How to influence and be influenced

Recently, I conducted a survey asking people a variety of questions ranging from the resources that they used to develop professionally to their views on coaching.  Over 120 respondents gave their feedback from industries ranging from digital media to banking, financial services and education.*

There were some fairly self evident responses, such as the fact that people regularly use courses and websites to “skill up”.  However, the response to the question – “what are the primary tools that you use to develop professionally and/or personally?” — was very revealing. Over 50% of people answering the survey stated that they look to friends and colleagues as one of their first choices.

It was equalled only by the percentage who said that they refer to courses with professional speakers or trainers and was a significantly more popular response than other options including books, podcasts, events, mentors or coaches.

When dealing with people around you, how are you influencing them?

Given the number of daily interactions that people have with friends and colleagues, these results show that what you say and do gives you the potential — and responsibility — of being an influencer. Here are some suggestions to make you more effective in helping those around you.

Be a coach…

When friends or colleagues look to you for advice, are you helping them to reach their own conclusions or telling them what to do? What you consider right for you may not be right from another’s perspective. Asking open-ended or incisive questions, encouraging people to think in different ways and questioning assumptions are examples by which you can help others find the ideas, answers or inspiration they are looking for.

Know what you’re talking about…

When someone asks you a question, do you actually know the answer? If you don’t, admit that that’s the case and support colleagues in finding alternative ways to obtain the information they require. You may find it uncomfortable to say “I don’t know” initially but over time, they are more likely to see you as a trusted contact if you are honest and set them on the right path first time round.

Identify how you’re an expert and tell people…

Are you an expert in a particular field? Tell your friends and colleagues. Given the emphasis that people place on personal relationships for learning, it’s a relatively safe environment to confidently establish your subject matter expertise. In turn, you’ll create a network that looks to you as a trusted resource and refers you to others.

Are you surrounding yourself with the right influencers?

At the same time, it’s important that you apply the same guidelines to yourself.

Who do you choose to learn from? Are they qualified to provide the insights that you require? Or do you rely on the same people for advice, regardless of the issue you’re looking to address.

Do your friends and colleagues question you and make you think about things differently or do you rely on them to tell you what to do?

If you’re not happy with your answers to the questions above, I’m not suggesting that you change your friends or colleagues set.  Instead, encourage them to challenge and be honest with you. At the same time, seek advice from people outside your circle who have experienced the issues that you’re facing or have access to the information that you require.

I suspect that as you consider the way that you interact with others when they look to you for guidance, your approach in how you ask people to influence and develop you will also change.

*n=128, January 2014

Using social media for employee communications – some Australian case studies

There’s a lot of available data on the social media landscape and its adoption by the Australian public.  Australians have been hailed as the no.1 users of social media globally, spending up to 7 hours on social networking sites monthly, even more than users in the UK and US.  The Nielsen Company’s 2010 report indicated that Australia’s social media audience is 9.9 million and other research has estimated that one-quarter of Australia’s online audience is participating by creating content on social media platforms and elsewhere.

When looking for quantitative data on the number of Australian companies using social media and how, the research is fragmented and scarce.  Many companies are still questioning the benefits of introducing social media to their business models.  At a conference on social media and issues for HR hosted by AHRI last week, approximately a third of the delegate representatives stated that social media was banned from their organisations.

While quantative data is lacking, there are some great case studies of companies adopting social media for internal purposes.  They have decided to educate their employees on how to communicate and use interactive platforms responsibly while adopting initiatives and processes that enhance communications and community with its employees and increase levels of engagement.  Other organisations are using new social platforms to support cross company projects and for recruitment purposes.

Having approached some companies directly, here are some examples of social media initiatives being implemented by business in Australia and the results that they are seeing …


Deloitte has been particularly active in adopting social media platforms for internal communications and employee engagement purposes.  Deloitte Australia uses Yammer, a platform that can be described as a type of “Facebook for business” that allows for a secure and private company platform for employees to share news and updates. Over half of Deloitte’s employees are using this micro-blogging platform and it has been suggested that using social networking tools has broken down silos between teams and is responsible for increasing employee retention.

In 2011, Deloitte also introduced Only@Deloitte, a YouTube festival in which employees were encouraged to share their experiences and insights on working at the company on video. Objectives for this initiative were to educate potential recruits and encourage participation between staff. Over 100 videos were posted with participation by 800 Deloitte people with 50,000 video views on the Deloitte YouTube page during the campaign.


Pollenizer is another example of a company using the social platform Yammer to communicate between staff, clients, partners and industry.  Within the company, it has been described as the “office water cooler” where everybody hangs out and where they hear about what’s going on in the company.

To quote one of the team at Pollenizer, “our team needs to be constantly connected and communicating as often as possible.  We are in an industry that moves fast so sharing lessons, insights, links, archive of ideas, motivations, feelings, case studies, competitor info, industry info, successes, failures with each other is very important. Yammer is totally addictive. It is an important cultural touch stone for the team and an integral communication tool when we work with virtual teams around Sydney, Australia and the world.”


Microsoft in Australia has recently introduced a ‘workplace advantage’ scheme. This has involved seven years of research on the most effective ways of working and the outcomes have included the refurbishment (or entire relocation) of all Australian offices to a new way of working, allowing Microsoft employees to come and go as they please, be fully mobile and work from wherever, whenever, and make the most of their office space.  From an HR perspective, managing this change was a mammoth task. It resulted in significant changes for employees and which has impacted their working lives, at least in the short-term.

In terms of communications, Microsoft launched a social networking environment named ‘Yellow Balloon’ where employees could ask questions, get access to the latest updates and alerts on office news around the country and members of the Microsoft team offered perspectives through an interactive blog or answered community questions.

According to Microsoft HR, the collaborative environment has had a real impact on employees. “Everybody recognises the Yellow Balloon, and social media has allowed us to bring an accessible, informative and humorous voice to what otherwise could have been an overwhelming and alienating series of changes for employees.”

Atos Origin

A non-Australian case study in this summary but an interesting example of how a company is using social platforms to bring email under control.  Atos Origin is a European IT services company that has been experimenting with social media and collaboration tools for its 49,000 employees across 40 countries.

According to the FT, Thierry Breton, chief executive of Atos Origin argues that the ban is necessary because the volume of email circulating inside his company is now “unsustainable”, causing managers to spend between five and 25 hours a week just reading and writing emails.

Atos Origin will be banning email for internal communications by 2014 and replacing this with online, social collaboration tools.  It has been predicted that this will reduce the amount of email within employees’ inboxes in the region of 10-20%.

Research references
*The Nielsen Company,  March 2010
**Forrester Research, November 2008