Influence: the master skill of business and life

Life often doesn’t seem fair. Promotions go to people who are less talented or experienced than others. Clients choose professionals of business services that are not as good as ours. Money and fame doesn’t always go to the most talented.

Okay, sometimes the bald guy or the older woman loses to someone more attractive. But that doesn’t cover most cases.

In most cases the secret sauce is the influence of the individual or organisation that wins. In New Zealand we just saw Government change to a party that won fewer seats, but was better able to win over other parties to support its agenda. In business the difference is often a more persuasive presentation, or a leader who often better describes the context within which a strategy is to play out.

I worked for Hugh Morgan when he was CEO of a medium-sized global mining company, yet he came to be seen as one of the global industry leaders. That was because he was an outstanding thought leader. He thought a lot about how the industry worked, and what made individual mining companies great. As a result, what he said made sense to his peers, Government and investors.

For instance he would describe how the top companies had been built on very large high-grade ore bodies, such as the iron ore of Western Australia’s Pilbara region, Irian Jaya’s gold/silver/copper; Mozambique’s mineral sands. Great mining houses like Freeport McMoran, Anglo-American, BHP, and Rio Tinto had all grown mostly on the back of resources such as these. It was no coincidence that WMC’s portfolio included some of the world’s highest quality nickel deposits and perhaps the greatest known minerals deposit in the world at South Australia’s Olympic Dam copper/uranium/silver/gold mine (all now part of BHP).

Hugh used this kind of thought leadership to earn his place as one of the most influential leaders in the global industry. His thought leadership on the economy also earned him a place on Australia’s Reserve Bank Board, and after retiring from WMC, as President of the Business Council of Australia.

How decision makers see us defines the limits of our success. People like Hugh Morgan and Richard Branson know this and use this.

So do we have to strut the world stage to emulate them in our industries? Of course not. The test isn’t fame, it’s how specific decision makers see us and our businesses. If you like, it is getting slightly famous, but in specific ways. The leaders of most industries are well-known to those most important to them, but the average citizen will never hear of them.

So do you want to build an unfair advantage like these leaders, who get the lion’s share of business and connections? It is simple, but takes work. However, the work saves lost time and revenue from the constant struggle of being an also ran in your market.

Start with asking and answering a couple of questions. Such as “What are the dilemmas or unanswered questions that strongly interest the leading providers and buyers in my market?;” and for each ask “What answer or partial answer can I develop to enter the conversation on how my industry can address that issue?” You don’t have to solve world poverty or cure the common cold. You just have to think and communicate your way to helping move the issue forward in your industry.

If you do this you are on your way, and already ahead of most others. If you feel you need to go deeper for greater impact, get in touch with me and I’ll point you along the way. It feels good to make such a contribution to our industry, and it propels us to an industry leadership position as well. Now that is worth a little thought and action, isn’t it?