ɪnflʊəns / noun
1. Influence – The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.
This word – and its layers of meaning – is something I want to explore in 2014. Maybe you do too.
When I had lunch Monaco with Suzanne Bates, author of Speak Like a CEO and founder of a large consulting firm near Boston, she asked me if I had ever considered writing a book on understanding Influence.
Me? I didn’t think I had enough influence to do so.
She asked me to recall when I had been the first Country Director of the International Republican Institute in Egypt in 2006. IRI is committed to teaching democracy to developing countries, but somehow, with my staff of just three Egyptian nationals, I was unclear how wide-spread – or influential – our workshops and reports would be.
We conducted a few constituent-building training sessions with political parties opposed to the then-Mubarak regime. And later, after an interview tour of the country, we issued the first-ever “Political Party Assessment” report that, to me, stated the obvious: Egypt’s political landscape was strategically tilted toward the regime’s party.
I did not anticipate the immediate backlash. The following day, I received a phone call to report to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. While I was flanked by two US Embassy officials, the Egyptian Deputy Minister politely and firmly announced our program was being shut-down. At the same time, a press release was being sent out essentially declaring me a spy.
The next six weeks, my name and photo was slashed across almost every newspaper. Members of Egypt’s Parliament called for my arrest and finally a newspaper ran a photo of me – with a graphic of a gun-sight over my face – and a banner headline that declared, “Assassinate the Spy.”
The US Embassy and IRI helped me immediately leave the country.
I failed to connect that the work of my small office was greatly magnified by the weight of the United States Congress that closely monitors the work that both IRI and its sister organization, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) do.
I had underestimated the range of my influence then.
And a year ago, when I had my lunch with Suzanne, perhaps I underestimated it again. I didn’t write such a book, and just yesterday, Suzanne’s company announced it had spent the last year researching and developing a science-based model to test for influence.
So, what is influence and how to best leverage it?
I bet we all have more of it than we realize. I do know that I have communications expertise based on my years as a professional journalist, campaign manager and international trainer.
I want to share that expertise with as many people as I can. I may no longer have the support of Congress (which might be a good thing) – but together, we can create a butterfly effect of influence. For the positive.
Let’s all strive to better understand – and reinforce – our influence.
If there’s anything you would like to ask me, don’t hesitate!
Til next time!
Copyright 2014 Gina London. All rights reserved.