Wednesday 31 December 2014

Collage cards

Whilst much of my coaching and facilitation takes places within organisations and more specifically within procurement functions I do also offer personal coaching to those with more personal objectives.

Whilst some of the tools I use can be applied easily in both personal and business settings e.g. frameworks for change or landscaping your life, others are much more suited to just personal coaching e.g. Transformation Game and collage cards. These latter tools however don't generally get much of a voice here on my blog. 
I'd like this blog post therefore to be my homage to using collage. When you've read this introduction once then you can return again and again to this post and I will add new collage cards over the months for you to explore on your own.

The premise is: our unconscious often knows the solution to any challenge we may be facing. The problem is we don't always know how to listen, or our conscious doesn't want to hear. Using tools such as the collage cards allows us to tap into our inner wisdom. 
It's also very simple.
  • Think of a problem you'd like insight on
  • Then pick a card (see below or there's many on Pinterest on my board or other people's boards)
  • Notice what you notice about the card - if you were the card, or an element of the card, what advice would you give to yourself 
  • How might that advice be applicable to this situation and what action will you take
Example 1:

Think of a problem you'd like insight on: 
Too much to do and don't know how to prioritise that list of to-dos - a bit headless chicken like.
Then pick a collage card 

Notice what you notice about the card - if you were the card, or an element of the card, what advice would you give to yourself 
Don't worry about the big list of to-dos. It's the very size of the list that's stressing you and meaning you're not able to focus. It's important to choose the one thing that is most obvious and do that until completion. Then focus on the next action that needs doing. That way over time things will get done. Spending time prioritising and worrying isn't getting the actions completed.

How might that advice be applicable to this situation and what action will you take
Just do one thing at a time.
NB: You may get a completely different insight applying this card to that situation. That's why it's such a great tool. It's not about saying there's one perfect solution to every challenge. It's about allowing your unconscious to speak to you via the card by drawing your attention to certain aspects of it. That is today, with this challenge, you may notice the patterns that mean the solution is X. If you looked at the image again next week the solution might be Y or if you applied it to a different situation the solution might be K. The key is allowing the more creative side of you to enter into communication with you to help you solve the problem. 

There is no right or wrong it's just another tool that can assist you when what you're doing isn't working and you're in need of some inspiration or insight.

I'll add more examples over the coming weeks. 
Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working
More can be found here on going on a workshop or to find coaches using collage cards in their work. The workshop I went on is being repeated in Findhorn in May 2015.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm currently spending 2 weeks near Inverness at Findhorn on a workshop. Plenty of CPD, learning, insights and laughter.

One ritual that takes place before each meal is blessing the food.

Those who have cooked the meal join those waiting to enjoy it in a moment of reflection. The blessing is made by the chef and varies in style, content and length.

Thanks for:
  • The food,
  • The bounty of the gardens (still providing much of the produce),
  • Those who have cooked it,
  • Those about to eat it,
  • Insights gained,
  • Lessons learned,
  • Friends near and far.
It's a ritual that I truly appreciate and get much from - I rush from our sessions to ensure I'm there to participate - as we join together in community to give thanks together.

This enthusiasm for appreciating and blessing my food, however, seems to abate once I return home. 

This year I am committing to add it to my daily routine. 

Does anyone giving thanks today only because it's Thanksgiving want to join me?

In appreciation of all those who read this blog.


Alison Smith 
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

Friday 14 November 2014

Creativity and courage

We've all gone penguin mad - and I know it's not just me *.

