No One Follows A Tentative Person

Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Therefore, give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast...and one day you will build something that endures, something worthy of your potential Epictetus

                     ________________________

I was standing at the meat counter at the local market and watched a leadership principle unfold before me: Nobody Follows a Tentative Person.

Normally, they have little slips of paper with numbers that make the process run smoothly: take your number and wait for it to be called. But they ran out of Butchernumbers. Which meant we had to figure out for ourselves who was next.

The nice part: people were concerned about not "butting" ahead.

The bad part: as a result, when the butcher yelled, "Next", there was a lot of shuffling, faux self-deprecation, and confusion. No meat was moving out of the display case.

Finally, someone said strongly, "I believe I am next" and, at the same time, stepped forward right in front of the butcher. Following her move, there was a similar response at the ensuing, "Next!"

The "Aw, Shucks Shuffle"

This struck me as being similar to what we often see in meetings and presentations. In an effort to not want to stand out or seem "pushy", speakers do the "Aw, Shucks Shuffle".  The result: people in the room wait forever--and uncomfortably--to get to the topical "meat counter".

It's popular to want to seem like "one of the guys" and do the "we're all equal" thing.

We're not. When you are in front of a room you've been given the responsibility to lead the rest of the group. This is a perfect time to remember: no one follows a tentative person.

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You Can Influence: Here's How

Everyone wants to have influence; not everyone wants to build the relationships that enable it.

There's a natural flow to being influential. 

6a00d8341c500653ef013480be1064970c-320wi.jpg

 Influence goes hand in hand with agreements. If you want to persuade someone to take a particular course of action, you need some agreements about what needs to be done and who will do it. That means taking time to reach an understanding about what is important to each of you. And that means building a working relationship.

There seems to be a predisposition to what we call "positional bargaining." Positional bargaining happens when one persons lays out a case and the other counters with an argument in favor of his or her own position. This sets up a "mine is bigger than yours" scenario which most often leads to conflict where:

  • The side wielding the most power, wins
  • The loser resents the loss

If you are "in it" for the long run, think about this:

Unless you're willing to meet with a parole officer regularly, you can't get what you want by beating up who you need.

It really is all about relationships.

______________________

Note: It's good to be back online after a two-month hiatus. My dear wife, Barb, suffers from very advanced Parkinson's Disease and is in long-term care (thankfully nearby, so we are able to be together every day). She has required some extra medical attention recently, thus the hiatus. For those already aware of the situation, thank you for your prayers and messages of encouragement.--Steve

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Three Persuasive Ideas

If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, 
I'd spend six sharpening my axe.--Abraham Lincoln

We never outgrow our need to be persuasive. Managers have to persuade employees to "get on board" with a new idea or change; salespeople get paid to persuade customers to buy; and potential customers persuade salespeople that a change in the "deal" just might make them a paying customer.

We're all faced with the challenge of persuasion and influencing. Here are three ideas to help meet your next challenge:

Golf

Create the Right Atmosphere

Did you know that participants rate educational seminars higher when they are held at a resort location? That factoid comes from the meeting planners who have to schedule them. Diners linger a bit longer in comfortable restaurants, and are prone to ultimately have a more expensive after-dinner refreshment and a dessert. Shoppers spend more time shopping if there is background music. Job applicants sign on the dotted line more often if they are interviewed in plush surroundings vs. the loading dock.

The next time you have a meeting, with one or one hundred, what's the best atmosphere to put your listeners in the most receptive mood?

Get At The End of a Parade

If you find that you are one of a number of presenters at a meeting, ask to go last. We've all had different experiences with this but here's what I've realized happens more often than not:

1. By the time the others trot out their list of pie charts, statistics, and million-dollar ideas, the listeners are growing tired as well as forgetful. Your presentation will at least be the last one on their minds. 

2. If you are last, you stand a chance of being bumped completely and then end up getting a courtesy re-schedule. This now puts you in the position of being the only thing on people's minds at your new presentation. (There's also something of a sympathy factor for being bumped. Bask in it).

Stand Up

When I work with a small group--6-8 people--I start off seated at the table with them. When it comes time to make a serious point or convey urgency, I stand up and draw on a flipchart or whiteboard. It changes the dynamic, adds to the point trying to be made, and lets people know I believe the issue or idea merits special consideration.

How will you be a bit more persuasive today?

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Leaders Connect Visually

Influential people create compelling images.

But of what?

6a00d8341c500653ef0147e0a31f1d970b-320wiOf the benefits those around them will gain from the ideas they propose. They take time to let us know what we'll see, hear, and feel. You can do this, too. Take time to choose words that create pictures, sounds, and feelings that will make your ideas connect in different ways all at once.

For example: "Using this plan offers clear benefits that are in total harmony with our goals and will have an impact on customer satisfaction." In one sentence, you've touched the visual, auditory, and feeling senses of your listeners.

It's not about manipulation, it's about communication. The kind that successful leaders carefully craft before stepping into a meeting.

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Do You Know Your Conversation Catalysts?

Do you want to spread your message for a product, service, or maybe an important organizational change?

Here's a question to answer: "Who are your Conversation Catalysts?"

My friend Valeria Maltoni , conversation and connection gurette, wrote about a Keller Fay Group research finding that showed 15% of the population to be  Conversation Catalysts.  Conversation Catalyst

"These influencers tend to recommend brands and products more often at the tune of 149 times a week vs. 79 for the average population. They also tend to have more conversations -- 184 vs. 114 -- and talk more about brands than others."

Valeria then highlighted the level of various media influences and, ultimately, what this means for the importance of a company website.

The take-away for us is this: Conversation catalysts talk to a whole lot more people and will be happy to share their experiences with them -- good, bad, or indifferent.

Let's connect the dots to make this work for you now

1. Who are the 15% in your customer base or organization? Find out and reach out.

2. What do you want them to say, think, and feel about you and your product or message?

3. How can you make that happen? For real. Genuinely. Authentically.

Hint: The answer involves first reaching that critical 15% in the most effective way (you may want to go back and look at the media research).

Note: If you try to fool the 15% with your puff-piece equivalent of Flash technology, remember that they have the power to reveal you as a fraud.

