The power of strategic influence
Gary is the best-selling author of “The Power of Strategic Influence” and CEO at Success Masters LLC, a holding company that has invested in business networking, online media, e-commerce, and intellectual property. A 35-year veteran of sales, marketing and professional service, Laney’s background covers domain expertise in Business Networking, e-commerce, Sales Process, CRM, Business Process Management, Content/Document Management, and Search. His insights and commitment to making a positive impact is a fantastic message for any business.
What motivated you to write this book?
I wrote my book because I’m passionate about positive forms of influence that stem from meaningful relationships, built upon trust. I’ve known for 15 years that I needed to write a book and share what I know to be true about great business principles I’ve learned and taught about over the years. The hardest part is getting started, and producing something that others may consider to be worthwhile. I knew my ideas had merit since I taught them in business over and over for many years.
Why do you think there is such a gap in leadership these days?
If by gap, you mean, why is there so much variance in terms of leadership effectiveness today, I would say it boils down to three components I teach about in my book, “The Power of Strategic Influence.” They are 1. Personal Value, 2. Driving Forces, and 3. Leadership Competencies.
First, becoming a leader requires anyone to develop a certain level of Personal Value (your knowledge, expertise, and experience). This means that to be considered and recognized as a leader, others must weigh the value you bring to the table. Ask yourself, “What value can I offer to others?”
Next a leader must assess and identify what I call Personal Driving Forces (PDF’s), or the compelling reasons why you do what you do. PDF’s represent the purpose and passions that drive you to achieve higher levels. Without personal driving forces, your plan will end up being short-term, short-lived, and unsustainable. Leading others requires a person to be intentional about why they are leading, and having a feeling or sense that gives the leader confidence that they can make a difference. Saying that money is your purpose is not a valid reason to be doing something because when things become difficult, when challenges arise, it will be the authentic you (purpose behind the effort) that will motivate you to carry on. In my book, I share my own driving forces as an example, but each person, each leader must take time to evaluate and identify their own personal driving forces by looking in the mirror on a regular basis and taking stock of what really motivates you.
Once you have identified what motivates you, then evaluating what makes you competitive is critically important. This is the next level in my teachings about how to acquire strategic influence. To move to the next performance level of influence and success, you need to possess a credible and a robust set of competitive competencies. This is the third element of influence growth representing your leadership capability and potential, made possible through competitive assets you have developed. When combined with personal value and motivational driving forces, this element affords you the ability to differentiate your value, accentuate your motivation, and stand out from the crowd. This is possible because when you master and then possess certain expert competencies, they in turn can act as your superpowers, giving you an edge to compete and lead at the highest levels. Once you get to a certain level, your value, competencies, and personal driving forces become fused together into one powerful and efficient package that can make up what others would consider to be a powerful leader.
You talk a lot about positive impact. Can you share how critical it is for that mindset in the current landscape of small business?
The slogan for my LinkedIn newsletter called Influential Leadership is, “The true measure of leadership is positive influence,” so you will see positivity is a constant theme in my life. I have been fortunate to have been raised by parents who had a positive outlook in life. My parents were entrepreneurs. I never knew either of them to work for someone else. They believed that if they were creative, hardworking and honest, that good would always come of it. That helped me have a healthy perspective about life and that happiness, fulfillment, and success were there for the taking. I mention in my book that positivity attracts other people. Besides the great parents and other inspiring people I associated with in school, sports, and work, I read many books that help mold me into a positive advocate for life.
In terms of your ability to build and use positivity and influence in your life, the answer is something that Martin Luther might agree with: It doesn’t matter, as long as you believe it. Think about it this way. If you believe that failure and rejection are fate, you’ll be looking for them and anticipating them. And since the human mind doesn’t want to be wrong, when you see the opportunity for failure and rejection, you’ll gravitate toward them. In contrast, if you believe you are entitled to success and acceptance, you’ll look for opportunities to make your belief come true. When you see such opportunities, you’ll seize them. You will take responsibility for your future and welcome the chance to better yourself.
One of the unique aspects of my book is that I interviewed 12 CEO’s to exemplify the principles I teach in each of the 12 chapters. Having a positive outlook and mindset came up several times in those interviews.
Cristal Bemont, CEO of Talend said, “I’ve learned that people who are successful want to bring you with them. They want to be surrounded by people they enjoy, but also who contribute in a positive way. They need to know they can have confidence in you, that you’re trustworthy, and that they can put things in your hands and everything’s going to be okay. I think it’s about observing and seeing what I would be attracted to, especially things that are on the positive side.”
