One of the most frustrating issues I have seen in larger game companies, and larger companies, overall is that some people with great expertise are limited to influencing only a small part of the company even though then can be much more valuable. An article in the Harvard Business Review, How Experts Gain Influence, does a great job of showing competencies functional leaders can develop to have greater impact throughout your game company. Examples of functional specialists can be everything from the head of the analytics or user acquisition team to the lead designer. Often, their expertise is only consulted narrowly on issues directly tied to their department. Even if your company does not yet understand the complete value you bring, there are techniques to help you help them.
Four competencies to increase your impact
- Trailblazing: Find new opportunities to use expertise. People high in this competency cast a wide net to identify and frame issues that top management is not adequately addressing. This tactic provides a great advantage in the internal competition for key decision makers’ attention. By always being on the lookout for new ways to advance your functional expertise throughout the organization, you not only become a more valued contributor you help shape your company’s future. An example would be the head of analytics using their tools to find deeper and more effective ways to acquire better users, thus putting them into the growth and marketing functions.
- Toolmaking: Develop and deploy tools that embody and spread expertise. Developing tools that help C-level executives analyze and interpret key business issues can help you impact those issues. These tools can range from analytic tools to spreadsheet templates to regular new reports that management would then use to look at key issues. Not only is it important to create the tools, it is also crucial to share them with key decision makers and not keep them proprietary to your team.
- Teamwork: Use personal interaction to take in others’ expertise and convince people of the relevance of your own. Functions that engage heavily in toolmaking need to enroll supporters and users. One approach is to include target users in the creation or improvement of the tools, seeking out their feedback and incorporating it into the design. By working with the decision makers, you increase your relevance and create a virtuous loop where you both began to rely on each other to do a more effective job.
- Translation: Personally help decision makers understand complex content. To remain influential, experts need to help others use their tools and interpret the results. The more you help people use your tools, the more they will be used and relied upon. The resulting increased visibility will give you a stronger voice in corporate debates and decision making.
Using influence for good
By combining all four competencies listed above, you become what the article describes as an “engaged toolmaker.” This will help you gain influence throughout the organization. By constantly scanning the company and external environment to create tools where you can make a difference, you can then formalize and spread your influence. Of course, the extent of your influence must fit with your company’s needs (both strategic and structural). Regardless, if you are strong in all four competencies you are likely to optimize your influence and value to your company.