I would say John Lewis have a lot to answer for - but the following leadership book involving penguins was written a number of years ago. So too the leadership book mentioned last week. **
A peacock in the land of penguins is a fable on creativity and courage and tells the story of Perry the peacock who goes to live in the land of the penguins.
The key strategies outlined when faced with resistance to changeand an editt from the top that everyone follow penguin etiquette, are: 
  • Strategy of support - catch people doing the right thing (as discovered by Edward the eagle)
  • Strategy of hopeful thinking - act on assumptions you would like to be true (as discovered by Helen the hawk)
  • Strategy of calculated ignorance - act puzzled if caught doing unpenguin like things (as discovered by Mike the mockingbird) 
  • Strategy of safe learning - expose senior managers to new ideas in safe environments (as discovered by Sara the swan)
Not a great story for endorsing these strategies though, as all the non penguin birds who refused to become penguin like left the land of penguins and went to the land of opportunity.
So perhaps more a tale of foreboding for those who aspire to be like the penguins. A tale that reminds penguins that for creativity to flourish they need to allow other birds to:
  • Be themselves (nothing stifles creativity more than spending lots of energy trying to fit in)
  • Be unique (after all isn't that why you employed them)
  • Bring best practice into the organisation
And they personally need to have an attitude of:
  • Openness to new ideas
  • Willingness to listen
  • Eagerness to learn
  • Desire to grow
  • Flexibility to change 
Are you a penguin or one of the other birds? More importantly what changes can you make to ensure what you're doing succeeds?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

* I was very excited when @mablethepenguin agreed with me on twitter that she needed to stop wishing her life away.

And yesterday Monty wished Smudger my cat a speedy recovery :-).

** Last week's book included Kotter's 8 steps for implementing change which were contained in a book entitled 'our iceberg is melting'. Fred the penguin had the unenviable task of trying to persuade his fellow penguins that their iceberg was melting and change was needed if they were to survive.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Is your state appropriate to the task in hand

It's my birthday today and many of the cards are wishing me a happy birthday (Fab at 50 seems soooo long ago!). In 6 weeks time (to the day folks) it's Christmas, and in even fewer weeks than that merry Christmas cards will start arriving.

At these times we're being wished a state that it's generally easy for us to take on ie happy or merry (however you wish to define merry!).

However there are other days when, not only do we not get the reminder from others, but we also have difficulty being in the right state. Especially if the number of tweets wishing it was Saturday are anything to go by!

You know the times:
  • You're just about to stand up and present your strategy to the board and your heart rate is sky rocketing and you don't seem to be able to remember anything you were going to say
  • You have 15 tender responses to analyse, and you can't concentrate
  • It's your team away day and you just want to sleep and stay away from everyone
  • It's opportunity analysis development day with the project team and creativity has flown out of the window
  • You have an annual review with a team member and you just can't stop talking!
  • You're sitting there staring at the excel spreadsheet and the logic of how to pivot the table is eluding you
  • Your boss is telling you what she needs you to do whilst she's away and you can't listen
  • You have a difficult phone call to make and you keep finding other things to do
Times when the right state is no where to be felt - rights states such as those listed below

I'm sure you can think of many more examples.

The key is starting each day/meeting aware of what state you're in and what state you need for the task in hand. Once you understand the gap then you can identify how you're going to close it.

My prescription for positivity might help identify some suggestions for closing the gap. Over the coming month, as I'm attending a workshop and then working with a client out of the country, blogs are going to have to be shorter. So think I'll just pick a state and explore the means of accessing it - suggested states most welcome.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

Cards shown are from the Frameworks for change coaching process I use in individual coaching, and in group facilitation sessions.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Slopey shoulders

Practicing accountability is one of 13 behaviours identified in Stephen MR Covey's book, The Speed of Trust, that is needed to develop and maintain relationship trust. The other 12 behaviours were included in my blog post on Trust last week, with Straight talking being covered last week.

Accountability is about taking responsibility or ownership for an issue. The above jigsaw piece was one of 96 pieces issued with our procurement team's objectives engraved on them, and handed out to each team member. One of the aims of doing this was to foster accountability and taking responsibility within the team. 

What we get when people avoid taking accountability or responsibility is "slopey shoulder syndrome"! 

My rant the other week was aimed at those with slopey shoulders when faced with bullying, dishonesty and other unacceptable business behaviours. 

Today I'd like to address slopey shouldered behaviour when it's simply "not my job guv." After all I suspect many of the horror stories of procurement gone wrong arose from slopey shouldered syndrome. 

