the cone of Influence

touches everyone and everything we have

Just about every entrepreneur that we talk to, comes with the burning question “Why should I engage a Business Development coach?” The question was driving us crazy because it didn’t matter how eloquently we displayed our wares, or how definitive our answer was ~ they didn’t want to hear. They wanted to tell us what their problems were and already knew what they needed to do, to fix those problems! So, why were they failing ~ or their creations (the enterprise) was falling short of their expectations?

Their three most common Top of Mind (ToM) reasons are;

  • Capital; either access to development capital, the lack of discretionary capital in the form of revenue (profitable turnover), or, just not enough turnover/sales or profit and a combinations of these,
  • People; they are either not engaged, or engaged on the wrong things, they cannot be focused and directed (see our e-book herding cats), or, they cannot be found so they are not there to help change the status quo,
  • Markets; are fickle, cant see value when it stares them in the face, too much competition, all decisions based on price, or, there is someone out there stealing my cheese!


It is evident from their questions that they don’t know how to fix their problems. Their first “reaction” is to buy a fix! That is the antithesis of building your own fix, and the relative hidden meaning is that, “I’m too busy doing important stuff, so, come in and fix!” The first order of business is; “we know the WHAT, do you have the tools & methods & understanding on HOW to fix my problem?


What needs fixing is pretty evident, not enough sales, not enough marketing leads, wrong or disengaged people etc., so, everyone can see the problem but few have taken the trouble to understand the underlying causes of what we see. It’s about understanding the “meta,” that data, or influences that lies below the surface that is producing the effect that everyone can see. We haven’t got as far as understanding why the plant is loosing its leaves, is it not enough sun, maybe it needs plant food, but in reality, it’s because we are overwatering the plant. It is drowning because we love it too much! So, we get the unthinking statement ~ please don’t try to analyse the WHY, as all that remains is, HOW will you quickly and effectively implement a solution as we know WHAT we need to fix the problem?

BATNA (Best alternative to a Negotiated agreement)

We need to negotiate with an entrepreneur to engage our services and the issue here are the two sides of the coaching coin. On the one side, we want to take the discussion to the HOW sphere to understand ~ what the meta influencers are, while on the other, they are driven by expediency and absolute need to fix the problem now! This is the problem between coach and the coached, but, it is also the very relevant problem between the business owner, leader, entrepreneur and their staff. We only have staff to enliven the processes in our business – to deliver technical expertise in the pursuit of repeatable, qualitative and timely outcomes. We only have managers to quantify these processes and orchestrate the outcomes to meet the entrepreneurial vision of future reality. Yet, it is the job of the leader not only to understand that future state, but communicate “it” in a way that their people understand, to engaged in mutually rewarding work!

The Cone of Influence

Turn the Cone of Influence and look down from the apex. This gives a view of the entrepreneurial need to have the WHY in place, the cornerstone in the middle, as it influences everything we do, say, build and deliver. Just like fixing a problem requires understanding of the meta influencers, so, communicating requires diving deep into the Vision influenced by your Values that produces the Purpose of your enterprise. This is the meta WHY and it informs everything you do, say, produce and leave behind as a legacy.

Managers find it easy to tell their people WHAT to do and the Technicians, in their turn understand that language. They are paid to deliver the WHAT and if that doesn’t entice them, or stretch them ~ it becomes just a delivery activity. Like the Ford motor assemblers of the early industrial repetitive process area, they end up doing it in their sleep, their minds and their innovation thoughts elsewhere. Even when they do speak up, they are shut down. This is how we do the WHAT here and there is little or no place for discussion. The recipe for a disengaged employee.

Leaders find it easy to define the HOW of delivery because this is tangible and action oriented. Not how we behave, not how we feel but HOW we deliver the WHAT which is not yours but belongs to the enterprise. You become a delivery mechanism of tangible activities and results. You become as part of the process and system as the "time and motion studies" produce defined outcome agreements. All good things, but inhuman. Sure, humans are influenced from an early age to comply, fit in, deliver, have respect for authority and we do. But, as soon as these “maintenance factors” are hurtful, or impacting on our natural drive to be innovative and follow a meaningful existence, we become less and less engaged until finally we seek “greener pastures.” Or, we “fit-in” and do just enough to stay out of trouble and collect the pay cheque when it is due.

WHY, is about not only the tangible but also the intangibles of our existence. Without the WHY there can never be a cause big enough or engaging enough to hold our attention. WHY defines a nobel cause, one where I’ll stay involved and almost work for nothing. The HOW and WHAT defines for me the “work” of doing it. WHY is about being it!

the Chasm

There is a theory called the Diffusion of Innovation which states (slightly corrupted here) that, to have ideas internalised one needs to have acceptance past “the chasm” before the majority (i.e.>50%) will buy-in. The change has a chance of becoming self sustaining. How does one communicate a concept to a diverse audience and get them to start the process of acceptance, buying-in to the process, fully engaging? It starts with the WHY, a definition of our essence, what our Values are and WHY we are engaged in this pursuit. This Visionary WHY will inform the process of HOW we are going to deliver on our promise and WHAT we will create to physically manifest “us!” This exposure of our inner value will attract like minded prospects to our product as it attracts like minded employees to live meaningful lives in our enterprise.

Great orators understood this principle of inside out communication rather than outside in. Nelson Mandela was taken to task for his use of Afrikaans, much hated as it was the common language of the oppressors. He responded, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” For us, WHY means the heart, what we feel and connect with, which overrides intellectual evaluation and replaces it with passion and emotional connection (the intangible meta). This corresponds to our original ancient Limbic Brain which is responsible for all feelings, like trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behaviour and decision-making, yet it has no capacity for language. Furthermore, if you communicate to the man in the language of the WHAT and HOW, this is for thinking and evaluating, collecting data (the observable tangible outcome.) In our modern evolved brain this is processed by the Neocortex which is responsible for all rational and analytical thought and language. Want to start communicating inside out to make change effective? This ability, together with the methods and tools to ensure sustainable change is WHY we come to work every day!

Based partly on the work of EMyth and Simon Sinek

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Peter French

Business Coaching is not consulting, it's also not therapy. It's a unique profession that lives somewhere in between these two poles - structured to leave lasting life and business value!

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