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Three people that influence you the most

Three people that influence you the most

The first big theme is titled, “The Three Most Influential People in the World: Roula Khalaf, Gwen Robinson, and Matt Murray.” This is a very deep insight. We have a lot of coaching clients, including very senior coaching clients. I’ve asked our coaching clients, “Who is influential to you? Who do you look to for advice? Who is the person you try to emulate when making decisions?” They give me names like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, presidents, Christine Lagarde. They’re all very important people. When our coaching clients are making a decision, these are the people they’re thinking about and have tried to emulate.

Conscious vs. subconscious

There are people who influence us that we’re consciously aware of, and there are people who we don’t know are influencing us. This is an important insight. You may know Elon Musk because he’s all over the news, and he’s doing amazing things—and I hope he continues to do amazing things—but that doesn’t mean he has the biggest influence on you. You have to know how you make decisions.

Let’s assume you read a lot of newspaper articles about how Germany is a bad country. Germany is not a bad country, but let’s assume that, for some reason, the press decided to write negative articles about it. You’ve never been to Germany. You read all these articles, and then someone asks you what you think about Germany. If everything you’ve seen about Germany is negative, you’ve been subconsciously wired to use a negative filter when you think about it.

The conscious is what I choose to think about. The subconscious is how I’ve been wired to think about something. This is a fact. If you have a group of friends who only say negative things about another person, and you’ve never met that person to judge them for yourself, you will have negative sentiments toward that person. When you see that person, you’re probably going to interact with them as if they’re negative, and then maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised, realize they’re not so bad, and wonder why you acted negatively in the first place.

You are likely largely influenced by what you read in the news

This matters because if you read a lot of news, you are to a large degree influenced by what you read in the news. In my case, it’s the Financial TimesNikkei Asia, and The Wall Street Journal. I only read business publications. Occasionally, I’ll read The New York Times, but it’s not entirely a business publication. Even though I can tell you the many books I’ve read, and the interactions I’ve had with authors—because I’ve also spoken to many authors and interviewed some of them for our podcasts—the most influential people in my life are three people: Roula Khalaf, who is the editor in chief of the Financial Times; Gwen Robinson, who used to work at the Financial Times but is now the editor in chief of Nikkei Asia; and Matt Murray, who is the editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal. 

It’s interesting that Roula Khalaf and Gwen Robinson have both developed their thinking skills at the Financial Times and are now influencing me. They’re so influential because of the size and scope of these newspapers. Even when they cover a story that another newspaper is not covering, other publications will pick it up. Remember that a newspaper has finite resources and capabilities, so it can’t cover everything. When the editors say, We’re going to cover this story, this country, this sector, this industry. We’re going to assign these reporters, we’re going to pull back these reporters, they’re making a decision about what stories they want us to read. And if they tell us we shouldn’t read about a story because they’ve decided it’s not important, they’re making that decision for us.

Who is influencing you and how they’re influencing you

I read these publications because I trust the editorial teams. When making decisions, it’s important that you understand who is influencing you and how they’re influencing you. It’s not as if the influence is negative. I firmly believe all these editors in chief have good intentions and are doing the best they can, but they’re ultimately human and they’re going to err. That’s normal. I’m sure they have meetings where they talk about what they could do better. But it’s important that you as a business leader know who’s influencing you, and you make a conscious decision about who is influencing you.

For example, I could read any magazine or newspaper in the world, but I have made a choice that these are the three I want to be influenced by. If you have followed FIRMSconsulting publications over many years, you know that we have talked about The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times continuously. But over time, as we’ve taken a more international view of the world, we’ve brought the Financial Times onto that list. We brought in Nikkei Asia because Asia is so important, and we felt we need to read a publication that’s covering Asia solely by Asian writers from an Asian perspective. We made a conscious decision to allow the Nikkei Asiateam to be one of our most powerful advisors.

You need to think about who you’re going to allow to advise you. That’s probably the most important decision you can make as a leader.

Other Articles

Understanding Negative Interest Rates

Chief Strategy Officer: Promotion or Demotion

The Power of Unconscious Signals in a Consulting Interview

This is an excerpt from Monday Morning 8 a.m. newsletter, issue #27. Many of you have found Monday Morning 8 a.m. so useful that you’ve asked us to release a book version of these newsletters. We’ve obliged and released a Kindle version, which you can find on Amazon under “Strategy Insights.” It contains the insights from previous Monday Morning 8 a.m. issues, edited into a bite-sized format that’s very easy to use. And you can learn about other FIRMSconsulting books here

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