By Matthew Dummert, MS, BSEE

Matthew Dummertx250As an HTM professional, you are in a position of influence. Influence is something, such as an idea, that flows from one person to another. The key to influence is positioning yourself strategically in relation to others, understanding what the common goals are, and ultimately knowing how to plant a seed at just the right moment to grow into a movement.

In your position, you have a unique opportunity to provide an added value that is being underutilized. You have the privilege to manage one of the largest expense buckets in your institution, sometimes jokingly referred to as a “black hole.” You should view this as an opportunity to make an impact. Think about the dollars spent on medical equipment and the ability to reduce capital through proper technology assessment. You have the technical expertise that can promote patient safety and clinical efficiency. Your reach can span across the organization, providing you with a global perspective. This all comes together in a recipe for the opportunity to influence.

To understand how we can all be in a position of influence, we need to look at credibility and relationships. When we think of people of influence, we think of individuals with education, experience, and authority. We often feel that these characteristics give an individual credibility, and therefore we tend to be more open to their influence. However, credibility is really more than credentials. Having a fancy degree does not always mean you make good decisions, and having decades of experience does not necessarily mean you have learned from those experiences.

Establishing Credibility

Imagine that you are called to a meeting about IV pump distribution in your hospital. You were aware of this initiative, and even though you have extensive experience in this area, you had not been included in any discussions up to that point. At the start of the meeting, the distribution manager takes a position that you disagree with. You decide to voice your disagreement so those in the room have to make a judgment. Never get yourself in a position where you are put on the spot defending your credibility. Be proactive and establish your power to influence during neutral times, so you don’t come off as combative or defensive in the heat of the moment.

So let’s rewind. Once you hear that there is an initiative to improve IV pump distribution, you should engage the department and manager so they are aware of your expertise and willingness to participate. Don’t assume they already know. Get in the habit of sharing your background with the people you meet. And for those who already know you, reintroduce yourself!

In fact, don’t stop with yourself. Individuals who are part of an influential team are more influential themselves. To develop an influential team, each member should not only take responsibility for his or her own credibility, but also actively and intentionally build up that of their teammates as well. When you introduce your teammates, take the opportunity to establish their reputation. Say the things that they may not feel comfortable saying. Also, never voice your lack of confidence in your teammate to a customer, and never resort to public criticism. Stand up for your peers unconditionally, and deal with conflict privately.

Change the Flow

Now that you have established credibility, you have given people a reason to listen to you. Next, you need to make them want to listen to you. Individuals tend to be influenced by those who are in close proximity. We may say that an actor, a professional athlete, or a politician inspires us, but ultimately, we follow the herd we graze with. You need to build connections and embed yourself in your customer’s culture.

One obvious way to create relationships is to provide great service. But don’t fall into the pattern of just showing up when things are broken. In order to build your relationships to a more meaningful level, take an active interest in your customers’ worlds. Visit them routinely, attend their department meetings, and get yourself plugged in. Look for opportunities to contribute.

Have you ever been driving and noticed a flashy sports car riding your tail? He’s not trying to get a better look at your bumper sticker. He is trying to influence you to go faster or get out of the way. Many of us take option three, which is to stand your ground, and ultimately you both become annoyed or angry, but you go your separate ways.

We experience the same dynamic at work. Every so often you will find someone riding your tail to get you to rush or to push you out of the way. The difference is that as drivers, you go your separate ways. As coworkers, you have to continue to interact, and that leads to a toxic dynamic of pushing against resistance.

What if you are the sports car? As you approach that car, which is going with the flow of traffic, you could ride their tail to get the driver to move aside. But what if you could somehow influence the flow of traffic so that everyone would go faster? Often big ideas feel like riding up on someone’s bumper. That’s not to say that big ideas aren’t worth the effort, but usually it is better to start with a seminal idea, one that starts with a small change but opens up opportunities for further change. If you change the flow, people may not even realize they are being influenced. They just go with the flow.

Individuals tend to be more susceptible to influence in a crisis. When times are tough, people are open to creative ideas, and they look for direction from those who have proven credibility. Be proactive, get involved, build relationships, and position yourself to contribute. 24×7

Matthew Dummert, MS, BSEE, is manager, imaging technology management, at Froedtert Health, Milwaukee. For more information, contact [email protected].