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.

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