Do you want to be more influential — have your ideas heard and valued by those that matter? I think we’d all like that, as long as we don’t have to do a lot of heavy lifting.

So what does it take to be more influential and what are some strategies you can use that feel relatively easy to accomplish from where you are — starting today? I share a few ideas below. As you read them, avoid thinking “I can’t do that” or “That doesn’t fit my situation.” Instead, think “What is the nugget of an idea here that I might put into practice in my world?”.

tip #1: turn those coffees into working group sessions

Many of my clients and friends lament the amount of time that they spend with people who want to “pick their brain” or “take them to coffee.” But what if that time was re-structured to be of better value to you and to those who want your time?

Trista Harris, the former CEO of the Minnesota Council of Foundations is a past client of mine who was tremendously creative in how to scale her impact. When she was at the Council she set aside one lunch per month for a brown-bag idea-sharing session at her office. When anyone called or emailed to ask for her time (unless they were a potential donor or board member) they would get invited to this session.

And she didn’t leave the session unstructured. In addition to time for the guests to share their ideas and questions, she also brought ideas of her own to test with the group. She thought of this as more of a focus group session which added value to everyone.

Attendees told her that they enjoyed the chance to meet each other and they also felt valued because she was asking for their advice and counsel. She always came away with a sense of who she’d like to schedule more time with and who she wouldn’t. Those who are effective in pitching their own ideas AND added value to the group discussion rose above the rest.

tip #2: collaborate with others who face the same challenges

Most of us feel pretty alone when it comes to tackling the challenges of our day. But what we often forget is that there are others out there facing some or many of the same challenges we do. I’m not talking about the small to do items. I mean the big strategic challenges and opportunities that we face because of changes in technology, demographics, our marketplace, our business model, etc. Usually, we are not as effective in going it alone in these situations.

When I first began working with Van Ton-Quinlivan, she was the new Director of Workforce Development at PG&E — a one hundred year old utility company. At the time, her industry was facing an enormous demographic challenge known as the ‘silver tsunami.’ The longtime workers were aging out and they were expected to lose up to 50% of their workforce over the next few years to retirement. This was not just a challenge in her company – every utility company was facing the same thing and most had not updated their hiring practices for many years.

Van reached out to others who had a similar title in other organizations who were tackling these challenges and created a consortium that met quarterly. At each meeting – each hosted at a different company’s offices – they discussed their best practices, sharing what was and wasn’t working as they addressed the challenge ahead. Van identified a well-respected workforce expert in another company to chair the consortium and she served as co-chair since she was quite unknown in the industry. This gave her the chance to set the agenda and make sure that her ideas were being heard and considered.

tip #3: offer a class with a local partner

One of my clients is an excellent writer who regularly pens articles for the NY Times and the Washington Post. She also has a novel published and another book in process. Yet, she still struggled to build her platform and create a large following for her ideas and this held her back from selling her second book.

In the past, she had hosted small gatherings with members of her local community to share her love of writing but she’d never taken it further. Part of what held her back was this sense that it is a lot of work to try to put ‘butts in seats’ for her own workshops, especially without a large email list. She much preferred to be the ‘talent’ – hired to lead a class but not starting from scratch to put the class together.

We brainstormed who might have an existing community and a location for her to lead a multi-week program and were able to quickly identify a few venues that fit the bill. The very first person she approached was someone who had recently opened a wellness/meditation center near her home. She found the woman eager to partner to build more traffic to the center and they came to an amicable income split. This partnership is now flourishing and my client is building her mailing list and a large contingent of happy evangelists in her local community.

Have an idea of your own? Send it my way so I can share it with others.

are you ready for

a bigger playground?

If you are ready to take your next step as a thought leader, you’ll find an easy-to-follow 7-step blueprint in my book Ready to Be a Thought Leader?. Order today at Amazon.