Next to the August Harvard Business Review’s cover article on influence – and how to wield it, the type of confidante-companion-influencer we’re thinking about is less dramatic. But potent, nonetheless.
Our idea stems from the personal shopper hired, usually, by department stores, often, by high-end boutiques. Popular in the ‘80s, image stylists’ employment waned during the 90s and ‘aughts, but now is flourishing.
The reasons are many: To bridge the gap between on-line retailing and stores. To offer consumers a winnowing of the humongous variety available on the Internet. To give shoppers a one-on-one friend who will validate their choices, naysay any non-figure flatterers, and, in general, become her go-to buddy for purchases – and other paraphernalia.
That last reason is the critical one. Sure, apps now exist that can take the place of this personal shopper, in many cases linking an actual salesperson via texts and images to a potential buyer. There is, though, no substitute for a “live-and-in-person” friend, one who will be frank about what you’ve selected.
Why not, then, a similar live app for work? Gallup has long advocated for a best friend at work, citing it as one important employee engagement criterion. Yet a best friend won’t always truth-tell, especially in corporate America. Mentors, too, exist in a different sphere; their function is more coach and sponsor than confidante and companion. The buddy system usually works during the onboarding of a new hire, left behind when that newbie finds his/her grounding in the business. And our manager is, well, our manager.
Combine the best of personal shopper with work friend, though, is our thinking. All of us can use an objective sounding board, an individual who also understands us and our interests. No one we know would turn down the opportunity to spend time with an influencer, and that mutual investment of time. An inside confidante will know the players, understand the context, and act as a trusted guide when gut and experience aren’t clicking.
Call it MyInfluencer.com – and make sure it’s real. [PS: Please credit us.]