In this episode, Gary shares his thoughts on how influential leaders can modify entire teams’ performances and outcomes. We delve into his background and the values he learned from his parents that he applied to his life.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. We have such a fabulous guest with us today. I have been looking forward to this. Gary Laney is a dear friend and we have associated together for like 40 years, four decades, that’s a long time. Welcome, Gary.
Gary Laney: Thank you, Steve. It’s been 43 years.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, Gary is not only a dear friend, I’d like to tell you about him. He’s got a great message today for each one of us. So, let’s just jump right into it. He is a best-selling author, speaker, startup investor, and CEO at Success Masters LLC, a holding company that has invested in business networking, online media, eCommerce, and high-tech intellectual property, a serial entrepreneur. Gary is a 35-year veteran of sales, marketing, training, and professional services. Gary’s background covers domain expertise in business networking, sales processes, CRM, and business process management. It goes on and on what his background is. It’s very complete. Gary, are you ready to get going today and have some fun?
Gary Laney: Hey, I’ve been waiting all day for this, Steve.
Steve Shallenberger: Me too. I’ll just tell you a little bit about this. Gary has personally been involved in more than 20 businesses, including a company that went public where he ran worldwide sales. And most recently, he is CEO and Co-founder of Trustegrity, a fast-growing, national professional networking company that was launched in 2012. Gary is known for his ability to turn around businesses and create dramatic revenue growth. A dynamic speaker, Gary has been recognized as a top presenter, motivating tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, business professionals, and salespeople. He has a wonderful family. His wife, Carla, has six wonderful children; four daughters, two sons, and ten grandchildren. Man, they’re on a roll, right?
Gary Laney: Trying to catch up with you, Steve. I don’t know how we do that. We’re trying.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, Gary, I recently just launched a new book that’s right here, it’s called “The Power of Strategic Influence! 10 Success Factors of Highly Influential Leaders” We’re going to talk about that today on our show. Before we do, Gary, tell us about your background and include any turning points in your life that had a significant impact on you. How did you end up doing what you’re doing?
Gary Laney: Wow, that’s a loaded question. How much time do we have? I’m the kind of a kid that grew up in a small town, as you know, and not so small anymore: Lehi, Utah. I had a family business. So, those are my roots. Those are very strong, big foundations in my life, where I worked with my brothers and sisters, and my mom and my dad to run a local business in Lehi. My dad grew up to be a small five-store chain. What was significant about that for me, and I didn’t know it at the time, that I learned everything about business growing up in that. Started out as a kid, just helping maintain the store, clean it. I got to do stock shelves, and then I got to do deliveries, and then my dad advanced me to be an account for our business, and then went on to be a store manager, and ultimately bought his last business from him. So, I went from sweeping the walks to owning the store in about a 10-year period. As a kid growing up, it was quite the experience. So, that’s kind of the roots.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a good overview, that’s really got you into the business world. Gary and I actually had the chance to work together when he was a college student; he went out and sold books for us. It was extraordinary. And then as he worked through several summers, paying his way through college, became one of the really top managers and vice presidents of our company. So, we had the chance to work closely together, and then Gary went out on his own to start his own businesses and cut his own course, which has been so fun to watch. Gary, tell us about your book. Why did you write it and what’s in it?
Gary Laney: Let me talk about why this even came about in the first place. So, you mentioned that I had a business called Trustegrity, and that was the last business I sold. It was during COVID. COVID looked like it’d be a tough time to have an advanced company, so I sold it. Luckily, the company that bought it has expanded it, doubled in size, and is doing well, so I’m really happy that it continued. But I was at a point where I was like, “Do I start a business? What do I do? It’s not that I can’t really start these event things.” I had a daughter, Kylie; my wife, Carla; and my granddaughter, Katie, who was 17 at the time, almost 18, now she’s 19 — can’t believe I have a granddaughter 19 years old. Katie had just published a book, and she’s now publishing her second. I mean, she was a teenager who had published a book, a serious book, a fiction book. So, my daughter and my wife were getting involved in this writing contest, where you’re supposed to sit down over a certain amount of time and write 50,000 words. So, they challenged me to join them. And I said, “Well, that might be fun. I’d always wanted to write a book, I have five titles I wanted to write about.” So, I started an outline and I started a chapter, I wasn’t really sure if it would turn into anything. And then one night, I got inspired and stayed up all night and wrote out this TOC, or Table of Contents roadmap, and got serious about it. I called you and said, “Hey, master of writing books, please tell me what I do next.” It was a process. I hired a researcher, editor, a cowriter, I hired a graphics guy, and all these different things, and then started pumping out a chapter every weekend, and it was remarkable. I gave myself six months. And by the time six months were over, I had this book called “The Power of Strategic Influence” which represents just about every phase of my life; phase with my parents; my phase with you for 10 years: my phase getting into corporate cells and management and startups. I mean, it goes through every phase. What I loved about it is it really is a representation of a continuum of my life. And people liked it, it’s very structured and very systematic, but it’s because it follows my lifetime and growth and development and how my influence develops.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s terrific and I love it. Tell us about how do you define what a leader is? Because you talk about leadership and the 10 success factors of highly influential leaders, how do you define leadership, Gary, who’s a leader?
