Etymology does fascinate me, as words we use daily are so rich when you consider how they’ve taken hundred of years to form. I myself, and I’m sure many other communication folks too probably spend some time thinking about the word influence. Here’s how is was formed:
The word originally had the general sense of ‘an influx, flowing matter’, and in astrology terms ‘the flowing in of ethereal fluid (affecting human destiny)’. How lovely is that?
When we talk about influencing, it’s often far less ethereal. It’s a business competency that measures how effective you are at ramming your own ideas down the neck of other people. As communications professionals, we often go search for our elusive ‘influencers of the business’, whoever they might be.
The easy (and lazy) way to get your influencers in a business is to put a note out and ask folks to volunteer to be communications champions – that’s champion the verb, not adjective or noun. Do you remember back at school when the teacher might need a hand with something? There’d always be a person who’d stick up their mitt and be a good little student in helping out. However, I’d put my pension on betting that person wouldn’t be able to influence the rest of the class.
The same applies to business. Often the proactive people in the business will demonstrate the traits we’d need for an influencer, however in reality they’d be no more effective than sending an email to all.
I’ve recently recruited a project psychologist who has the developed the science for identifying the true influencers in the business. I’m very excited to be able to share some of the results on the type of person an influencer is and how we best utilise them to enact change in an organisation… Watch this space.