by Jane Haskell
One of the most important concepts in business networking is the idea of “Centers of Influence.” David Chwalek’s blog post What Makes an Effective Center of Influence? defines a Center of Influence (COI) as a person who is in a position or business that tends to have great influence with prospects in your target market.
The post used the example that a Center of Influence for a mortgage broker might be a real estate agent. It says, “A real estate agent is often the first professional that a person interested in buying a new house would contact. A good realtor will want to position his/her buyer in the best possible light when an offer is made, and one of the ways to do this is to have the buyer ‘pre-approved’ for a mortgage. How do you get pre-approved? That’s right… you need to talk to a mortgage broker or bank first! A good real estate professional can be an invaluable asset to other related professionals- and to their clients as well. Most people that trust a realtor enough to hire them to make possibly the single biggest purchase of their life will undoubtedly trust their recommendation of mortgage brokers, attorneys, movers, etc.”
As I read this, I realized that community facilitators, group leaders, and groups all have Centers of Influence. If your group is an advisory board for a community theatre, who would have an influence on outreach, publicity, venues, educational programs, and so on? How about restaurateurs, school administrators, inns, community calendars keepers, etc?
Four factors were listed that make good Centers of Influence – trustworthiness, relationship, availability and enthusiasm. How do these factors relate to your work with groups in community?
Trustworthiness. We all have personalized definitions for trust and trustworthiness. If we were to ask various people about those definitions, four distinctions combine to equal trust. They are sincerity (you are honest and you say what you mean and mean what you say, you can be believed and taken seriously), reliability (you make the commitments you make), competence (you have the ability to do what you are doing or propose to do) and caring (you have the other person’s interests in mind as well as your own). If I am going to have a ‘go to’ person to help me with my group, in whatever way, that person needs to be trustworthy.
Relationship to the group. What are the commonalities between the COI and the group (or me the facilitator)? Do we have similar interests, values, histories, complementary skills or experiences?
Availability. Is the COI available when you need to involve him or her? If your group is thinking about having an annual retreat and wants to meet at a new or neutral location, you want to be able to secure a place that has an environment that meets your group’s needs. Trust and relationship are very much intertwined with availability.
Enthusiasm. Does your COI look forward to your contact? Do you look forward to connecting with your COI? Will this COI endorse you to the extent that your name is mentioned when someone is looking to have a group led or knows someone who is new to the area and wants to join your group? Enthusiasm is key.
In groups, decision-making options sometimes leave people in a win-lose situation. When you build your Centers of Influence, you do not want to be in a win-lose mode. A win-win situation is ideal for you, your group, and for all others who are involved.