Gary Laney: Steve, well, you’re certainly a great example to me as a leader. I’ve had many bosses, I’ve dealt with hundreds of leaders in my lifetime, including the networking company I had that was full of leaders, and most of them were business owners. A leader to me as somebody that leads by example, who teaches by example, who inspires, who motivates. And then, more importantly, it’s a person that has a plan that shares it with those that care about the plan that are involved in a business like you used to do with us. And who then, ultimately, gets into the nitty gritty of it by supporting the business, making it possible, removing the roadblocks, and making it so that everybody has their potential and can do well in it. So, that to me is a leader that somebody brings in a positive environment, provides structure and support, and really facilitates — that’s really what they do is facilitate.
Steve Shallenberger: I really like what you’re talking about, Gary, there, which was one of the things a leader does is remove the roadblocks. What a great description.
Gary Laney: Well, how many roadblocks do you have every day? There’s no idea. You never have an idea what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, the next day, with COVID that we’ve had, with our political scene, with the finance scene, what is going on? We have so many obstacles these days to overcome. The first chapter of my book talks about how to establish a survival mindset, which is really critical to that philosophy. So, if we can just decide upfront; “I’m going to commit that no matter what happens, whatever life throws at me, I’m going to succeed. I’m going to find a way around it, and I’m going to deal with it, and I’m going to help the people around me do the same.” So, that’s really what I think leadership is about.
Steve Shallenberger: I love that, Gary, that’s a good description. What are some of the most important things from your research and your interviews? Because I know your book has interviews from really wonderful people, experienced people that touch on these different areas that you’re talking about. What are some of the most important things that leaders do?
Gary Laney: Two aspects of that, Steve. So, in my book, I have six spheres of influence. Now, the first three are really preparatory to leadership; its perspective, accountability, and relationships. Then you get into leadership, and leadership takes what you’ve learned, the foundation of what you’ve established, and allows you then to help other people do the things that you’ve done. So, in the book, I approach leadership in two ways. One, as a leader, I say, “Now, you’ve been given a title of a leader, you probably don’t feel like a leader, but now you need to assume the role of that leadership, meaning take responsibility for it, get serious about it, and say, ‘I need to do a good job at this, I better have a plan, I better figure out what I’m doing.’” And a good leader won’t go on the road by themselves — they’ll get people involved, they’ll share their vision, and they’ll figure out a way to make it a productive environment for everybody involved. Later in the book, I talk about the competencies of a leader; it’s one thing to have a perspective and to get involved and say, “I’m going to be a leader, I’m going to assume the role, I’m going to be responsible and people are going to know that I care about what I’m doing.” By the way, an influencer, which is a leader, is known at the point in time when people care about what you say and do. So, when people start listening to you, and they look to you for advice, and they care about the way you act, the way you do things; you can consider yourself to be a leader and an influencer at that point.
Gary Laney: Let’s swing back to the competency part. When you get to what I call the opportunity sphere, you’ve got relationships, you’re self-reliant, and you’re now a leader; now is the opportunity to maximize your opportunity in life and to be able to be successful. How do you do that? There’s two ways. One is to stop, sit back, and say, “Well, why in the world am I doing what I’m doing? What is motivating me to do this? What’s my purpose behind what I’m trying to do?” So, I call them PDFs, not like what Adobe sells, but they’re Personal Driving Forces. What are the driving forces in your life that make you get up in the morning and do the things you do and keep you excited about what you do, especially when challenges, like we’re having today, come in front of you? So, that’s the important thing. Everybody has their own, I have mine. Recognition is important to me because I like to know that people care that I do a good job; my family is super important, that’s a big motivator; retirement someday. So, I have seven of those. Everybody needs to create their own list of what I call Personal Driving Forces. The flip side of that, once you know what your purpose is, your motivation, and your passion is to say, “What am I good at? What can I do that’s really going to help the organization, company, startup, or the company I’m working with to do better?” So, Steve, we talked about this a little bit, but I did interview a different CEO for each of the chapters, including you, and matched the leader and the comments of what our interview contained to a chapter. You’re great at relationships, you’re great at strategic relationships. I don’t know anybody in my life that’s done a better job at surrounding themselves with strategic people that can help them succeed like you have. I really mean that.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you.
