Previously published on Inc.com.
you’ve got all your employees excited about your vision. now, it’s time to convince the rest of the world.
To make a difference in your company and your market, you have to get others to accept and promote your ideas. You’re already a leader in your company. The next step is to become a leader in your niche–to use your ideas to influence an entire market and to help your vision of the future take hold. As an executive talent agent working with senior executives and CEOs, I encourage my clients to get out of the office and start building visibility, credibility, and reputation.
I subscribe to the VRE formula for success*: Begin with a well-tested and honed Vision, accumulate a track record of Executing successfully, and then get out of the office to build the right Relationships and share your ideas. Here’s how to begin.
vision: getting out there
Just as you test products before bringing them to market, you need to test your ideas before trying to become an evangelist for them. So try explaining the kernel of your big idea to appropriate stakeholders to get their input. Once you’re confident that you can get others to understand and accept your basic idea, try reframing it so that it tells a bigger story that engages others.
The next step is to find speaking opportunities that will let you champion your vision. There is an aura of trust around the person on the dais or behind the microphone. That’s earned by having something meaningful and memorable to say. Without that invitation to speak outside of our organization, we often don’t take the time to gather the evidence and anecdotes that give us credibility and help convert others to our point of view.
relationships: why conferences and boards matter
Identifying and nurturing relationships–with investors, advisers, and potential employees–will allow you to spread your ideas much more quickly.
Attending conferences and serving on boards are great ways to test and refine your vision, and to meet the people who can make it happen. Start by thinking about the people you want to learn from or influence. Then split them into A and B lists, and identify the people on the A list whom you most need to meet within the next three years. Which events do the A players attend, and which boards are they a part of? Who can help you get the right invitations to those opportunities?
execution: your track record
People will remember you and come to rely on you if you do what you say you will do. That’s enough to put you ahead of the pack in pretty much every situation.
That does not mean you have to do everything yourself or work 24/7. Sure, it’s easy to think, “Oh, I can do this faster (or better) than anyone else.” Before you know it, it’s 1 a.m. Again. So make the most of virtual assistants, crowdsourcing, online cloud services, and the creation of a “do not do” list.
deadline: one year
Create a one-page plan, now, that will help you stay focused on the right opportunities to build visibility, credibility, and reputation this year.
Then share it with a few of your key supporters and mentors. Why? Well, I was recently asked by one of my champions to refer some candidates for a for-profit board position. I happily forwarded three names. She called me back to say, “What about you? Didn’t you have on your one-page plan that you wanted to join a for-profit board this year?” Oops! Yes, I did. But it had never occurred to me to put my name forward. And yes, now that part of my plan has become a reality.
* The VRE Leadership model was developed by my mentor Dr. Frank Greene.