The takeaway for today

Your customers are going to talk about you. If you are a manager, your employees are going to talk about you.

Regardless of the audience, are you influencing the conversation with the right people at the right time in the right way in order to create the right conversations for success?

 

Image source:  www.leidsuitburo.nl

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Four Ways Leaders Can Impact Learning

Leaders, managers, and heads of projects constantly seek ways to grow talent and make a difference in organizational success.

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?" If they don't like the answer, chances are they'll keep looking.

So, I began reflecting on some recent speaking and workshop experiences. Four distinct factors came to mind as I thought about the give-and-take that led to learning for all of us. I hope you'll find these useful.

Learn_iStock_XSmall 

Four Ways to Impact Learning

Impact Curiosity: For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact self-confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into a topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps.

When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

So, pick one of the four and impact someone's learning today. You can.

 

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Changing Something? Start It Right

If you're about to change something, remember that it's your change.

You've thought about what you want to do--most likely for a long time. You've weighed the risks and benefits. You've visualized what things would look like if your new idea/project/improvement is implemented. You've even thought about at least some of the details. But most of all. . .

You are convinced of it's worth and you feel good about it.

Hey, I'm pumped up! Why isn't everybody else feeling good? 

When you introduce your new thing, you are at the end of your process. Everyone else is at the beginning. They can't get to where you are without you laying out your full process--including your own apprehensions.

50-reasons-not-to-change

What have you needed in the past to commit to someone else's new idea? Think about it and see if these match pretty closely

To maximize your chances of gaining commitment, be real and. . .

1. Tell people what you want to accomplish.
2. Tell them what led you to believe it's important to them and to you.
3. Tell them your own struggles along the way.
4. Tell them how long you've been thinking about it.
5. Tell them you are committed to it.
6. Tell them your plan for helping them be able to do "it."

Then give people a reasonable amount of time to think about it, question it, be uncomfortable with the newness of it, begin to accept it, and then be involved with how it will be  implemented.

How long will it take?

Depending upon the size of the change, the time line for building critical mass of acceptance and action will vary. Your relational behavior--physical presence, clarity, direction, ability to listen, and encouragement--will help determine  your success.

Remember that it's your idea. Do what it takes to help make it their idea. Well, that sounds manipulative. I hate manipulative.  Let's look at it this way: It's your idea. But ownership by others comes through being allowed to use one's own ideas for the implementation. After all, the people involved know best how their operations work.  So let other people develop and mold the "how to." Then provide a reasonable amount of time along with your support.

The outcome: you stand a great chance of other people making your idea even better in the process. Everybody gets a chance at creating something new.  Satisfaction and success follow.

Big win for all concerned.

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Use Words That Connect

You need to find the connection between people's needs and wishes and your own goals in order to genuinely be influential. 

When asked how he became influential, former U.S. President Harry Truman said simply: "I find out what people want and then I help them get it."

InfluenceFirst, Find Out What They Want 

If you're looking for questions that work well, here are six. You can use your own variations on the theme:

  • What do you really like about the current situation?
  • What would you like to see happen differently?
  • What do you need from this?
  • Is there something that is most important to you?
  • What is your preferred action in this situation?
Then, Use The Right Words

You've asked questions and have a good grasp of the other person's situation. Now, it's time to select words that really make your ideas pop. Do what good writers do and pick words that stimulate and connect. Here are some examples:

Feeling words: Impress, thrill, intrigued, lively, brisk, grasp,

Words that attract the sense of hearing: resonate, harmonize, tuned in, clear as a bell, loud and clear

Visual words: pinpoint, bright, focused, imagine, reveal, picture

You get the idea. Words matter.

Toss out the professional jargon and focus on the senses of your listener. Then, imagine the thrill of knowing your sharp idea made the right impression.

photo source:wikipedia http://tinyurl.com/yzc7eeg

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5 Ways To Increase Your Influence

"You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time." J.S. Knox

TemptsAlignment

This is one of the great buzzwords of our time. When used consciously, it's also the key to building solid relationships as well as the foundation for being influential. When you are able to show how someone else's needs can be met through your idea or process, you both stand a chance of walking away satisfied. 

The question: How do you do it?

Five Styles to Help You Influence

1. Demonstrate. Give a successful example of your idea. 

How? Highlight related examples of the same idea already taking place in your organization or in another business. 

2. Cost-Focus. Show how problems and costs can be minimized. 

How?  Run through the numbers to reveal, factually, the cost benefits of your approach. Do this on paper and hand the other person(s) a copy to hold in their grubby little paws. This makes it real. Don't just say it; print out the math.

3. Values-based consistency. Show that your solution is consistent with, and strongly supports, the other person's values. 

How? Do your homework and find out the non negotiables in the business lives of those listening. Then, clearly point out the values-alignment that your solution brings.

4. Time Awareness. Demonstrate how the plan will unfold over a specific period of time.

How? My favorite--because it is low risk and high payoff--is to do a trial project implemented in stages with "client" review at designated points. It is very powerful because the other person is actively involved, shares likes and dislikes at each step, and is part of the successes and problem-solving. Ownership emerges rather quickly.

5. Testimonials. Show that your idea already has the support of other respected people. 

How? Ask others who have used the idea to give you a blurb or, internally, to come to the meeting. Nothing succeeds like someone else showing how successful you have been with them. You hardly have to say a word except "thank you" to those who have helped.

Some Other Thoughts

  • Listen to what sound like objections and acknowledge them. You'll gain respect. You'll lose respect if you don't treat feedback to your ideas as being legitimate. 
  • Stay focused on your theme and not everything you know about the idea or proposal. Too many details will distract your listeners. However, if they ask for details, be prepared to respond. It means they are interested. 
  • Consistent with #4 above: People are more likely to accept a smaller proposal if they've just rejected a larger one. Keep the pilot program in your back pocket as a reasonable alternative to implementing the entire idea. It will seem sensible to the individual or group.

 

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Persuasion and Sales: Sure You Can

You've heard it:

"I could never be in sales."

Monitor your conversations for a day. How often are your really trying to convince someone to see things your way?

For some reason it's OK to persuade but icky to sell. (You might change your mind about the sales thing if you looked into the financial compensation of successful sales people).