A friend and I were discussing our tendency to see the bigger picture, and to do what needs to be done to solve a problem for a customer/client. Despite others we work with suggesting its either not our job, or such commitment will be a rod for our own back and we're best not to go the extra mile. 

We came up with a number of excuses given:
  • "It's not my job" - unless you can tell me whose it is and that they know about the problem then it will simply continue to be a problem 
  • "It's not in my objectives" - I've never yet worked anywhere where everything needing to be done in the year is known when the objectives are set. That said a culture where many managers hide behind this excuse, when giving poor performance at appraisal time etc, can foster such behaviours 
  • "It's the responsibility of someone more senior" - do they know?
  • "It's the responsibility of someone more junior" - do they know?
  • "It's not my responsibility to tell anyone there's a problem" - so whose is it?
  • "No one showed me what to do" - have you raised this with anyone?
  • "It's been like this for months/years" - have you raised this with anyone?
  • "If we do a good job now they'll take advantage in the future"
  • "If we do good job now they'll expect the same in the future"
  • Any others you can think of? 
Of course we never believe ourselves to be slopey shouldered - I'm certainly writing this feeling I'm somehow exempt, and I wonder if you're feeling the same?

The likelihood is that there will be things we all get slopey shouldered about especially when managing others or working in a team. Self awareness is about understanding if we are developing such a tendency, then deciding whether that's acceptable, or unpicking the reasons for doing it in this situation. This will ensure we don't become Mr or Miss Slopey shoulder for ever and continue to take responsibility for sorting out problems. 

I think this is such a key component to developing trust. If someone goes out of their way to get something done, irrespective of whose job it is, then they will be trusted to do the same in the future. You're hardly likely to want to trust someone with a task if evidence points to them dropping it at the first sign of trouble, and/or pointing their finger at others saying "it was their fault not mine", just like we did as children.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

Sunday 9 November 2014

Oh no it's Sunday!

I do wonder whether I've simply joined the ranks of the #Grumpyoldwomen but what is it about wishing our life away moaning about what ever day of the week it is?  If the numerous tweets on the subject are anything to go by, basically unless it's a Saturday we wish it was a different day and are busy looking forward to that day!

Every week it starts on a Sunday with
Then Monday comes along with
and Tuesday with a
Wednesday appears with
and Thursday is nearly Friday.
Friday then arrives with us wishing 17.00 was here already.
Saturday seems to miss out on any negativity.

Before we're back to Sunday!

I know it's meant to be funny and humorous. I just can't help but feel sorry for all the unconscious's that pick this up and then play it back to us. If we're constantly saying the only day we have fun is Saturday then that's what will happen. Such a waste of the other 6/7ths of the week!

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working (and sometimes just being a #grumpyoldwoman)

Saturday 8 November 2014

What's the organisation's operating metaphor?

Johnstone, Scholes and Whittington describe organisational culture being made up of 4 layers: Values, beliefs, behaviours and a paradigm of 'taken for granted assumptions'. It’s this paradigm or world view that is represented by the cultural web which consists of:

  • stories
  • routines and rituals
  • symbols
  • power structures
  • control systems
  • organisational structures
Observation of each of these for a given organisation will provide an insight into the paradigm or world view of that organisation. It’s this paradigm I'd like to explore today - more specifically the operating metaphor that describes this paradigm.

the rest of this post has moved to my new website.

Friday 7 November 2014

Judgements are simply assumptions

Judgements are simply assumptions and as the saying goes assumptions make an ass (out of) u (and) me.

Of course we make judgements based on evidence but that doesn't mean that we're right, and that anyone with an alternate view is wrong. Yet that's often what we think, what we react to and act upon.

First let's think about all the different things we can make a judgement on other people about:
  • cleanliness, style, time keeping, expertise, technical skills, interpersonal skills, confidence, respect, honesty, trustworthiness and so on. 
As the above list progresses the criteria we're using is going to get more and more personal. That is expertise is easier to judge than honesty and also going to be easier to get agreement with others on too. Honesty and trustworthiness are in the eye of the beholder and yet are often judged very quickly.

