful.

A recent article by Gerry McCartney, the CIO of Purdue University, for CIO Canada magazine, details ways to exert influence over the tastemakers in your company. The process, as he describes it, involves identifying who the true influencers are and who they go to for advice. He then suggests getting involved in a small project or committee with them in order to build a rapport. Finally, he offers tips on how to approach the influencer with your request, often by bouncing your idea off of their advisors first.

Mr. McCartney's article offers straightforward and thoughtful advice using concrete examples from his experiences running IT at Purdue. He gives any manager or team leader a good jumping off point for approaching the difficult task of selling ideas in a large company.