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Spot influencers with ‘snowball survey’

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

surveyTo promote internal reforms, you can give talking points to your managers and urge them to woo their employees to embrace change.

A better idea: Identify key in­­­flu­­encers at all levels and enlist their help winning over co-workers. How do you find em­ployees who exert the most influence over their peers? Use a “snowball sampling.”

Ask, “Who do you go to for information when you’re having trouble?”  Invite respondents to list up to five names.

Collect enough replies—and promise anonymity—and you’ll see the same names appear again and again. The most respected influencers aren’t necessarily the longest-tenured individuals. And their job titles can vary; some of the most influential people may wield little if any formal authority.

Many senior executives think they can spot key influencers. But they are often wrong, survey results show.

Armed with a list of the most influential employees, encourage them to persuade their peers to accept the need for change and communicate why it matters. Include them in the planning process so that they help shape the change and its implementation.

Changes that unfold with the vocal support of influential employees are more apt to exceed expectations than initiatives imposed from the top. You also free yourself to focus on the big picture if you step back and let influencers spread the word among the rank-and-file.

— Adapted from “Tapping the power of hidden influencers,” Lili Duan, Emily Sheeren and Leigh Weiss, www.mckinsey.com.

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