How to win friends and influence people: A tip from a great business leader

February 27, 2007

Some years ago I learned a great leadership principle from a successful leader. The idea seems even more relevant today, as it can be adapted to web-based communication systems.

The basis principle is an ancient one with a great ethical pedigree. It comes in various guises such as the principle of reciprocity, or ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’. My mentor applied it on a near daily basis.

‘If I come across anything I think would interest someone’ he would say, ‘I’ll tell them about it’. He explained that he subscribed to various papers and journals, and followed a ‘read and use’ policy. After he came across an article that he thought would benefit someone else, he would cut it out. Before the days of Post-it notes he would clip out the relevant pieces to be used for this purpose, before binning the residual document. Then he would send each cutting off, always personalized with a note. For example, I would often receive something with a message suggesting how it might would help in my research, or in my work with some mutual corporate contact.

Didn’t he charge money?

No. He had worked out the principle that the process was mutually beneficial. It happened to be great marketing, and it helped keep him in mind within his network of business and personal contacts. But it wasn’t just marketing. He enjoyed doing it. Thinking about it, he didn’t even waste time. It was more efficient than trying to contact by ‘phone.

The 21st Century business model: use targeted not pepper-shot give-aways

He was anticipating a very 21st century business model. This operates on the premise that you build a business by first giving things away, not worrying about how much to change for them. It works particularly well for e-businesses. If you come across something on the web, you should be able to think of someone who would like to see it. Simple. Your computer has probably got that famous icon of a paper clip. So e-clip the article (or use a permalink). Then personalize the message and send it off in an email.

A chance to practice the networking tip

You may like to practice the suggested tip using the recent posts from this blog. (OK, so I’m practicing what I’m preaching). The following posts fall into three broad categories, business, political, and sporting. Scan the list for one of those categories until you find one you think would interest one of your contacts. Ask yourself why she or he would like to receive it. Forward it using the permalink with that personalized message. Let me know how you get on, and good luck.

List of recent posts to practice your e-networking

1 Tata take-over of Corus. Why Tata is a bit like Tesco and a lot like Unilever.

2 The BA strike (1) .. How bullying management may have played a part in the dispute.

3 The BA strike (2) .. and how its resolution called for more than macho (Mandrill) management

4 What sort of leader do you need? Introductory note on ‘superleadership’ and distributed leadership

5 Is John Reid incompetent? Maybe, but what would anyone else have done differently? Is his problem more of trying to conceal powerlessness than of incompetence.

6 Pfizer: Analysis of the company’s financial strategy and status

7 FT fate in the balance

8 Lateral thinking as a project aid

9 On becoming a leader. Post to support student project work.

10 Leadership expectations: Jonny Wilkinson

11 Dysfunctional/disgraced leaders: The Hyundi case

12 Leadership priorities: What problem is small enough for a Leader to ignore?

13 English Football invasion by American entrepreneurs

14 Allan Leighton and Royal Mail leadership

15 On becoming a leader

16 Politics

17 Burberry leadership problems

18 John Reid political judgment

19 Chrysler troubles

20 Gun Crisis

21 How ‘failed’ leaders bounce back

22 How to read opinion polls

23 More on gun crimes

24 Airbus problems

25 Understanding why comparative analysis is difficult, using the case of football managers

26 Virgin and Network Rail leadership challenges

27 More on airbus struggles

28 Of special interest to the next Project Leadership experiment, the post on co-creating project leadership information.