Building professional influence is vital to unlocking career opportunities. It involves 4 main areas: 1) forging meaningful relationships with coworkers, 2) collaborating well and often, 3) managing the organization’s perception of you and your work, and 4) developing insight into the broader business and business community.

Informal relationships outside the chain of command often determine what and how things get done in an organization. This is particularly true in times of crisis. The challenge of building influence from a distance isn’t new; remote and geographically scattered employees have long struggled. Virtual work is likely here to stay, making this an even more pressing question in the years to come.

So how do you plan to grow, self-advocate, and build your professional influence at a distance?

Forge Meaningful Relationships

Start with empathy. 

Everyone struggles. This has always been true; COVID-19 has simply exposed this in a new way. Take time to emotionally check in with your team daily. This helps create important emotional connections that help others feel supported. Allow others grace to feel frustrated and anxious, and strategize as a team how to acknowledge and manage negative emotions. Especially when anxiety’s high, this is crucial to building professional influence: others must feel that you “see” them as people.

Check out our article about Mastering the Art of Virtual Presence for more tips.

Take others’ perspectives.

It’s easy to be isolated at home or during virtual work. This can lead to silos and limited perspectives. Be intentional about understanding how your leadership and teams see things. What are they concerned about? How is their performance evaluated? How can you help make their jobs easier? What are their priorities? Influential people understand others’ perspectives and jobs, and communicate in meaningful ways to those around them.

Collaborate Well and Often

Work toward clarity.

Times of crisis can be “noisy” – especially when people are physically separated. Everyone’s feeling anxious and stressed. It’s easy to assume that everyone is working toward the same outcome or goal – and be entirely wrong.

Influential people help the team work toward clarity on what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. Work to understand others’ point of view, concerns, and efforts. This helps you clarify your own understanding and help the team stay in sync.

Communicate, don’t insulate.

Leaders often want to protect their employees from uncertainty, but this can backfire. Employees will fill communication voids with fear, anxiety, and worst-case scenarios. Even if the answer is “I don’t know”, communicate it.

Reassure employees that you’re working on it, solicit their help in solving big problems, and keep them as informed as is possible – even if there’s no real progress. Influential leaders recognize that job #1 in a crisis is helping manage employees’ emotional landscapes.

Manage Organizational Perception of You and Your Work

Communicate the work you are doing.

Things get lost in the shuffle. It’s easy to “assume” what someone is or isn’t doing when we can’t see each other in the office each day. Craft a weekly call or bulleted email summary to your boss to keep him/her in the loop on your activities and priorities, and include your upcoming plans for the following week. Most importantly, include your why – what you’re trying to accomplish, the impact your work is making, how you’re deciding what’s important from a business perspective. Influential professionals demonstrate that they can connect their efforts to the bigger picture and broader business.

Check out our article on Focusing on Impact for more tips.

Develop Insight into the Broader Business and Business Community

Reach out to your network and build new connections.

Been intending to reach out to that person you met at an event, have lunch with a peer, or get to know a co-worker in another city? Now is the time. Set up virtual meetings using a video conferencing platform so you can see each other’s faces.  People are hungry to connect with others. They’re also eager to lift up and support others. Use this time wisely to extend your network. Consider how you might pay it forward and help them in some way.

Looking for more information on effective networking? Check out our 4-part blog series on networking: Focusing on the EngineHoning Your BrandChoosing Your Targets, and Measuring What Matters.

Use this time to build skills.

If you have been furloughed, laid off, or simply have fewer work hours due to the stay-at-home policies, use this time for education.  What are gaps in your knowledge or experience that could benefit from a development program, webinars, books and podcasts?  Leadership, job skills and business and financial acumen are areas where you can invest your time in learning to come out of the crisis in a stronger career position.

Check out our leadership development programs for ways to develop yourself through all seasons.

Invest Now to Rebound Faster

Building professional influence is more important than ever before. Those who make it an intentional part of their day will be better positioned as things rebound. Turn this obstacle into an opportunity!


Here at EWF International, we’ve gone virtual with Emerging LeadersExecutive Forums, Coaching, and virtual happy hours. Reach out to learn more about how we’re helping keep businesses, leaders, and members in our community connected through all seasons.