5 Ways To Expand Your Sphere Of Influence And Exhibit Leadership By Strategically Taking On More Responsibility
Even the best of us get frustrated with our roles at times. There’s the grunt work that needs to get done whether you are CEO or the intern (ok, interns definitely get more grunt work!), and then there’s the good stuff. The good stuff for you might be collaborating with others, or achieving your flow state for hours on end.
But, for almost all of us, there comes a time when we are ready to expand our role, or focus on that one thing we are AMAZING at, love to do, and brings the most value to ourselves and the people around us. The great news is that - wherever you are in your career - you can start making that transition! The real key to getting to where you want to be is to strategically take on more of the types of projects you would like to work on.
So how are you going to get there? Well, I don’t know about you, but I do really well when I can learn from someone else’s story. So, meet Allie. Allie is a product manager at a thriving startup in the finance space. She LOVES her job and her company, but one day the founders start talking about an acquisition they want to do for an education app about finance. They think this would be a fantastic lead generator for their platform.
She checked out the app, and it was beautifully designed. She could see why they were excited. But Allie happened to have a background in education and a PhD. She knew she could build something much better and more engaging, and she knew she could do it for much less money than the acquisition offer. She had this really valuable vision in her head, but she was struggling with how to articulate it to the founder who was making this important decision.
When I chatted with Allie, we first talked about what the founders were like - were they technical? Did they like well designed presentations? Did they prefer quick bullet points in an email? She spent some times describing their personalities, and her interactions and relationship to them. Considering your audience is probably the MOST IMPORTANT thing we did on that call.
We concluded that because the founders had sales backgrounds and loved visual examples, that a presentation with Allie’s value proposition clearly stated would be the best way to communicate her ask.
1. Understand The Objective
This step is an absolute must when you are trying to make an impact on an existing project, or an existing proposal. It’s all about understanding what the underlying issue is that the team is trying to solve. In Allie’s case, the underlying objective was to generate leads for the company’s platform.
Once you know the objective, everything else in your pitch must align with this objective. It can serve as the north star and guide the rest of your messaging. Always be sure to cut out any parts that contradict the objective, or even parts that are irrelevant to achieving that objective.
2. Articulate The Vision
Think of yourself as an intraprenuer, pitching your vision. In your case, the stakeholders of the project are your potential investors. They have an objective in mind, and an idea of how to get there. But they might not have what you can offer - a strong vision for what this project has the potential to be, and how it is SO much better than what they have now!
When we got to this part of our conversation, Allie just LIGHTED UP. She had a clear vision for what she would build and it was CAPTIVATING. Her vision had a clear value proposition - it had a virality component that was sure to 10x lead generation for her company. She also had a vision for strong engagement. It was something that would keep her company’s platform top of mind for their target user. Once she was done describing what she wanted to do, it was clear that her idea was something the founders HAD TO DO.
3. Articulate Your Execution
A good friend of mine, who is also a seasoned entrepreneur loves to say “Ideas are cheap. Only execution matters!” I completely agree, but more importantly, the stakeholders in any project are going to agree too! You need a strong plan for execution that will convince everyone involved that investing in your leadership and plan is a risk worth taking. Make sure to list all the phases of the project, all the resources needed, and the timeframe for making it successful.
For Allie’s vision, she knew that her plan had three distinct phases - design, coding/testing, and launch. Each of these phases would use up varying resources: She would need one designer full time for three days, and two developers for three months. She would need to coordinate with the marketing team when it came time to launch. All this would take about four months.
Allie’s plan was clear and thoughtful. Through informal conversations with the different contributors, she knew that they would have time to work on this project if her founders made it a priority. When it came to presenting her plan, it looked like she had thought of everything. She was able to answer questions intelligently. When she didn’t know the precise answer to a question, the founders gave her the chance to think about it carefully and come back with an answer that was just as thoughtful as her presentation.
4. Highlight the Pros and Cons
Every plan is going to have its drawbacks and tradeoffs. It’s important to be clear and recognize the cons of your particular plan. Make sure that your list of cons are not in direct contradiction to the objective. For example, if the objective is to create virality in your company’s product, your plan should not have any component that would slow down onboarding for the product. For cons that are just downsides of your plan, have a list of pros that directly addresses them. Even while addressing the cons, make sure to clearly articulate why choosing your plan is the best option.
Allie’s plan had just one con. It would take her longer to build the product in house than it would for the company to acquire the lead generation app. But she had so many pros that made her plan better! She could increase engagement and provide stronger leads. Her plan would allow the company to own their solution from end to end with no integration necessary. She would be able to build a better solution for less money, in just three months! It was a no brainer to hand the project over to her.
5. Showcase yourself!
Thinking like an intrapreneur requires you to showcase yourself. You have to show that you are the absolute best person to get this job done. What you DON’T want to have happen is for the stakeholders in the project to say “Thank you! It looks like you’ve thought of everything. John can take it from here.”
Do you have a skillset in your background that would make you perfect to lead this initiative? Do you have a burning passion to expand your skills? What makes you the best person for this role?
Allie had both the passion and skills to lead this new project to success. She was a former academic, and even had an edtech background! She was obviously very passionate about the finance space. When she was done her pitch, no one could think of doing this project any other way.