Kimberly Carney, CEO of Fashwire told me, “A positive mindset is the very first thing. I’m relentless about surrounding myself with reading and listen to books almost daily. I protect my morning time to listen to people who inspire a mindset. For me, everything is about your mind and what you tell yourself you can do. I have a passion for the study of psychology and our mindset. I like to be in constant communication with people. Tell me what’s happening, what you’re seeing, and what you’re hearing. How do you feel? The positive mindset and constant communication have been important to create habits around, because I think they’re easy to deviate from, especially with COVID-19 this last year.”
Clearly, effective leaders focus on doing things that benefit others.
Can you speak to the general idea of how leaders should refocus on their sphere of influence?
In the foreword of the book, Kevin Harrington, one of the original Sharks from Shark Tank, said, “Your sphere of influence is the essential ingredient in your recipe for success, respect, and a lasting legacy.”
“The key to building your personal influence in business and making a positive impact on the world is to focus on what you give and not on what you get.”
I like that you asked how leaders should “refocus” their sphere of influence. That to me means that influence has a history of creating and utilizing influence in a socially responsible way. Your question is, how do we get back to responsible usage of influence? To me, we begin with the understanding that hard-earned influence can and should have a positive element to it, inferring that the impact of responsible influence can and will have a positive impact. That is important since some leaders in the world feel their “influence” or “authority” allows them to use their position and influence to make self-serving decisions. That is the complete opposite of what I believe the word influence was intended for, but as anything in life, your emphasis to give or get will cause a very different result.
The key to building your personal influence in business and making a positive impact on the world is to focus on what you give and not on what you get. My 10 Success Factors of Highly Influential Leaders instructs you how to access, utilize, develop, expand, and ultimately constructively use your influence to help make the world a better place.
Are there some success factors that are more important than others or is it more of a process?
All 10 success factors are interdependent, so yes, it is a process, but perhaps better said, it is progressive development cycle requiring all steps to be completed. That means a person starts from no influence and learns in a systematic way how to access influence, then to utilize influence, then to acquire influence, then to expand influence, and finally how to share influence to benefit others.
The book lays out how to begin with a mental picture, perspective or vision, and then build influence from scratch in an organic yet constructive manner to allow a leader to maximize his or her potential influence.
Consider Success Factor 1, which is about Accepting Personal Responsibility. Perhaps the most daunting and brave act a modern-day business person or leader can muster today is the willingness to accept responsibility for any and all circumstances that occur in one’s daily life, both personally and professionally. Accepting personal responsibility means that you approach challenges and opportunities with a solution-oriented approach. You are adaptable, and you recognize what you can and cannot control.
Success Factor 4, Forming Trusted Partnerships, is another example of what is necessary to become an effective leader. I consider relationship building to be a skillset that can be learned. For some it comes fairly naturally, but for others it is an advanced and complex concept since it requires trusting others to do the right things. The Six Building Blocks of a Trusted Partnership, highlighted in the book, offer a foundation to cultivate relationships with influential business people from your industry. If two people have common goals, strategies, and a determination of honesty, then trust can be built.
“Your success and long-term fulfillment are all about the quality of relationships you have in your life.”
One principle I weave in throughout the book is the significance of Giving First Before You Get (Success Factor 10). As a developing leader with influence, others will look to you for inspiration, guidance and leadership. As you perform and advance as a leader, your successes, industry authority, and connections will give you powerful influence and the opportunity to positively impact people, businesses, and communities. Regardless of the level of success you achieve, everyone has the ability to give back, whether it be time, money, resources, or even a smile to someone who desperately needs a lift.
Finally, what advice do you have for small business leaders in general?
In a nutshell, your success and long-term fulfillment are all about the quality of relationships you have in your life. Self Reliance (Success Factor 2) means you learn how to develop trustworthy relationships so that you can access resources and assistance to accomplish your goals. The person who tries to do it all by him or herself will quickly learn their limitations and fall short of their potential. Self-reliance is about learning how to access and utilize resources that are available to you through relationships of trust you have developed. This is one of the reasons why the majority of startups fail. Small business leaders typically try to do everything themselves and forget the critical element of involving others who specialize in areas where they lack expertise.
If you want to have impactful influence in your business, in your community, and in your life, focus on developing meaningful, deep-rooted relationships. Influence is rooted in your relationships with other people.