If the concept of influence matters a lot in web-based interactions, it’s still a matter of headaches for businesses. It’s impossible to count the number of discussions about the concept of influencers and the debates is much more than rhetorics. From the definition one has of influence and influencers derives the way a marketing or communication department will select and mobilize them (not to say…utilize them).
It’s even more complicated when it comes to employees’ influence. Businesses want to mobilize and recognize their experts but it quickly became an influence matter, starting with the assumption – right or wrong – that expertise lead to influence. Another ambiguity adds to this first one : this is a sensitive matter from a political perspective. Not all leaders and managers want to hear that some of their employees are more influent than them. By doing so they’re mistaking leadership for influence.
Employees’ influence : a very sensitive matter in the workplace
Last, if influence is seen as the ability to communicate and share a message, it’s seen as time-wasting in the workplace because who’s communicating is not working. Not to mention the quantitative and qualitative side of influence : people are considered influent because they say and share a lot, are followed by lots of people. What is not always true.
So it’s a complicated and sensitive matter but a matter that can’t be overlooked anymore. Since businesses want to measure the impact of what’s happening on their internal social platforms and want to help their employees to measure the impact of their own activities to adopt more productive practices, knowing what employee influence means is key.
I recently came across a very interesting post on influence and eminence. It reminded me of some conversations I had with Marie Wallace on “social scorecard” helping employees to improve their social practices in the workplace, those that have an impact for them and for them business. I remembered she used to talk about eminence rather than influence.
If the frontier between both still looks vague to me, it seems that difference is that influence is more related to the the ability to spread a message and eminence the ability to make it content “work”. An eminent person can change things for others, do something for them. An influential person conveys the idea that it’s possible.
Both have an impact but not the same. The eminent impact others, he changes things. The influential has an impact on the eminent because he makes his message more popular, shared, credible, strong.
Eminent people impact others. Influential ones share the word
Of course many people are both eminent and influential. In my opinion, eminence even backs influence with credibility.
Someone eminent but not influential is a brilliant but unrecognized person who need the help of someone influential to carry his message.
Someone influential but not eminent lives through other’s ideas, exists thanks to them, helps his audience because he curates and amplifies the information.
What should business learn ?
Businesses will always be uncomfortable with influence for the above-mentionned reasons. And if the don’t get it well the risk of seeing the influence race turning into a lnoise race is actual. On the other side, eminence, people developing both their knowledge and ability to act upon it is something they understand and see more positively. On the employee’s side, it’s also obvious that existing through one’s ability to think and have an impact is better than to exist on their ability to convey a message. Influential people often run out of fuel when there’s no-one eminent around.
Forget influence and help employees to become eminent. It’s a better game, a win-win one.
Image credit : Influence via Shutterstock