Professional Primer: ‘Influence’ shouldn’t be a dirty word

Written on Sep 08, 2017

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

Your group project is stalled. Your meetings never get anything accomplished. Your team can’t agree on a course of action. Although it might not seem obvious, the underlying cause of these problems could be a lack of influence.

Jennifer Yaross“The ability to influence means understanding what everyone needs out of the situation and coming up with a solution that meets those needs while executing on the strategic goal,” said Jennifer Yaross, CPA, vice president, investments controller at Nationwide Insurance.

Influence can have some negative connotations attached to it, but Yaross said avoiding the idea entirely is a mistake. Bringing everyone along is at the heart of influence, she explained. While working with others, it’s critical to understand where everyone is coming from, the better to guide the needs of the group to keep projects moving forward.

Yaross said it’s a mistake to only think of achieving a goal without considering the path it will take to get there, and this is where influence comes in.

“If you don’t take time to step back and understand how everyone plays a part in that, you won’t be effective in those projects,” she said.

Building up relationships with others is another crucial part of influence. Yaross said it’s important to understand internal dynamics and relationships, along with the needs of different departments.

Overall, she said including everyone will take time and investment, but it’s a vital part of the process so you understand the people you’re working with.

“It is really important during the course of someone’s career to be able to take that moment and assess the situation,” Yaross said. “I think that if you intuitively recognize how to get things done you realize the importance of building relationships and gaining an understanding of others at the table.”

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