Let's take honesty. Think for a moment how your judgement that someone is dishonest impacts how you relate to them.
  • You might ignore them
  • You might gossip about them
  • You might not tell them the truth
  • You might not provide them with the support they need
  • You might be wary around them
  • You might talk to them with a certain tonality
  • You might not give them overtime or specific responsibilities
  • And so on
All these just because you judged them to be dishonest!

Do you think these behaviours all support your ability to effectively communicate with and influence that person? Ok if you don't need to but a spanner in the works if you do.

Think for a moment though how do you define dishonesty?  In fact why not jot a list down of what behaviours mean someone is dishonest.

I do think jotting the list down would be a good idea because it will help me make my point :-).

Go on - it won't take long.

I'm not going anywhere.

Just a couple of criteria - dishonesty looks like this, or sounds like this.

Just for me :-)

Pretty please. 

Ok if you're not going to write a list here's an imaginary one (just don't judge me when you start disagreeing with it ;-)).

Dishonesty is demonstrated when someone:
  • Says one thing to me, and the opposite to someone else
  • Says something, and then later changes their mind to suit the situation, ignoring the earlier statement
  • Compliments me with a certain tonality (when it feels like it's just on their list of things to do)
  • Says they'll do something by a certain date and then doesn't do it
Would your list have been different?
That's the point really how I judge honesty and how you judge it aren't likely to match.

Continuing with dishonesty, and that list of dishonest behaviours you wrote down. 
  • Do other people agree with you? 
  • Could there be other reasons for those behaviours?
  • Does that behaviour always mean someone is dishonest? a 100 % of the time ? always? for everyone? 
  • Have you ever demonstrated that behaviour and it mean something else? 
  • Have other people demonstrated that behaviour and you still consider them to be honest? 
  • How might that behaviour actually mean they are being honest?
The level of emotion you have around this, and rigour with which you hold on to your criteria, will also depend on how much you value honesty. Discussing the criteria for 'respect' or 'fairness' might provide for more or less emotion for you? (See this blog post on values to explore that more.) 

The aim here is to loosen your judgement that x behaviour means y intent. To take the level of emotion out of a situation so that you can observe a behaviour and understand that your judgement of it might not be correct. Once that's possible then influencing and communication becomes a whole lot easier because your judgement isn't getting in the way, and is no longer causing that list of behaviours I wrote at the start of this post.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

I've written a couple of blog post previously on honesty - one is more of a theoretical exploration and the other is a short story entitled 'iPhone iPhone in my hand' (I know a story isn't everyone's cup of tea - but isn't that what this series of blogs is all about - realising how we learn, communicate, judge, react and the like are unique and personal to each of us. The challenge is ensuring any communication, influencing strategy or change programme takes account of peoples unique preferences and provides options to keep everyone covered).

As I've been writing this series of blogs on influencing, change management and communication I've ended up writing a number of blogs I hadn't originally planned because they were needed to support the blogs I had written.
They're underlying principles that support the process of influencing. I wonder where this exploration will take me next week - any suggestions most welcome.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Relationship Trust: talk straight

Straight talking is one of 13 behaviours, Stephen M R Covey identified in his book The Speed of Trust, as being needed to develop and maintain relationship trust. The other 12 behaviours were included in my blog post on Trust last week and a number of these will be covered in future blog posts this month.

Before reading further consider the following questions:
  • What does straight talking mean to you?
  • What does it look and sound like?
  • What is it's opposite?
  • How do you react to it?
  • How do you react to its opposite?
  • How often do you demonstrate straight talking?
  • When might you not talk straight and why?
  • Can you understand how straight talking might help develop trust?
  • Do you see trust as a positive thing?
I can't help but feel our relationship to trust will determine whether we talk straight or not. That is if we don't consider trust to be a positive thing then straight talking isn't necessary.