Persuasion ZipKeynote.001

 Let's Talk Persuasion: 3 Different Ways

We frequently use proprietary assessments to help people clarify their talents. One of the things we've discovered is that there are three unique ways people can be gifted at persuasion:

1. Negotiating. This is an above-average ability to discern the needs and desires of two people--or groups--and orchestrate agreement between them.

If this is a talent of yours, people will see you actively seeking to assist people in conflict. Those with this talent can quickly garner the credibility needed to help resolve issues.

Do you inherently "jump in" when you see the need for resolution? Are you successful more often than not?

2. Selling. This is just what it implies. People with this specific talent excel at introducing a product or concept and then going for "the close," whether it's money or a commitment.

Are you always thinking about better ways to get a commitment. . .now?!

3. Promoting. Think about someone whose enthusiasm and excitement is infectious. As a result, with multiple exposures and relationship, other people are willing to try out a new idea and look at new ways of seeing things.

The "close" is a fait accompli. There's no reason to say  "will that be cash or charge?" The organic nature of the process leads to implementation or closure.

Do people accept your ideas because of your genuine enthusiasm and willingness to spread your enthusiasm over a period of time? Do you view yourself as an educator who brings about change?

One of these is your persuasive talent

Acknowledge it, learn more about it, use it often, and don't let anyone talk you into doing it differently.

The world and the workplace need to be influenced by people with sound ideas, positive motives, and ways of communicating that don't force some sort of "acting."

How will you exercise your persuasive talent today?

__________________________________________

Kudos to the kommenters (always wanted to do that) who add to the knowledge base here at All Things Workplace. Remember, too, to subscribe via email or RSS--we don't post daily but usually once a week, twice if something special comes up. For those who want a quick workplace tip each week, be sure to receive our special newsletter from steveroesler.com. Sign-up is in the upper right hand corner and only takes a moment. Also: we never, ever share our readers' emails with anyone in any way.

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Who Will Influence You?

Every leader must also follow.

ElephantsThose who show no accountability to others--in business, non-profits, or government--may hold a position of leadership but won't hold on to it without some version of brute or "political" force, overt or covert. (If that kind of leadership appeals to you, you may want to check Craigslist for the "Dictators Wanted" ads).

Be selective about who you allow to influence your thinking, attitudes, decisions, and behavior. What are the values you hold most dear--the ones you would like others to adopt as a result of being influenced by you?

Please consider that question. Then, make sure the influences on your life mirror those values.

If you do, your life and your leadership will be reinforced and lifted up. If you don't, you put yourself in a position to be led away from your life's vision. Perhaps even worse, you'll lead others in the wrong direction.

Who are you choosing to follow?

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Paying Attention to People

I received an email from a reader requesting "a post I recalled reading about 'paying attention to people.' " I think this was the one from December, 2009. The original experiment and its impact on management and human behavior is timeless. 

In the 1920s, physiologist Elton Mayo conducted experiments at the Hawthorne Electrical Works in Chicago.

He was trying to confirm his theory that better lighting led to greater productivity. So, he had the lights on the factory floor turned up. Voila! As he expected, production levels increased, too. Done deal?

As an afterthought he decided to turn the lights down just to see what would happen. Production went up again. In fact, he found that whatever he did with the lighting, production increased.

 

 

Mayo

Novel thought: Mayo discussed his findings with the workers who were involved. They told him that the interest Mayo and his researchers showed toward them made them feel more valued. They were accustomed to being ignored.

While the increased lighting no doubt made things brighter and healthier, it was the increase in morale that most impacted improvement in productivity. This became known as the Hawthorne Effect

Most people schooled in management & organization development are well aware of the studies.  However, I'm finding more and more business folks who haven't been exposed to them; I thought it might be a good idea to revisit what is the beginning of the "human relations"  movement in management.

While scientists and pseudo-scientists have argued everything from methodology to the number of toilet breaks employees of that era received, the simple learning is this: When you pay attention to people, tell them what you are doing, and ask their opinion about things, the response--all else being equal--is a boost in morale and productivity. I dare say that Elton had stumbled upon Employee Engagement long before the term became popular.

I'm wondering: after 80+ years, why isn't this fundamental learning a part of every organization's modus operandi?

photo source: www.library.hbs.edu

____________________________

Bonus:

 

Kudos



 

Kudos. Over the years, we've actually set up systems for certain clients who needed a tickler that popped up on the calendar reminding them what to do, when, and how regarding "recognition checks." That's not our core business, but it was a helpful solution for many.

Would such a solution be helpful in your company? Look no further. 

How about a systematic approach with a tech solution for the "recognition challenged"? Check out the folks at Kudos who have created a terrific way to help manager who may not "feel" it but darn right well out to "do" it. Hat tip (well, "kudos") to Co-CEO Tom Short for cluing us in to their approach. 

Disclaimer: Neither All Things Workplace nor The Steve Roesler Group has a business arrangement with, nor gains revenue from, Kudos.


 

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Leadership & Influence: Raise The Standard

"Fitting in" is a big deal, and in many organizations it's seen as the way to career longevity.

That's a problem.

Raise-the-Bar-620x480People are influenced by those they see as being "ahead of them." If you simply match the rest of the workforce and blend in, your influence is diminished. Eventually, you become invisible.

If you want to lead, be willing to raise your personal standards to exceed the common expectations of your organization or work group. "Raising" equates with "elevating." Once you raise the bar for yourself, you begin to view things from a heightened position that expands your perspective. When that happens, you're able to see and describe a greater vision for those around you.

What can you start doing today to raise your standards and increase your ability to lead?

_________________________________

Bonus : Check out my online colleague and consulting pro, Denise Green, as she shares an important truth about Changing How You Are, Not Who You Are.  

 

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Teams: Guiding A Discussion

When you're in a group discussion--or leading it--and you see the energy begin to drop, ask a question.

A good question can breathe life into a team in a way that advice never can. First, recap the key points you've heard , then ask an open-ended question that leads the discussion on in a positive way.

Open-ended  questions are something we all know about. When things get "stuck" or heated, the human condition stops problem-solving and starts digging in. Open-ended questions put everyone back into creative mode and move things away from turf issues or boredom. Remember: Questions activate the mind; statements promote mental passivity. 

