A business marketing professional recently told me that his organisation groups social media influencers into three categories: ‘Mega’ influencers for those who have a million or more followers. ‘Macro’ influencers who boast above one-hundred thousand and ‘Micro’ for people with more than 25,000 followers.
Interesting. But I assert that each and every one of us is an influencer, no matter whether we’re supported by a large Instagram following or not.
You are never not communicating. You are always impacting the lives of other people. For good or bad.
1. A Cautionary Tale of Negative Influence
Dear column readers, this week I’m going to make a confession. This week, I displayed a moment of ‘bad’ communications influence when I lost my temper with a customer service representative for a not-to-be-named broadband provider.
My ‘influence incident’ began after I was initially told a technician would come to set up the wifi in my new apartment on Friday. But then I received an unexpected text informing me the installation date had been inexplicably moved four days later.
The proposed new date didn’t work for me at all – as I’m scheduled to be in London to work with a client. So, in extreme frustration, I pounded out the number for customer service and gave some poor, hapless representative – who had not made the original fumble – a roaring piece of my mind.
Okay, for the record, I didn’t cuss or threaten anyone. But, I also did not consider the emotions of the human being on the other end of the phone as I over-reacted to this clearly minor issue. I didn’t pause and reflect or take time to offer any alternatives.
Not surprisingly, my anger did not result in any positive outcome. Ultimately, I sheepishly apologised to the representative for my outburst and resigned myself to an even later installation date once I return home from my travels.
It doesn’t matter that the representative was someone I didn’t know and couldn’t see. She is still a human being and therefore worthy of my civility and respect.
Our levels of influence with others around us are either decreasing or increasing all the time. It’s our responsibility to develop the positive influencer within us. If you’re like me, you want your communications, your influence, your purposeful leadership to make a positive difference.
2. An Encouraging Tale of Positive Influence
Fortunately, I believe my ‘good’ moments of influence outweigh my negative ones.
This past Monday, I spoke to Graeme Tinney, director of Griffiths and Armour, a professional indemnity brokerage and risk management firm that represents some 2,500 consulting engineers in Ireland and the UK.
Apparently, my words during last year’s Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland (ACEI) conference had influenced him positively.
He reminded me of a moment which I had honestly forgotten about. During the conference, the main themes were how to attract more people – particularly more women – into the traditional construction areas of the engineering profession.
A participant asked what I thought the answer was and I encouraged everyone in the audience to think of just one single thing they could do and to try to achieve that over the next 12 months.
“Your words were a call to action,” Graeme told me. “It got me thinking. Is there something we can do and are these issues we should be helping to address?”
After the conference, he came up with an idea that he shared with his board. They liked it too. And now, in association with ACEI and Engineers Ireland, a new initiative is about to be rolled out.
“In the next couple of weeks, we are launching the ‘G&A Engineering Futures’ bursary award – available to second year undergraduate university students in accredited degree courses in the Republic of Ireland who have decided to focus on civil, structural, mechanical, electrical or building engineering where the issues have been felt most acutely.
“We are offering two bursaries, one which will be reserved for a female student.”
Graeme said that without the strong support from ACEI Secretary General Sarah Ingle and Engineers Ireland Director General Caroline Spillane, they could not be doing this.
“It’s the coming together that really makes this possible along with the endorsement of our own board and group chief executive Carl Evans.”
Call it the ‘avalanche effect’: A few positive words that grow into an idea, which in turn gains support that culminates in implementation.
3. Why Developing Positive Influence Matters
I asked Graeme what influence means to him. “My wife and I have three girls at home,” he replied. “It’s very important to us they know the opportunities that are open to them and they understand what those opportunities look like.
“Every now and then you get an opportunity to make a difference and to do something because you’re in a position and it’s the right thing to do. ‘G&A Engineering Futures’ might not change the world, but it might change someone’s world and that’s good to know.”
I want to stress that I take zero credit for making this initiative come to pass. But I do want to illustrate how words can have impact long after they have been said.
You can be an influencer. An inspiration. A catalyst.