Why Influence Matters For Women in the Workplace

This month, 4word’s Monday blogs and podcast episodes will be focused on the topic of “becoming a woman of influence.” Our guest speaker on this topic is Tracey Newell, sales leadership expert and former executive of many notable organizations. The topic of influence and becoming a woman of influence is something that Tracey does not shy away from and as you will see over the month of June, she is able to infuse this important conversation with insights that she has learned herself throughout her successful career.

You can listen to this entire conversation with Tracey on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

How would you define being a ‘woman of influence?’ 

Let’s be real: I don’t think any of us want to say that we are a woman of influence. Women tend to be humble and want to hide behind the scenes, so the last thing that we’d want to say is that we’re a woman of influence. But just think of all of the amazing women that are called out in the Bible for having so much influence over the faith that we have today. Ruth and Mary Magdalene and many others were all women of influence who had huge impact over the world for thousands of years. So in my mind, being a ‘woman of influence’ means being able to guide and inspire people to create better outcomes, which then means being a woman of influence is really, really important in making this world a better place. 

Does being a woman of influence mean you have to be extroverted? 

I led a career in sales and marketing, working for tech firms, so I always thought that I had to be an extrovert to influence people. Then I was in a Myers-Briggs class and the facilitator, who had this really outgoing, big personality, said, ‘I’m an extrovert.’ I kind of stepped back and said, ‘No way, you’re not an extrovert.’ So then we looked at the definition of an introvert and extrovert. An extrovert wants to be out. If you get invited to a party with a cool rock band with 200 people that you don’t know, you want to be there because it’s the place to be. An introvert may not want to go to that party. They may want to sit down with five of their closest friends by the fire and have a really intimate evening. And I would do the latter all day long! So I don’t think that in order to be a woman of influence, you have to be an extrovert. You have all kinds of ways that you can touch people to help them and to help each other. 

Why does influence matter? 

It’s the easiest way to help people get to a better outcome. Jesus led 100% through influence, didn’t He? We’ve been given free will so we get to make our own choices. How do you touch people’s hearts to bring people together and do something bigger and greater together? To me, that’s what influence is really all about.  

What does influence look like in the different areas of a woman’s life?  

I actually think influence looks more similar than people probably think. Everyone is an influencer. You can have huge influence helping the church to reach more people or to be even more impactful to the people already in the congregation. You can have influence to really change your company’s outcomes and help make your company more successful by bringing people together.  

If a woman tries to be influential, how can she do that without being seen as a brute?

I have the greatest story that really alludes to your question. I joined a new company, and there was an employee who was on maternity leave and was going to come back and work for me. About a week before she was going to start back, she said to her husband, ‘Gosh, I don’t know if I can actually work for this person.’ Her husband asked why she couldn’t, and she said, ‘Because she’s a woman.’ We’re good friends now and can laugh about it, but at the time, I thought, ‘We’re supposed to be supporting each other. What did she mean by that?’

When it comes to influence I think there are two different extremes for women. Sometimes women think that, in order to move forward in the workplace, they have to be stronger than any man, and they become really tough on their employees. Then there’s the other extreme of influence (which I’ve seen too often) where women are afraid to speak up. So how do you make your voice heard? I think you have to take a balanced approach. You have to stand up for yourself but you can do it in a way that’s empathetic. Women are very empathetic! We’re multitaskers and great listeners, which gives us a huge advantage in influencing people.  

Are there ways to gauge if you’re influencing ‘correctly?’ 

I think you can tell by how people are approaching you. If you’re doing a really strong job of getting the best out of people and listening to people, they’ll tend to come to you often. But I think you should also consider if there are people not in your direct working group that are coming to you. If only the people that know you are coming to you, then that probably means you’re not influencing your organization. outside of just your own teams walls. Influence can be even more professionally powerful when it goes beyond your “team walls.” 

A lot of people will say that you should have your own board of directors—three to five trusted people who will tell you the truth. I like to use the example of going to a restaurant. At the end of the meal, the waiter might ask, ‘How was everything?’ Customers will usually say that the meal was good or fine. But to get the feedback he really wanted, the waiter should have asked if the customer would come back every day for the next month. Then he would have gotten the constructive feedback he was seeking: maybe the meal was too expensive, or the food wasn’t that great, or maybe there weren’t enough options. 

As you think about building your inner circle, I would encourage you to pick three to five people that are your peers, people that have worked for you or have been your managers. Once you’ve built your circle, ask them to tell you if you’re doing a great job at influencing or leading. Ask them to give you three things that you should be working on to be better in your role. If you really want good feedback, people will tell you, but it starts with trust and authenticity.  

Someone once told me that no one but you can manage your career. Your manager may not be that good at influence, and that represents a bigger opportunity to you to really be the up-and-coming star for that person by helping to connect different groups of people to solve real problems. Don’t wait for someone else to act. Be proactive, because remember: only you can manage your career.

Specializing in accelerating go-to-market teams and top line revenue growth, Tracey Newell serves on the board of five high growth software companies, to include Sailpoint, Sumo Logic, Druve, Highspot and DataRobot. Tracey also serves as an advisor for Blackrock Long Term Private Capital.

Tracey is the former president of Informatica, where she served as a member of Informatica’s board of directors for two years, prior to being asked to join Informatica’s management team. As president of Informatica, Tracey was responsible for sales, marketing, revenue operations, and customer success.

Prior to joining Informatica, Tracey was EVP of global field operations at Proofpoint, where she led sales through a five-year period of hypergrowth from 96M to 700M. Recognized as a Top 100 Sales Leader by The Modern Sale, Tracey led Proofpoint’s go-to-market team to became a top five leader in the cybersecurity market. Before Proofpoint, Tracey was EVP of global sales at Polycom. She has also held sales leadership positions at Juniper Networks, Webex, and Cisco Systems. During her tenure at Cisco, Tracey was recognized by the organization Women Worth Watching.

From a philanthropic standpoint, Tracey is on the board of advisors for the University of California, Santa Barbara’s economic department, providing counsel on long term strategy for the department. Tracey has also served in non-profit organizations to include Impact 100, whose mission is to unite women to make a difference in our communities, as well as the National Charity League. Tracey graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and completed Stanford’s 26th Annual Directors College in June 2021.

Tracey is married to Vince Newell, together for 30+ years, and is blessed with two adult daughters, Megan (28) and Brittany (25).