GroupDiscussion

 
What You Say, How You Say It

A helpful way to guide a team discussion is to phrase things in a manner that assumes something will happen. (We love the possibility action and results!). By subtly highlighting the words that indicate what you want to happen, you can lead your team toward an agreement. Try these for starters:

  • "What ideas do you have on how we can handle this issue?"

  • "After we discuss this completely, we can contact the VP of Marketing to let her know what we intend to do."

  • "Before we decide on the solution, let's compare what we've heard today and see if we have a common theme."

  • "How easy will it be for us to finish this by next month?"

Build consensus by valuing everyone's comments. Your actions will create the model for how team members will operate together, with or without the leader present.

What do you do to lead and promote effective discussion? It's a challenge we're all faced with regularly.

_______________________________________________

Note: I've been away for the past ten days and out of digital contact much of the time. We arrived home to the obligatory "you've been away" burst water pipe. Now that we've cleared the Mallards and Striped Bass out of the basement, I'll begin taking time today to respond to the many comments  on the blog as well as emails from our newsletter. Thanks for your patience.--Steve

 

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Leaders: Its About Competence, Not Dominance

Communication Alert: When it comes to leadership, do what is valued: build solid rapport with workers.

Everyone needs to brush up on actions that imply ability and competence (called "task cues" in the psych trade) and play down their dominance cues (actions that Kids_playing-2 imply control and threat), reports a team of psychologists headed by James E. Driskell, Ph.D.

In one study, 159 college students, male and female, listened to the pitches of task-oriented speakers and the same arguments from dominance-oriented speakers, male and female. Almost everyone thought men and women who exhibited task cues were more competent, group-oriented, and likable. Those showing dominance cues were thought of as self-oriented and disliked.

For a corporate decision-making group sitting around a table in a board meeting, poise, attitude, and approach matter more than most people realize.

Here's the rundown on which behaviors they say will earn you respect and which won't:


Task Cues

  • Rapid speech rate
  • Eye contact
  • Verbal fluency
  • Choosing the head of the table
  • Fluid gestures
  • Well-moderated voice tone

Dominance Cues

  • Loud voice
  • Angry tone
  • Finger pointing
  • Lowering eyebrows
  • Stiff posture
  • Forceful gestures

What will you do differently today?

Suggestion: If you found this helpful, I think you will learn from The Value of

 

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Trust? Be Consistent

"Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say."

Consistency That line was spoken by an associate to a speaker at a recent business business event we attended. The interaction between the speaker and the audience was totally out of sync with what he was professing. The result: Great words, no credibility. A few attendees even referred to him later as a "liar."

Not good for his business.

Consistency

We communicate through our actions, not just our words. Which policies you decide to enforce or ignore, what you say and don't say, what you reward and what you punish, what you fund and what you don't fund--all tell the truth of your heart. Every instance of consistency builds credibility; a single instance of inconsistency can begin to build doubt about your trustworthiness. 

It's a lot more difficult to regain trust than it is to build it. 

Where will you show consistency today?

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3 Tips For Better Communication

I'm guessing that you and I both spend a lot of time in meetings and discussions at work. Here are three things you can do to make them count:

Listening! Stop the Stoppers

Yesterday I watched a manager engage another manager in a topic that was clearly important (to manager #1). I watched manager #2 respond. It went well. Why? Because of the response. 

When someone engages you in serious conversation, your reaction will either encourage the other person to keep talking or stop things dead in their tracks. (Our manager #2 wasn't a conversation killer). Here's a list of some stoppers I've seen: lecturing, interrogating, ordering, blaming, and moralizing. Don't think so? Take a moment to replay the last six unpleasant conversations you've had. 

Thank you.

Overcome Personal Bias

Become aware of your own stereotypical thinking that ultimately leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy as a result of your predictable responses. It's difficult, but there's a big payoff in learning to listen objectively. What's the payoff? Our reception to messages is unclouded and we actually learn something new. Learning organizations are listening organizations.

Off-The-Subject Subjects Are the Subject

You've heard a remark in the middle of a conversation that seems "off topic" and, therefore, irrelevant. 

Nah.

You may be hearing what is really on the other person's mind. See what happens if you pursue the new subject. You may very well be the one who helps get the real issue out on the table and resolved. 

What tips would you add from your experience?

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3 Persuasive Ideas

If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, 
I'd spend six sharpening my axe.
--Abraham Lincoln

We never outgrow our need to be persuasive. Managers have to persuade employees to "get on board" with a new idea or change; salespeople get paid to persuade customers to buy; and potential customers persuade salespeople that a change in the "deal" just might make them a paying customer.

We're all faced with the challenge of persuasion and influencing. Here are three ideas to help meet your next challenge:

Cheating_golfer

Create the Right Atmosphere

Did you know that participants rate educational seminars higher when they are held at a resort location? That factoid comes from the meeting planners who have to schedule them. Diners linger a bit longer in comfortable restaurants, and are prone to ultimately have a more expensive after-dinner refreshment and a dessert. Shoppers spend more time shopping if there is background music. Job applicants sign on the dotted line more often if they are interviewed in plush surroundings vs. the loading dock.

The next time you have a meeting, with one or one hundred, what's the best atmosphere to put your listeners in the most receptive mood?

Get At The End of a Parade

If you find that you are one of a number of presenters at a meeting, ask to go last. We've all had different experiences with this but here's what I've realized happens more often than not:

1. By the time the others trot out their list of pie charts, statistics, and million-dollar ideas, the listeners are growing tired as well as forgetful. Your presentation will at least be the last one on their minds. 

2. If you are last, you stand a chance of being bumped completely and then end up getting a courtesy re-schedule. This now puts you in the position of being the only thing on people's minds at your new presentation. (There's also something of a sympathy factor for being bumped. Bask in it).

Stand Up

When I work with a small group--6-8 people--I start off seated at the table with them. When it comes time to make a serious point or convey urgency, I stand up and draw on a flipchart or whiteboard. It changes the dynamic, adds to the point trying to be made, and lets people know I believe the issue or idea merits special consideration.