Before reading further please be aware my own preferences and beliefs will certainly be impacting the words used and judgements made in this post today :-).

For me your view of trust comes down to what camp you're in:
  • Abundance, cooperation and growth - ie trust is positive
  • Fear, competition and survival of the fittest - ie trust is negative
As I wrote the above list I did wonder if it's something to do with people getting stuck lower down Maslow's hierarchy of needs than perhaps they need to be? (Just a thought!)

If any situation is seen as survival of the fittest then information is power and you're not going to share it unless you believe sharing it will be of positive use to you. Generally you'll also over exaggerate the value of the information and just keep quiet.

The issue, as I see it anyway, is how can you possibly understand what value the information you have might be to the other party, to the relationship or eventually to your goals being achieved.

I recently provided a supplier with feedback about one of their representatives rubbing one of the buyer's managers up the wrong way. I hadn't seen the behaviour myself so didn't know it to be a problem. They thanked me, took appropriate action, and as a result the relationship between both individuals improved greatly.

When they thanked me for the second time I asked why they felt it was note worthy that I had said anything. They said buyers usually foung it easier not to say anything - perhaps thinking it's not their job or even thinking they're doing the supplier's job for them! We're certainly on a spiral downwards if we think we're each responsible for only certain aspects of a relationship.

Straight talking in a relationship is doing what I did, putting aside whose job I think it is, or how the information may or may not be accepted, and just saying it as it is.

Straight talking is a little like putting a jigsaw together with someone when you can only see your own pieces. You're both reliant on the other party(ies) speaking up when they can help. It's no use one party deciding to start with the edges, or the other starting with the water, unless you show each other what pieces you have to help them finish that element. (I won't start on 'you show me yours before I show you mine' school boy antics as I prefer to work on the premise that someone is trustworthy until they prove otherwise not the other way round.)

What jigsaw pieces are you holding back and how might it be completed quicker and more effectively if you shared a little more of them with the other side?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

See here for origin of Image.

Although talk of jigsaw pieces reminded me of our use of jigsaw pieces to bring the organisation's procurement strategy alive for the year - with each of us owning a different piece and sharing and swapping them at meetings.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Resistance to change

Think of a time when you last resisted change?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you say?
  • Who did you say it to?
  • How many times did you say it?
  • How did you feel?
  • What did you believe about the changes being made?
  • What did you believe about your attitude to the change?
Hopefully you get the picture - that's what you're up against when implementing change.

Just because you think this time you're right, and that anyone resisting the change is wrong, doesn't mean you're correct. Nor that the others involved will agree with you.

I would suggest resistance is often more about the way you went about it. I'm still friends with people who lost their jobs as a result of an outsourcing project I was involved with many years ago. I believe the reasons for this is because of how I went about it. I'm not sure I applied every one of the 8 steps I shared yesterday but somewhere close.

For the last couple of days the blog posts have explored strategies of change and implementing change. Last week the posts looked at influencing more generally, and how to avoid putting people's barriers up in the first place. If you apply these models well, and flex the communication to suit the audience, then hopefully you won't meet too much resistance.

However we don't always get it right and resistance can be present.

Here's some things you might want to think about:

In built resistance or constraints to change *:
  • Bureaucracy
  • Lack of resources - people, finance, office space etc
  • Incorrect resources
  • Politics - the relative power and interest of all stakeholders needs to be assessed
  • Insecurity about the future 
  • Perceived risk  - which is riskier - to stay or change?
  • Blame culture - means people avoid taking risks which may not work (a biggie in many organisations)
  • Deference to a leader resisting the change isn't going to help.
These often get ignored and yet they all need to be addressed as part of your strategy for change to ensure you're successful.