Gary Laney: So, getting down to the nitty-gritty of this, the competencies. I did a survey, and I surveyed over 1000 leaders nationwide, and then I ended up interviewing the top tier of those, which you were included in those top 12; a chapter and an interview for each. Ranked, based on the responses of that survey, the top competencies of what people think it takes to become a really good leader. Those competencies start with; number one, influential. A leader can’t be a leader unless they’re influential, unless they can provide attraction to the people that want to lead them in the first place. A leader has to know how to be a good strategic networker. So, if you can’t partner, if you can’t deal with other concerns in your industry to help you bolster your reputation and give your company opportunities, you’re going to miss the boat. There are 10 of these, and no one that I know is an expert at all ten. You’re pretty close. I’m a little further down the road.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you but we know better.
Gary Laney: But the idea is you’ve got 10 and how do you assess yourself? So, put yourself on this continuum and say, “Of these 10, am I a five, am I a six, am I a 10 on any of these 10? How do I rank myself?” And then ask somebody else to do the same for you. Figure out which ones you need help with. And then our good friend, Benjamin Franklin, who used to use those 13 virtues, it’s kind of like that. How do you take the things you care about that you need to develop? And over a thousand people said these were the highest traits or competencies of a leader; “How do I, on a regular basis, work at those and become better at them?” So, that’s my approach to leadership as well as the development cycle of gaining influence. And in the end, by the way, I just have to say this, my whole book starts and ends with the idea of giving back; about helping other people, even if you don’t have money, start at a young age, helping people to solve problems, helping them in some way, bringing them up and lifting them for the day. I think in the end relationships is all that matters. So, that’s what I mean when I say leadership has a purpose. And it all adds, it begins and ends with authentic and trust-based influence. So, that’s really what it’s about.
Steve Shallenberger: I was going to ask, Gary, next about what your thinking is about the application of what you’ve written about in your personal life, using it with relationships, family and friends, as well as professionally? But I think you just answered it, you may want to add more to it, but you just capped off the last discussion by talking about how critical having successful relationships are. Because really, when you think about it, just about everything we do is with or through relationships; if we have good relationships, we do a whole lot better; if we don’t, life’s tough.
Gary Laney: Let me just comment on that. When I was calling this book, the name of it, it initially was called the “Power of Influence”. And I thought it was still vanilla. Influence means so much to different people these days, so many different things. Social media and influence are totally different than what I teach and what you teach. To sound you’re serious about, it has to be long-term in nature — there is some strategic element — it has to be fitted, and it has to be well-matched to the people. And by the way, there is no one-way street in a relationship, not a good relationship. If one person is doing everything and the other person is just receiving, it’s going to be a short-lived relationship. If you want it to be long-term, you have to have the ability to plan ahead, your values, your goals, even the way you think about getting things done should be aligned, it should be similar. I know you have thousands and thousands of contacts around the world, but I also know that you have this little inner circle of people that you rely on on a regular basis, and that’s what I call a strategic relationship or influencer. So, I believe — because I own this networking company — that every day you should be making connections, every single day. And then looking at the possibilities of trialing these connections, does it have a chance of becoming something more than just a connection? Could it become a relationship? And could it become a strategic relationship at some point? So, I think three are phases, nothing wrong with making connections, and nothing wrong with developing a relationship. But I don’t think you can have a relationship that’s strategic with everybody in the world.
Steve Shallenberger: Gary, is there a way to measure strategic influence that you’ve discovered? Is just what you talked about taking each of those standards? How do you measure your strategic influence?
Gary Laney: Well, the 10 I talked about is for you, personally; it’s your personal competitive asset. So, when I talk about relationships, I do, Steve, in the book toward the back, I have a matrix, and it’s called the Strategic Influence Assessment Matrix. So, it’s a quadrant. If you can imagine on the y-axis, the vertical axis, this is the influence. I have zero at the bottom and I have very high influence at the top. On the horizontal side is relationships. So, we have this origination point here in the corner, where there’s no relationship and there’s no influence, not probably the kind of people you want to try to develop a relationship long term. On this far right, you’ve got a great relationship, but if you’re still down here, you have a low influence. So, those are great people to deal with; they can be involved in your company; they can be involved in daily tasks. But where do you want to be is you want to be up on this high-end where you have highly influential people that move you over into this right quadrant, that’s called high influence and high relationship. So, those are the opportunities you have within that quadrant, where you can measure. You can take all your good contacts, and plot them on these four quadrants and see where they land, and then look at the one on the far right and say, “Those are the people I should be spending my time with.”