How will you be a bit more persuasive today?

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Leadership Influence: Make Connections

Influential people create compelling images.

Of what?

Istock_000004937324xsmall Of the benefits those around them will gain from the ideas they propose. They take time to let us know what we'll see, hear, and feel. You can do this, too. Take time to choose words that create pictures, sounds, and feelings that will make your ideas connect in different ways all at once.

For example: "Using this plan offers clear benefits that are in total harmony with our goals and will have an impact on customer satisfaction." In one sentence, you've touched the visual, auditory, and feeling senses of your listeners.

It's not about manipulation, it's about communication. The kind that successful leaders carefully craft before stepping into a meeting. 

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Tomorrow is the voting deadline for Best of Leadership Blogs 2010 sponsored by Mr. Remarkable, @kevineikenberry. If you enjoy All Things Workplace and gain value from the articles here, we'd appreciate your vote. I'd suggest adding all of the nominees to your RSS Reader (I did) or email alerts. The writing and advice covers a depth and breadth of viewpoints on Leadership from some terrific people.

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How Are You Persuasive?

You've heard it: "I could never be in sales."

Monitor your conversations for a day. How often are your really trying to convince someone to see things your way? For some reason it's OK to persuade but icky to sell. (You might change your mind about the sales thing if you looked into the financial compensation of successful sales people).

Persuasion Let's Talk Persuasion: 3 Different Ways

We use proprietary assessments to help people clarify speficic talents. One of the things we've discovered is that there are three distinct ways people can be gifted at persuasion:

1. Negotiating. This is an above-average ability to discern the needs and desires of two people--or groups--and orchestrate agreement between them. If this is a talent of yours, people will see you actively seeking to assist people in conflict. Those with this talent can quickly garner the credibility needed to help resolve issues. Do you inherently "jump in" when you see the need for resolution? Are you successful more often than not?

2. Selling. This is just what it implies. People with this specific talent excel at introducing a product or concept and then going for "the close," whether it's money or a commitment. Are you always thinking about better ways to get a commitment. . .now?!

3. Promoting. Think about someone whose enthusiasm and excitement is infectious. As a result, with multiple exposures and relationship, other people are willing to try out a new idea and look at new ways of seeing things. The "close" is a fait accompli. There's no reason to say "will that be cash or charge?" The organic nature of the process leads to implementation or closure. Do people accept your ideas because of your genuine enthusiasm and willingness to spread your enthusiasm over a period of time? Do you view yourself as an educator who brings about change?

One of the above is your gift. Acknowledge it, learn more about it, use it often, and don't let anyone talk you into doing it differently. The world and the workplace need to be influenced by people with sound ideas and positive motives. How will you exercise your persuasive talent today?

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My colleague Ed Ryan and I are headed to Pittsburgh to work with a group of experienced steel industry sales folks to add advanced influence & persuasion skills to their behavior repertoire. Looking forward to it.

In the meantime, a quick reminder that @kevineikenberry continues to tally the votes for Best Leadership Blog of 2010. Be sure to weigh in and if you enjoy All Things Workplace, we appreciate your vote. All of the blogs are first-class and are "must adds" to your leadership reading list.

photo attribution: www.potential2success.com

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Want Engagement? Allow The 'How'

Leadership certainly involves setting direction, but the best vision can be undermined by taking away the 'how'.

Unique  We humans want some sense of control over our lives. That often comes from freedom of choice about how and when a job gets done, responsibility for the success or failure of a project, or even freedom to interact freely across the entire organization.

When offering up a plan (the 'what'), be sure to leave as much of the implementation ('how') as possible to those involved. 

Think about this:

We hire people because we believe they offer a unique talent. That uniqueness lies in the 'how' they go about doing things. Once you take that away, you've taken away who they are at the core and why they signed on the dotted line. When you take away people's choices they'll begin to find ways to undercut or disengage from a project. 

Give people opportunities to choose and control. You'll become the master of engagement.

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Six Steps To Getting Your New Idea Accepted

When you introduce a "new thing," you are at the end of your thought process (which may have begun months ago).

 Everyone else is at the beginning. They can't get where you are without you sharing your full process including your own apprehensions.

Isn't that what you need in order to commit to someone else's idea?

IStock_000003551840XSmall
 
First, Do This

1. Tell people what you want to accomplish.

2. Tell them what led you to believe it's important to them and to you.

3. Tell them your own struggles along the way.

4. Tell them how long you've been thinking about it.

5. Tell them you are committed to it.

6. Tell them your plan for helping them be able to do "it."

Then, give people a reasonable amount of time to:

  • Think about it
  • Question it
  • Be uncomfortable with the newness of it
  • Begin to accept it
  • Be involved with how it will be  implemented.

We simply need to give people enough time to catch up with where we've been.

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Want to Influence? Know the Norms

Norms are rules that a group uses to define its appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. The catch: Those rules may be explicit or implicit. And those unspoken norms will bite you every time if you don't find out what they are.

Norms are so important that a failure to stick to the rules can result in severe punishment, the most feared of which is exclusion from the group. A common rule is that some norms must frequently be displayed; neutrality is seldom an option. Think about what "business casual" means in your company. Khakis and a golf shirt? Logo shirt? Jacket without a tie?

Conformity
 

Your Norm Checklist

To help you and your colleagues identify norms, here are five very specific categories:

1. Explicit Norms are written or spoken openly.

2. Personal Norms: Standards we hold regarding our own actions.

3. Injunctive Norms: Behaviors perceived as being approved of by other people.

4. Subjective Norms: Expectations that "valued others" hold as to how we will behave.

5. Implicit Norms: Not stated openly; however, you'll find out quickly when you break one!

Norms can be conveyed  by non-verbal behavior such as silence or 'dirty looks' in response to an unspoken norm having been broken. They may also be passed along through stories, rituals and role-model behavior. In Japan, new employees are assigned a mentor who, over time, passes along the company's norms by sharing stories about people, situations, and the outcomes. No employee manual needed here; simply the storytelling of a more experienced employee.

What to Do

a. Identify the rules you put on other people  as a condition for being in your group. Are these productive or convenient?

b. What rules have the group put on you? Are they productive or convenient? Are there any which are particularly bothersome and unproductive?

