Many of the important decisions about your life are made when you are not in the room.
Don’t believe me? Tell me, were you there when…
- Your spouse decided whether or not to keep dating you early on?
- The sellers decided to accept your bid on the house?
- Your mortgage company decided to risk a loan on you?
- Your boss decided to hire you over other candidates?
Who is going to be in the room when you go for a pay raise or a promotion? Who decides whether your department has enough in the budget to send you to an industry conference?
The recent APRA Prospect Development conference in New Orleans demonstrated with gusto that our field is alive and thriving. Many in our profession have become a driving force for success in their fundraising departments. How did those individuals get to the place where the decision makers felt really good about fundraising research?
Maybe you feel a bit like Dorothy when she first approached the Wizard of Oz – a little intimidated by leadership. But let me take you behind the curtain…
In social media we hear a lot of talk about finding the influencer – the person with the biggest following and the highest engagement. In your office, many of the same rules apply. Influencers are those who interact with a lot of people and have direct control or influence over decision making.
Make a list of how many people you interact with. How many of them directly control or influence decisions that are important to you?
You might be surprised who turns up on your list. What about the president’s assistant? She might interact with a large number of people, including you. Does the president listen to her when she has an opinion?
The Plan Man
Now that you have the list of people you interact with in your organization, pull out a fresh sheet of paper and make a list of all of the people who influence the decision that is most important to you. Maybe that’s training and using analytics tools, attending a conference, or implementing a new process.
Take your two lists and identify a few people that are on both lists – not too many – that you could develop a better relationship with. Treat them the same way you know how to treat donors. Create a cultivation plan that builds rapport, engages the person on relevant topics of interest, and gives the person more of what s/he wants. Ask good questions. What is her biggest pain point? Help her somehow.
You might also find that by developing a deeper relationship with a few key people, you meet more of the decision makers in your office.
Now that you have your cultivation plans, decide what three words you want people to think of when they think of you or your department. Think it through carefully. Now use those words when you talk about yourself and your work. I don’t mean to go bragging on yourself, but in regular conversation consciously use those words.
Not only will people begin using those very same words to describe you and your work, but you will begin more closely aligning your behaviors with those descriptors.
For more than 15 years , my three words have been:
Integrity | Accountability | Growth
And, yes, I need to be reminded to use them more!
At conferences like APRA’s Prospect Development conference, the visionary ideas presented, the cross-pollination of ideas and sentiments with colleagues, and the new skills learned can be transformational.
But this year, my biggest takeaway was how important it is to choose time spent on relationships very thoughtfully.
We all know in life that not everyone will like us. But making decisions about who to spend our precious time with is never easy. If there are people in your life who energize you, who excite your curiosity by being different, who bring out the best in you (add your own criteria), then invest in them. If there are people who don’t do all those good things for you (or you for them), then gently step away.
When you deliberately examine your social networks both inside and outside the office, strategically choose the people to invest your relationship energy with, and understand and promote your own core values, you will succeed. Paths will illuminate. Opportunities will arise you couldn’t have dreamed up.
Your Job or Your Research Life?
It’s up to you to define success in all aspects of your life. For me, research infuses almost every part of my life. Methodically approaching any kind of problem – treating it like a research project – has been my modus operandi since I was a child. Back when it felt like I could learn about anything just by reading books in the library. Nothing is too difficult if you have a method, an approach.
If you want more out of your research job, consider tweaking the phrase to research career – or even research life!
Takeaways from other APRA peeps:
- #APRApd2015 and My Daily Affirmations | Sarah Bernstein
- APRA Prospect Development Recap + Some NOLA History | Amelia Aldred
- Gravity Assist | Helen Brown
- N’Awlins | Tomissa Porath
Carla Harris has been inspiring my career for years! Maybe she will inspire you too.
Speaking of methodology, check out Marianne Pelletier’s resource: What Analytics Can Do for Your Fund-Raising Shop