Steve Shallenberger: Very interesting perspective. Thanks for pointing that out, I like that. Gary, if you don’t mind, let’s just talk about, from your experience, your life lessons. What have you found is the best way to find happiness and peace in life?
Gary Laney: Well, that’s a more humbling question. Well, I look at it in three ways, Steve. I think you need to work like you’re the only one that’s ever going to do it. So, work like it’s the last thing you’ll do in your life. You need to pray. I’m a god-believing in person, so I think you need to pray like there’s no tomorrow. My mother used to teach me because my parents were big mentors of mine. My father was really big on honesty and responsibility and hard work, and my mother also on those, but more importantly, she taught me the privilege that you have to help other people. She was so kind to everybody. Steve, I’ve never met a person same as hers, and there are wonderful people out there, but she was my idol when it came to kind people. So, I think those three. Learn how to work so that you contribute. I think you next need to believe in something; whether you believe in God or not, you need to have something that tells you that you’re on track. And I believe in God, and so I believe that I should pray and ask for help from me and other people. And then thirdly, I think that being kind so that in the end, people know what your priorities were, they know what you really cared about in life and it wasn’t all about you. You got them in a nutshell, I think that would be what I said.
Steve Shallenberger: Thanks for your thoughts on that. Gary, I’m just always shocked how fast these interviews go. I love the meaty things we’ve been talking about, about relationships and strategic relationships. It’s so impactful what you just talked about ways to be happy and being engaged and being kind to other people, these things bring peace and doesn’t mean you don’t have the challenges, it doesn’t mean you don’t get a pretty busy schedule. But you keep working through it and do those basic things, that helps a lot. You just say, “You know what? I’m going to be at peace here. Even though it’s pretty hot right now, I’m gonna work through this.”
Gary Laney: Well, life’s too short, we all know that. I used to be 25 when I used to work for you. Now, I’m almost 65, where did that time go? I still have a lot of ambition, but I’m probably 30 years or 20 years away from giving it up.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s what we’re counting on. Well, Gary, you’ve done so great, you’ve helped so many people, you have a wonderful wife and family, and treasure our friendship. Any final tips you might share with our listeners today that could be helpful for them in their efforts to realize their best?
Gary Laney: This thought occurred during the development and writing of my book. And I didn’t realize how important it was to me and didn’t realize that it should be something I write about, but that is the following: we all need influence because we want to help others. You can’t help people unless you have influence. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have money, but you need to have respect and reputation that people care about; they care about what you say and do, as I mentioned. What I think I learned, most importantly, in this book is that someone does not just go out on the street and say that they have influence; they can’t proclaim that they have influence. It’s bestowed upon them by the people that they serve. And if they’re really served, then that’s going to come anyway. But if they don’t, they’re going to find out, “Well, it’s all about you, so you’re not really a leader in our eyes. You might proclaim it.” And people on social media today can borrow ideas, and they can say things that aren’t really their ideas, and they can pretend that they’re influential. But unfortunately, it’s the people that you serve, the people that you care about, the people you’re involved in that will proclaim you as an influencer and as a leader. That’s what I’ve learned in my life.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s good stuff. Well, thank you, Gary Laney, for being part of this show today. What a great productive visit this has been. We wish you the best and all that you’re doing, Gary. You’re a mover and a shaker. Love you and grateful for our association.
Gary Laney: Well, I love you, too. It’s been a great 43 years, believe it or not. And I appreciate the things you taught me. I really appreciate the people you introduced me to, Steve. Appreciate the leadership and the opportunity you gave me to grow up, develop, and find my own. It was an important part of my life. I probably have the four or five pivots in my life, you’re definitely one of those more important ones. 10 years of my life, man. So, thank you.
Steve Shallenberger: You’ve done great and you’re passing it on, that’s for sure, which is what I love. And to all of our listeners, we’re so grateful that you’ve chosen to listen in today, that just says so much about you. You trying to become your best, and in the very effort of that, you radiate a light. And that light touches other people, it lifts them and builds them. So, thank you for being with us today. We wish you the best today and always. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, signing off.
Gary Laney: Thank you, Steve.
CEO of Success Masters, Two-Time Best-Selling Author, Serial Entrepreneur, Started Over 20 Companies