What would happen if you made the implicit explicit? 

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Ten Ways You Can Be More Persuasive

You have a message. You want to be more persuasive.  Whether you are an employee, business owner, student, blogger, etc. you need to be heard. 

We're all marketers trying to impact a world that's drowning in information. 

How Can You Get Results?

Here are 10 ways to be more persuasive.  Each has proven effective in controlled experiments and many are from Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

1. Social Proof – When the course of action is not clear, people look to others for guidance (even though they will deny that fact).  Put more simply, people tend to do what other people similar to them do.  This behavior is programmed into our genes and is well established.  Social proof is more influential when we are observing others we perceive to be similar to us.  So if you are trying to sell someone on something, be it an idea or a product, a powerful method is to show how others similar to them have already bought into it.

Persuading_dirksen_may51964  2. Mirroring – People respect, like, and are most easily influenced by people who they perceive to be similar to themselves (see Social Proof above).  So one way to influence someone is to mirror them.  Mirror their speech and their actions.  If you verbalize back to someone something they have said and in the same words, you instantly become more influential.  The same thing applies to posture and actions.  If you want to influence Mike, then you need to act like Mike.  If he is leaning back in his chair, then you would be wise to do the same.

3. Offer Few Choices – People are paralyzed by choices. Given too many options, many simply fail to choose anything.  When you are offer alternative products, services, or ideas, be sure to limit the choices to only a few.  Two choices is often better than three.

4. Reciprocation – Do someone a favor and they are more likely to return it.  There's an interesting twist to this.  People who do you a favor once are more likely do do you another favor in the future.  Once someone has done you a favor, in their mind you become more important to them; you must be worthy of their time.  So get someone to do you a small favor, and they are more likely to listen to you or do you an even bigger favor in the future.  The best way to get them to do you a favor in the first place is to do one for them.

5. Baby Steps – We want to act consistent with our previous actions.  Moreover, once we buy into something or someone, we tend to become much more committed to it or them.  This is the foot-in-the-door technique.  No matter how small a step you can get someone to take in agreeing with your idea, product, or service, those small steps will lead to larger steps in the future.  This even works on yourself. Start small.  Get your target to say yes to anything first, and then they will be much more likely say yes to what your really after.

6. Labeling – Marketers use this one on you all the time: “You seem like a smart person and smart people buy X”.  Tell someone they are smart, sophisticated, thrifty, a risk-taker, etc. and ask them to take an action consistent with that label.  There is a powerful inner drive to stay consistent with what we have demonstrated in the past.  If someone labels us, we believe we have demonstrated that trait (especially if it is positive).

7. Ask the Right Question – Recently I was given a pitch for a new home (we're considering something smaller).  Through the entire sales pitch, the agent was asking me and questions about what would we do or what we would like to do.  This was leading to the final push on the actual sale.  Before asking someone to do something, get them to say they would do it or something consistent with it.  Get them to verbally express an inclination or desire to do something.  Then when asked to do something consistent with what they have previously expressed, they are much more likely to agree. (We didn't because we are just "window shopping" at this point).

8. Smile – Smiles are powerful influencers.  People like people who smile.  But your smile needs to be authentic.  Humans have a remarkable ability to detect false smiles (it’s in the eyes).  Find something in the other person that you can authentically appreciate and then smile about it.  In general, just practice looking on the bright side of things and being happy.  You will naturally be more influential because you smile more. That's easy, eh?

9. Keep it Simple – I've read studies that show the most persuasive writing is written at an 8th grade level of comprehension.  This is true even among people who were capable of comprehending much more complex language.  There is a convergence of data showing that simple is better.  Simple and easy to remember names and ideas are the best.  Resist the urge to show off your knowledge and sophistication and keep it simple.

10. Scarcity and Exclusivity – Make whatever you are offering, even ideas, unique and therefore scarce. People value what is scarce.  Think about a high-end BMW.  Part of what makes it so desirable is the fact that it is rare; the overwhelming majority of people cannot afford it.  At first glance scarcity might seem to be counter to the social proof phenomenon described above, but they actually go together.  When you buy the high-end BMW you are joining an exclusive club of sophisticated people who also value such quality and sophistication in an automobile.  They are people like you.  I'm a Mac owner and have been for years. We're (an ever-increasing) minority of computer owners but believe we are somewhat exclusive and unique.  So: offer something unique; then, package it in a way that also attracts people through the social proof of others.

If you really want to learn how to be more persuasive and influential, check out Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

photo courtesy of www.congresslink.org

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Handle Objections With Questions

You and I come up with some pretty wonderful ideas, which--for some strange reason--aren't immediately embraced by those around us.

So what's our natural response? It's usually to start making statements in defense of our position, which then leads to "I'm going to win!"

Not a good posture. 

Questions
 

Ask Questions

When you keep announcing the righteousness of your position, the problem defines you. When you respond with a question, both of you begin defining the problem and looking for solutions. Which do you want?j

Here are four model questions that will help you stay above the fray:

  • "If this doesn't meet your requirements (criteria, needs), what can be done to ensure that it does?"
  • "If you like the idea but not the related cost, what can we do about the budget constraints?"
  • "If we can't start the project now, when do you think it would be a good time to get it going?"
  • "If you don't want to change anything and think the procedures are fine the way they are, what is it that you like about how they work now?"

You get the idea. The first part of the question acknowledges that you heard the issue;  the second invites action from the other person. That way, you stay out "argument" mode and create mutual make the responsibility for a solution.

If this sounds reasonable, what would you need to try it?

Bonus read: For another look into conflict and collaboration, check out Conflict At Work?

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Five Ways to Boost Your Influence

"You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time." J.S. Knox

TemptationsMid60s_sm  Alignment

This is one of the great buzzwords of our time. When used consciously, it's also the key to building solid relationships as well as the foundation for being influential. When you are able to show how someone else's needs can be met through your idea or process, you both stand a chance of walking away satisfied. 

The question: How do you do it?

Five Styles to Help You Influence

1. Demonstrate. Give a successful example of your idea. 

How? Highlight related examples of the same idea already taking place in your organization or in another business. 