There are however other ways that resistance can be observed, and management of these is much more difficult to achieve:

Covert resistance from other managers in the organisation: *
  • Diverting resources - splitting the budget or moving key individuals to work on another project
  • Exploiting inertia  - making agreement conditional on a whole load of others things taking place - more analysis, more data etc 
  • Dissipating energies - ensuring key people are asked to do other time consuming tasks as well
  • Keeping goals vague and complex - leads to headless chickens
  • Encouraging and exploiting lack of organisational awareness  - yep just watching you trip yourself up when you present the strategy
  • Reducing the champions influence - which might involve spreading rumours etc
  • Keeping a low profile - to avoid expressing resistance or being persuaded of the reasons for change.
How these are managed will be unique to each of the individuals doing the resisting and their reasons for it. The key is being aware that this might be happening and including their management in the change strategy. Communication planning is therefore imperative (link takes you to the last in a series of blogs on communication planning which contains links to the other posts in the series).

What do you need to do differently in the current situation?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

* With thanks to David Boddy's Management: an introduction for the basis of this blog post.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Implementing change

Following on from yesterday's blog on strategies for change I'd like to explore Kotter's 8 step process for leading change.

I was first introduced to Kotter's model whilst studying for my CIPS exams, and more recently whilst developing elearning modules on the subject. I do love his more recent analysis of the model 'our iceberg is melting' - after all I'm a sucker for a good metaphor. Not least because we don't get caught up in the context and detail of the situation we're personally applying it to, and can learn about the model and patterns of behaviour it's asking us to take on.

In the book Fred, a penguin, is tasked with the unenviable task of persuading his fellow penguins that the iceberg is melting and that action is needed.

Often when faced with what we believe to be an obvious change we can be faced with others who don't join us in our views. They don't want to change, they'll go out of their way to resist the change often with dire consequences.

In the book Fred takes his fellow penguins on a journey as he applies Kotter's 8 step process:
  • Establish a sense of urgency - the threat of your iceberg melting certainly is a great reason for countering complacency!
  • Create a guiding coalition - don't try to do it alone, and do ensure those with power and influence are involved.
  • Develop a change vision - if you're taking away one future what will the new one look like.
  • Communicate the vision for buy-in - people and penguins need to know and accept the alternative. (Much of the content of last week's blogs will provide more on how to achieve this.) 
  • Empower broad based action - remove barriers to taking action so those supporting the change can start making it a reality.
  • Generate short-term wins - a great way of getting momentum behind the new vision.
  • Never let up - complacency is never that far away especially if small changes make people think the threat has been reduced or eradicated all together.
  • Incorporate change into the culture - new traditions need to replace the old ones.
Consider a change you're currently involved in - which of the above might you want to focus on a little more?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

Tomorrow's blog will explore the ways in which people actively resist change.

Monday 3 November 2014

Strategies for change

In response to this series of blogs on influencing I've been asked to cover handling change and resistance to change.

Today I'm going start with assuming you don't have any resistance yet and you're just planning to make some changes and considering you're strategy for doing this.

In which case we don't need to go much further than Kotter and Schlesinger who identify six strategies for dealing with change.
  • Education and Communication - In providing further information and explaining the reasons for the vision, leaders are more likely to achieve buy-in and support from stakeholders.
  • Participation and involvement - This helps individuals take a personal stake in the process and an interest in the outcome.
  • Facilitation and support - Where there is uncertainty, debate or potential misunderstanding, the leader’s role in facilitating discussion or supporting individuals is key in removing resistance to the proposals.
  • Negotiation and agreement - Not all stakeholders are easily influenced. Sometimes the leader needs to actively engage stakeholders in an exchange or debate about the proposal. Eliciting agreement through discussion and negotiation is critical for long-term support. (As per my 'let them get their own way' blog last week!)
  • Manipulation and co-optation - This involves covert attempts to sidestep resistance and/or conflict, using material rewards and psychological appeals as a tactic for ensuring long-term support is established. (I personally don't like the term manipulation as I said last week - but it's their model not mine!)
  • Implicit and explicit coercion - Where necessary, leaders may be required to abandon the consensus and resort to justifiable pressure or threats. However, it should be noted that this is very much a ‘last resort’ and the leader should be aware of the full consequences of such an action. (Is this ever going to be that sustainable?)
Which strategy will you choose?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Sunday 2 November 2014

Influencing: Suppliers are people too

Recent blogs have focused on influencing and to be fair most of the examples I've given have implied these techniques are to be used with internal stakeholders. The assumption being you don't want to fall out with these stakeholders, you do need to influence them and therefore here's the things to think about when dealing with them.

