Influence is not necessarily a popularity contest. Our culture has its fair share of shallow, well meaning people who are well liked. And, there is little reason to overlook the dramatic impact that charisma, good looks and the spotlight have on decision making. In some ways, popularity matters terribly. In others, it’s an irritant at best.
Power is the ability to make things happen. Influence is not so clear. It is the ability to have an affect on things. Where the use of power means that a thing will happen, the use of influence increases the likelihood that something will happen. Power causes; influence affects.
Imagine that there is a spectrum.
One one end, popularity is the dominant force. This is the arena in which pop stars, television personalities, professional athletes and cinema celebrities operate. They influence culture and decision making that ranges from fashion to politics. Advertisers routinely look to this group as a way of shaping potential customer perceptions. The link between popularity and the decision that wants to be influenced is tenuous. This is a realm in which knowing how to communicate is more important than what is communicated.
At the other end is deep professional competence. In this realm, influence is rooted in subject matter expertise. These are the thinkers and doers who work in or on the arena. They influence the culture by demonstrating what actually works and what doesn’t or by creating the structures through which the world is better understood. The link between the decision under consideration and expertise is a very clear thing. This is the world in which being right can matter more than saying it well.
If influence were only as simple as that spectrum.
Influence always happens in some context. Whether it’s decision making in the organization, electing a government, family politics, determining best practices for an industry or introducing new ideas to any group, influence is a part of the process. Its use can be sophisticated and smooth or amateurish and crude. Generally, the more subtle the influence, the more effective it is.
In the technology arena, where new ideas are the stock and trade, influence takes a variety of shapes. Marketers try to increase visibility and understanding. Technologists often bank on the quality of their insight and execution. Evangelists prod and persuade. Investors work to handicap the game.
Some of the most interesting stories come from practitioners who follow their passion to create technology companies. Fueled by subject matter expertise and that powerful wisdom that comes from knowing what you’re talking about, they pour themselves into tech companies. Along the way, they pick up lessons in software development, marketing, capitalization, cash flow and executive leadership.
Carmen Hudson, this week’s addition to our Top 100 Influencers list is one of those practitioners turned technologists. The founder of TweetAJob, Carmen comes to the tech startup scene with a deep background in Talent Acquisition. Here’s the meat of her bio:
Carmen’s expertise is in helping clients build the right sourcing and recruiting strategies, and implementing them in the real world of limited budgets, competing priorities, and highly competitive recruiting environments. She consults and trains companies to help them leverage high ROI solutions for big sourcing, social media, and technology implementation initiatives.
Carmen is a self-described “recruiting geek” who has spent years learning, creating, and sharing best practices around sourcing. She gets that technology – for all of its hype – is still a means to an end, not an end in itself. Her corporate experience includes Yahoo!, where she was Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition. At Yahoo! she led the strategic sourcing team, revitalizing the employee referral program and Yahoo’s employer brand. The team was awarded a coveted Yahoo! Superstar Award, an ERE Excellence award and various recruiting and advertising industry awards.
Prior to joining Yahoo!, she was manager, Global Strategic Sourcing for Starbucks Coffee Corporation, where she developed sourcing strategies and recommended resources and tactics to support U.S. retail management hiring. She has also held senior talent acquisition roles at Microsoft, Amazon.com and Capital One.
Anyone who spends time with Carmen knows her as an extrovert with an abiding passion for Talent Acquisition. She has paid her dues mastering the complexities of the profession. Along the way, she’s picked up plenty of awards and public recognition.
Like most of our influencers, Carmen has a crystal focus and executes in a number of settings. While she’s piloting TweetAJob, she’s also consorting with Jason Warner and John Vlastelica at Recruiting Toolbox. This consultancy is one of two or three national organizations with the capacity to really turbocharge corporate recruiting efforts.
Carmen and I talked for a while about the trends shaping HR today. She described the ‘perfect storm’. It’s the combination of
- Economic Disruption
- Extraordinary Productivity
- Technology Advances
In her eyes, these three things conspire to create an employment market in which supply and demand are mismatched. Today, Software literacy is an assumed baseline. The ability to navigate complex, changing concepts is an essential part of workplace participation. Finally, the economic disruption has created a class of people who don’t understand that they’ve become irrelevant and need to acquire new skills.
She tells a persuasive story about the disconnect between job hunters and the companies that want to employ them. The people on the inside have no understanding of the dynamics of the job hunt. The people on the outside do not understand the complexities inside the organization. This is the root of reported bad experiences in the job application process.
As a tech entrepreneur, Carmen is a spotter of new technologies and approaches. She says, "If I was a silicon Valley recruiter, I’d be watching all of the location based check ins on Castro Street". She is certain that the process needs a universal application and that games have a limited future.
One look at Carmen will tell you that, all modesty aside, she is a standout in the field. She’s focused on the development and delivery of excellence in her profession. She influences by doing.