2. Cost-Focus. Show how problems and costs can be minimized. 

How?  Run through the numbers to reveal, factually, the cost benefits of your approach. Do this on paper and hand the other person(s) a copy to hold in their grubby little paws. This makes it real. Don't just say it; print out the math.

3. Values-based consistency. Show that your solution is consistent with, and strongly supports, the other person's values. 

How? Do your homework and find out the non negotiables in the business lives of those listening. Then, clearly point out the values-alignment that your solution brings.

4. Time Awareness. Demonstrate how the plan will unfold over a specific period of time.

How? My favorite--because it is low risk and high payoff--is to do a trial project implemented in stages with "client" review at designated points. It is very powerful because the other person is actively involved, shares likes and dislikes at each step, and is part of the successes and problem-solving. Ownership emerges rather quickly.

5. Testimonials. Show that your idea already has the support of other respected people. 

How? Ask others who have used the idea to give you a blurb or, internally, to come to the meeting. Nothing succeeds like someone else showing how successful you have been with them. You hardly have to say a word except "thank you" to those who have helped.

Some Other Thoughts

  • Listen to what sound like objections and acknowledge them. You'll gain respect. You'll lose respect if you don't treat feedback to your ideas as being legitimate. 
  • Stay focused on your theme and not everything you know about the idea or proposal. Too many details will distract your listeners. However, if they ask for details, be prepared to respond. It means they are interested. 
  • Consistent with #4 above: People are more likely to accept a smaller proposal if they've just rejected a larger one. Keep the pilot program in your back pocket as a reasonable alternative to implementing the entire idea. It will seem sensible to the individual or group.

If you are thinking about Influence you are really thinking about asking for some sort of "change." You'll find "Making A Change: What People Want" a helpful read.

____________________

But There's More!

My friend, Bud Bilanich The Common Sense Guy, has written a common sense book about life and career success.  It’s calledSuccess Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less. 

I think it’s a great little book – packed with common sense advice in easy read, bite sized chunks.

 

Bud is a generous guy.  He’s giving away the eBook version of Success Tweets.  You can claim your free copy by going towww.SuccessTweets.com.

 

Go to www.SuccessTweets.com and get your free copy of Success Tweets while it’s still available.


Photo attribution:  www.bordersmedia.com/ motown/biotemp.asp

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Influence, Positional Bargaining and Relationships

Everyone wants to have influence; not everyone wants to build the relationships that enable it.

There's a natural flow to being influential. 

Agreement_kidsromance  Influence goes hand in hand with agreements. If you want to persuade someone to take a particular course of action, you need some agreements about what needs to be done and who will do it. That means taking time to reach an understanding about what is important to each of you. And that means building a working relationship.

Positional bargaining happens when one persons lays out a case and the other counters with an argument in favor of his or her own position. This sets up a "mine is bigger than yours" scenario which most often leads to conflict where:

  • The side wielding the most power, wins
  • The loser resents the loss

If you are "in it" for the long run, think about this:

Unless you're willing to meet with a parole officer regularly, you can't get what you want by beating up who you need.

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Want To Influence? Listen

"Every hour of every day, at every level in every organization, influential people succeed and
non-influential people don't." --Graham Roberts-Phelps

One of the golden rules of the counseling profession is that everyone needs at least one person with whom they can openly and unashamedly discuss every detail, fear, and desire. Being accepted, appreciated, recognized, respected, desired, valued, approved of, or complimented – all of these impact the depth of our relationships and, thus, the degree to which we can influence and be influenced.

I've coached executives and conducted workshops on all aspects of presentations for many years. One of the liveliest parts of the discussion emerges when I introduce the fact that influential presentations require at least as much time listening to the audience as speaking to them. For many, that's counter-intuitive to the common notion of influence.

Influential Why Listen To Influence?

Because once you toss out your big idea, others have to process it according to what they need and want. 

The only way to arrive at a "meeting of the minds" is by asking questions and listening in a way that:

a. shows genuine interest, and

b. helps your understanding of how folks are experiencing "the big idea."

People don't want to be influenced by you; they want to be understood, determine that certain needs and wants will be met, and then decide to opt-in with you.

Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman summed it up the best. When asked his philosophy of leadership, he replied: "I find out what people want and then help them get it."

Want to build your base of influence? Find out what someone needs or wants and help them get it.

_______________________________

Dad update: Thank you to all who commented, prayed, emailed, and even phoned regarding my father's bout with recently-discovered cancer. I'm beyond thrilled to report that the tests showed that it had not spread at all, is in the first stage,and confined to a specific portion of this throat. He'll begin 6 1/2 weeks of radiation therapy on Monday and, barring anything unforeseen, the doctors believe he will recover 100%. We are thankful for that prognosis as well as the outpouring of friendship and ongoing thoughts and prayers.


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Advice? Find Out What "They" Want

Be careful when you give advice--somebody might take it." Anonymous.

Most of us enjoy giving advice. If you're a manager, it may even make you feel a lot more managerial. And let's be honest, advice is a lot more fun than criticism.

What Kind of Advice Is Desired?

Advice1 Counselors know that when someone arrives for a first visit, the story that unfolds is usually the "presenting" problem. It's not necessarily a matter of deception. We may not feel comfortable "putting it all out there" quite yet. Or, we may not even be clear about what the real issue is, which is why we want to talk it through in the first place.

Advice & The Workplace

If you can't tell what your employee or boss wants by how a subject is introduced, ask a few questions. Does the person want:

  • To hear critical information and facts?
  • To know your opinion on an issue?
  • To get help with generating alternatives to a situation?
  • To know how you went about doing something?
  • To check out his or her reasoning on a decision?

It's easy to fall into the instant response trap; we all want to be helpful. Sometimes that kind of help isn't helpful at all.

Ask specifically what the other person wants. It will save you both a lot of time and lead to more satisfying results.

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Note: I've been traveling, speaking, and delivering leadership workshops since Talent: Strengths or Weaknesses?Yes. and  Are We Educating For The Right Jobs? I want to take some time this evening to read through the comments again and jump back into the conversation. Thanks to everyone for keeping it rolling. If you haven't yet joined in, have a look; some good thinking going on there.