One response to one of the blogs this week via twitter said

"wise words - purchasing tends to make us combative in achieving goals,
which doesn't lend itself to internal influencing". 
Which made me realise I'd not emphasised perhaps enough how much I use all of what I'm blogging about with suppliers. In fact I'd say its my point of difference in how I deal with suppliers. That said I don't tend to spend lots of time negotiating the commodity leverage categories. 

Supplier's representatives are people and as such they have preferences for how they process and take in information just like you or I do. So if you're wanting to influence them why wouldn't you want to consider how to do that in the most effective way. Of course a combative approach has its place but that can lead to resistance and that may or may not work for you.

Personally there's very little difference between how I treat suppliers and how I treat internal stakeholders. That said I'm usually developing a strategy along side the internal stakeholder and wanting to impose it on a supplier. So yes my goal may be clearer and less likely to change when dealing with suppliers than when dealing with internal stakeholders. I can however still flex my style to enable suppliers to understand my position more clearly - after all "No!" and "Lower!" don't always provide much information to help suppliers amend their position.

Do you use different influencing styles with suppliers than internal stakeholders? Is that always successful and if not how might you want to flex your approach to see if you can achieve a different outcome? 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Saturday 1 November 2014

Influencing: We treat people as we like to be treated

I know there's a saying about treating people as we would like to be treated but it does have its drawbacks. 

The phrase is often used to remind people to treat others with respect - if someone said that to you, or did that to you, how would you feel and could you have said it differently or done something differently - along those lines anyway. 

The challenge is we often unconsciously communicate with people as we wish to be communicated with and assume it will work. After all it works for us so it should work for the other person. That's the flaw in our assumption - it won't always work for someone else. Sometimes you have to do the one thing that definitely wouldn't work for you. 

When I'm coaching I'm often and still really surprised how firm, direct and even down right rude and pushy I can be. But that's the problem I'm judging my tone and words to be rude based on my reaction if someone said them to me. I like to think most of the time I flex my style to suit the person I'm coaching. When ever I've asked for feedback clients have always been surprised I even thought there was a problem or reason to apologise. To them my tone and words were precisely what was needed at the time, and enabled them to achieve their coaching outcome. 

I've written before on communication styles but in essence the sorts of things you need to calibrate the person for their preference with respect to:
  • Directness or ambiguity 
  • Advance notice required - e.g. I'm a very kinaesthetic processor so you need to give me 12 hrs to even know if I agree or disagree on something - which means my default is No until I've had the 12 hrs. Really annoying for people who can make their mind up in an instance and who assume others can do too.
  • Style of communication - verbal/written/pictorial? 
  • Level of detail 
  • Level of change
  • Motivators - see previous blog on the subject - e.g I'm very 'affiliative' so it's no use trying to motivate me using 'success' or 'achievement' - although control works!
  • Level of chit chat tolerated or needed :-) 
As ever if your communication is working then no change is needed. If it's not just landing as you'd expect, and the outcome isn't what you wanted, then you may want to check in and see if you're just giving them what you want in the situation rather than what they want.

Let me know how to get on - its good to get feedback. Although I have been getting much more feedback since I started this series of blogs on influencing. I'm glad they're resonating and hopefully making a difference. I'm even getting requests for future topics to cover which is great. 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

A conversation on twitter in response to yesterday's blog on arrogance was such a great reminder of this.

I was asked whether I thought procurement's attitude was really arrogance or simply insecurity driven by their need to be seen to be adding value. Of course that's an option. Just not one I'd think of that quickly because no matter how much I try my preferences will sneak out in this blog. I'm motivated by affiliation so any behaviour that gets in the way of that I will judge more harshly than someone motivated say by achievement would. Just as someone motivated by achievement may judge my affiliative style as too weak! The key is whether the style we're using is working.

