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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

Use Your Influence for Good! A #WISHRM21 Interview with Michelle Yanahan

“We have a responsibility to influence the people in our lives to be the best possible people they can be: ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up’ (1 Thess. 5: 11).” – Henry Cloud & John Townsend from How to Have That Difficult Conversation

Influence. It seems to be the word of the decade. Hundreds of articles and books have been written about it. Podcasts dedicate hours discussing how to gain it. And people spend thousands of hours on social media trying to convince people they have it!

Much like the traditional concept of a “leader,” many assume “influencers” have to be at the top of an organization, or someone with a lot of social media followers. Not exactly true, says

Michelle Yanahan, Principal and Owner of ChangeFit 360. Michelle believes that true influencers are actually on the frontlines of organizations, not in the C-Suite. Yes, C-Suite members do exhibit influence, or how else would they have gotten where they did, but those that hold the true impact on how successful an organization is can be found in the trenches with the clients, customers, bulk of the employees!

Michelle will be presenting Use Your Influence for Good! at Wisconsin State SHRM Conference 2021. Her work will help leaders identify influencers and raise their skills to change

Behavior throughout the organization. Michelle is a passionate organizational change management strategist with 18+ years’ experience in leadership roles executing programs that grow change management as a strategic business competency.

I was truly excited to interview her, learn more about her work, and discover what makes her tick! She can be reached on LinkedIn if you want to know more!

  1. The term “influencer” has a lot of meanings depending on whom you ask. How do you define “influencer” and who are these folks in an organization?

An influencer is an individual who people look to that they want to follow and are uniquely connected within the organization. Influencers are rarely those who are high on an organizational chart. Often times, these people live in the white space of the organization, are not identified, and the potential for their organizational influence goes untapped.

2. What are the key skills an influencer needs to be impactful at an organization?

It’s interesting that many of the same characteristics that define social influencers also apply to organizational influence such as being likeable, engaging, authentic, and visible.

In addition to the social influencer characteristics, organizational influencers must meet their professional commitments, role model the right behaviors while walking the talk; work collaboratively; actively listen and communicate; embody trustworthiness; and be empathetic to people.

3. Your session will discuss influence vs. authority. What is the key difference, and (without giving away the session theme!) why is influence needed for truly impactful authority?

According to Ken Blanchard, the key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.   If you consider role modeling, a key characteristic of influence, those with authority are role models by default either positive or negative. Self-selected role models, it turns out, often have more influence those with authority.

4. One of my key mantras in life is “doing the right thing.” How does one truly know what the right thing is so they can do good?

Doing the right thing aligns with your personal values and feels right in your gut. Always trust your gut.

5. How do you identify an influencer at your organization, and how does the organization build them up for success?

There are some sophisticated ways to identify influencers such as using engagement surveys, culture assessments, and/or organizational network analysis software tools; but these are all costly and time consuming. In my session I reveal some simple and practical ways to identify the most common types of influencers and position them for success.

6. In a world full of influencers, whom would you pick out as the top three we should be following and learning from?

This is a tough question as I think the answer is unique to each individual. Where do your interests lie, who do you connect with, who inspires you, who intrigues you? Personally, I follow influencers in my field of organizational change as well as positive psychology and human behavior studies.

7. Lightning round! Time for some extra fun!

Where is the most unique place you’ve visited? Roatan, Honduras where my husband and I got to play with spider monkeys. Any place where I get to interact with animals is on my list!

What is your favorite holiday? Christmas as part of our family celebration always includes some unique games with prizes!

What is your favorite movie? An old classic, Gone with the Wind. I grew up watching it with my mother who has now passed on.

If you could have “walk-up” music any time you entered a room, what would that song be?

This is a tough one as I am really into music and hard to narrow down to just one genre, let alone a song. Probably something 80’s new wave.

What is your drink of choice? A good rich Italian cup of coffee.

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