+Scott Watson

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Softening the Influencing Journey

It's all too easy when attempting to influence another human being or a situation to just jump straight in and race after our own most important outcome. Remember that our education system, both at school and higher education, even MBA programmes, rarely if ever demonstrate the need for and value of influencing. Sure, they may cover 'why to' influence and review some case studies but the 'how to' seems to have been lost somewhere along the line.

A few key points to bear in mind when preparing for, or while involved in a situation you wish to influence are these: ALWAYS be honest - it develops trust, reflects authenticity...and is far easier to remember than a pack of lies. Take time to understand and appreciate what might be most important to the other party rather than just considering your own needs and wants. And finally, close your mouth and open your ears....and keep them open BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU MIGHT HEAR AND LEARN.

Not all influencing situations are to help already good things get even better. Some are the exact opposite - a tough talk or crucial conversation as I call them. And these conversations need to happen more often in organisations. All too often inadequate performance is tolerated, partly because it's not that bad it's impacting the rest of the team that much and also because bosses either daren't or don't know how to facilitate a conversation that will not only address the issue/s effectively, but also restore trust and faith in the relationship. That's for another time, but for now, let me share some starting points (or softeners as I like to call them) which you can use to introduce an idea/point of view/facts/data and to help the other party want to listen and be involved in the dialogue. Remember, you're speaking with them NOT AT THEM!

I'll let you generate your own sentences on where use these phrases. They must make sense though and have the intention behind them to help, you can't just say the words and hope for the best. The other party is likely to see straight through you and not engage with your dialogue. All of these approaches are collaborative, not directive.

Please could you help me understand.....?

May I just check a point with you to ensure that I've really understood your point/what you've said/recommended?

I just want to check my understanding...Please do feel free to correct me if I've misunderstood any point. Would you do that for me?

May I just check with you that my understanding is accurate or inaccurate?

I'm sure that you understand the importance of (a) being achieved/undertaken. I'd really appreciate getting your thoughts on how it could work and what needs to be in place to ensure a successful delivery.

I'm sure that you recall YOU AND I (we) agreed that (b) would help us to deliver (c) and that any challenges or obstacles were to be shared in person immediately. To be used when commitments haven't been kept and responsibility for not sharing information needs to be addressed.

I'm interested to know....

I'm curious about what/how...

Please will you share with me your thoughts/ideas concerns on...?

What are your thoughts on how (a) should commence/be delivered/potential obstacles we should anticipate?

May I just check with you, is there information that you possess that I don't know which could/will impact the direction of my focus/attention/the project?

Shall we both commit to resolving the issue/making a considered decision on (a) within the next 60 minutes? This doesn't allow decision-making to drag along for what can seem like forever. It focuses attention and has a time based deadline.

Prior to agreeing to take on this project/achieve the deadline you mentioned, I want to really ensure that I understand the resources you are to make available. It's dangerous agreeing to virtually anything simply because an authority figure says you must. Dialogue and understanding is key.

Use these phrases as part of a worthwhile dialogue and you are likely to get fare more value from conversations, and accelerate the pace at which intelligent action is taken and decisions made.

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