Just as Trust is in the eye of the beholder so too arrogance or any other judgement of someones behaviour. In the session with the procurement team they stood in the shoes of their stakeholder and realised they could be seen to be arrogant and that was getting in the way of them achieving their goal. They therefore did as this blog suggests and put their own preferences to one side and considered how their stakeholder might wish to be communicated with.

Friday 31 October 2014

Influencing: let them get their own way

I agree we're not influencing anyone if we don't get the outcome we want and just let them get what they want.

Here's the challenge though - most of us hate being told what to do and want to make our own minds up about something. (In the UK & US anyway ** ). Our stakeholders are no different. To get the outcome you believe to be right therefore you need the other person to agree with you, and to do that successfully how would it be if you let them make the recommendation as if it were their own. (Yesterday's blog explored the impact resistance can have on getting support for our strategies)

The challenge then becomes keeping our ego out of it. I remember a session I facilitated with a procurement team where we were discussing arrogance and self importance. It took some time for them to understand that their stance with their stakeholders might be seen as arrogant by those stakeholders and therefore might be getting in the way of them achieving their goals. (Standing in their stakeholders shoes was a very enlightening process for them and achieved long term benefit.)

And that's the key - if you're achieving your goals then you can continue to behave as you are because its working. The challenge is when you're not achieving your goals. Its important then to identify what changes are required in order to increase the likelihood of your objectives being achieved. (If you always do what you've always done etc...)

Of course we all like the praise of coming up with the idea in the first place, we want the pat on the back, we want to be seen to be proactively doing our job. Won't we though get all that by being part of the team that delivered the change? Won't your bosses know the journey you took your stakeholders on to deliver the change? 

If your intended outcome is the correct strategy for the organisation then why wouldn't your stakeholder agree. The problem is to take them on a journey to obtain that agreement it might take a little more time than just telling them what we're going to be doing. 

An additional benefit of our stakeholders coming on the journey with us is any errors in our assumptions and strategy can be ironed out before it's presented and agreed. If they're with us implementation will also be easier, and once they're managing it day to day they're more likely to want the strategy to succeed than find ways for it to fail. 

So next time you start to tell a stakeholder what the strategy or solution is you may want to think about how to get them to tell you what the strategy should be and, after dialogue, discussion and amendment, agree how you can implement it for them. (Although that process can take a number of weeks/months - so best get started) **

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

NB: Do please remember influencing isn't about manipulation.

PS: As a response to this blog I've been asked whether I think procurement's attitude was really arrogance or simply insecurity driven by their need to be seen to be adding value.

Of course that's an option. Just not one I'd think of that quickly because no matter how much I try my preferences will sneak out in this blog (more of this tomorrow in a blog entitled 'we treat people as we wish to be treated').

That is I'm motivated by affiliation so any behaviour that gets in the way of that I will judge more harshly than someone motivated say by achievement would. Just as someone motivated by achievement may judge my affiliative style as too weak! The key is whether the style we're using is working.

Just as Trust is in the eye of the beholder so too arrogance or any other judgement of someones behaviour. In the session with the procurement team they stood in the shoes of their stakeholder and realised they could be seen to be arrogant and that was getting in the way of them achieving their goal. They therefore, did as this series of blogs on influencing suggests and, put their own preferences to one side and considered how their stakeholder might wish to be communicated with.

* Cards shown are from Frameworks for Change Coaching Process I use in coaching and group facilitation sessions.

** The level of acceptance of requests, and reaction to being told what to do, differs around the world - someone from a different culture than UK/US may therefore prefer a more direct approach initially with a very heated debate thereafter on what the strategy should be! It certainly pays to do your home work on the preferences and culture of all involved (to calibrate them so to speak) and remember these blogs are based on generalisations. The more you know about a specific individual the better and more effective your strategy for influencing them can be.