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Three Tips To Help You Negotiate

Negotiations play a large role in our work lives.

We interview for and land a job, buy and sell services, and resolve conflicts. But  even as we do these again and again, they don't seem to become a lot easier. Here are a few thoughts that I hope you'll find useful:

Businessman-main_Full 1. Whenever possible, don't use the word "negotiate".

Really. When you think about it, it implies a winner and a loser.

For some it implies a compromise between two people who both walk away somewhat dissatisfied. Words go a long way toward framing the context of a conversation. This isn't an issue of political correctness. It's an issue of creating the best atmosphere for both parties.

So, try using phrases such as "arrive at a workable solution," "come to an agreement," or "work out a plan together." All imply cooperation.

2. Put your "stuff" out there sooner rather than later.

Ok, so you gamesmen gameswomen weasels won't like this and might be thinking, "What a wuss!" That's OK because you're just wrong. I recently watched an executive who was about to be hired lose a $300,000 job (plus benefits, stock options, and bonuses) because she decided to keep tacking on "Oh, and..." items to the employment contract. It didn't work.

Every time you hold back a key point and then plop it down later, the other person is likely to consider your tactics--and you--deceptive. Is that what you think will get you what you want?

Start off by putting your list of issues on the table. Avoid creating doubt about you and your intentions.

3. Focus on the other person first.

Demonstrate that it's about "you two" and not about you. Build trust by asking the other person what their needs and wants are, then listen. Ask questions to be sure you understand. Then, work at figuring out how to help them get what they want. Experience and observation show that this will, more often than not, enable them to help you get what you want.

________________________________________

I'll bet you've found your own tweaks to the whole "negotiation" thing. Add your favorites in a comment below. When we collect enough for another list I'll make them into a post with, of course, the appropriate attribution.

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Choosing Who Will Influence You

Every leader must also follow.

Following_elephants Those who show no accountability to others--in business, non-profits, or government--may hold a position of leadership but won't hold on to it without some version of brute and/or "political" force, overt or covert. (If that kind of leadership appeals to you, you may want to check Craigslist for the "Dictators Wanted" ads).

Be selective about who you allow to influence your thinking, attitudes, decisions, and behavior. What are the values that you hold most dear--the ones you would like others to adopt as a result of being influenced by you?

Take time to think about that question. Then, make sure that the influences on your life mirror the same values.

If you do, your life and your leadership will be reinforced and lifted up. If you don't, you put yourself in a position to be led away from your life's vision. Perhaps even worse, you'll lead others in the wrong direction.

Choose carefully who you will follow.

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Influence and Leadership: Raise the Standard

"Fitting in" is a big deal, and in many organizations it's seen as the way to career longevity.

Raise_the_bar That's a problem.

People are influenced by those they see as being "ahead of them." If you simply match the rest of the workforce and blend in, your influence is diminished. Eventually, you become invisible.

If you want to lead, be willing to raise your personal standards to exceed the common expectations of your organization or work group. "Raising" equates with "elevating." Once you raise the bar for yourself, you begin to view things from a heightened position that expands your perspective. When that happens, you're able to see and describe a greater vision for those around you.

What can you start doing now to raise your standards and impact your ability to lead?

_________________________________

For more insight into nearly every aspect of leadership, check out the just-released February Leadership Carnival hosted by Talented Apps' Mark Bennett.

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Influence Through Agreements

There's a misconception about influence that gets people into trouble. It's the idea that influence is a matter of "positional negotiation": one side lays out a case while the other counters with a stronger argument on a different position.

This is actually a kind of competition that most often ends in conflict. The one with the most power wins while the loser walks away filled with resentment.

How Start Thinking "Partnership"

Influence has its roots in agreements. In order to genuinely persuade someone to pursue a certain course of action, there needs to be an agreement about what is to be done and by whom. When agreements serve the interests of both parties the chances of success multiply. Why? Because there is increased commitment, and commitment leads to the laying of  the strongest foundation of influence--relationship.

Six Self-Assessment Questions

The best place to start being influential is with yourself. The clearer you are about what's important, the easier it will be to work through an agreement, especially the parts where you need to explain calmly and clearly why you don't want to do certain things. You can start by asking yourself these before entering a situation:

  • What do I want to achieve through this partnership?
  • What does (s)he want from our relationship and especially from this situation?
  • How can I meld these in some way to begin to create a framework for mutual satisfaction?
  • What can I give up, if needed, that will not do anything to sacrifice my overall goal?
  • What can (s)he offer that may not be obvious?
  • What new options or solutions could serve our common purpose?

Finally, when you get together, do these:

  • Look for shared interests
  • Listen to each others' ideas, synthesize mutual goals 
  • Work together and stay in touch to make sure you're both satisfied with how things are going. If not, start talking about what you can do differently to reach your mutual targets.


Which of these do you need to start doing to become more influential in your world?

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Meet Commitments. Build Trust. Say No.

Who do you trust?

Trust-me Probably those who you determine are reliable. So, those who don't keep their promises quickly lose the trust of their friends and colleagues.

Before you commit to a new project or obligation, be sure you can fulfill it. If you really aren't certain, then say so. It's better to simply disappoint someone now than show up empty-handed on the day of your big promise. If, despite your best effort, you think you'll miss a deadline or milestone, then contact the other person and explain what has happened. We've all been in similar situations and again: disappointment is a lot different than "I can' trust you."

5 Ways To Become Reliable

1. Before you agree to a new obligation, check that you have enough time--then keep your promise. 

2. Say "no" to demands that may stretch you past your capacity. This means being honest with yourself, about yourself, first.

3. Be honest and realistic about the scope of work and related deadlines.

4. Quickly alert people when you know there will be a delay.

Note: Thanks to a comment and reminder from "Lean" afficionado Jamie Flinchbaugh, this isn't a matter of "Oh, I'm going to be late." It may very well be the beginning of a renegotiation of the project. If the boss tells you "that's the date," you'll need to lay out everything else that's on your calendar and re-prioritize together. FYI: I have seen more than one boss say, "You committed to it, I announced it would be done, do it regardless of the other 'stuff'." Which underscores the point: Be thoughtful and careful about your commitments.

5. Meet deadlines and create trust.

____________________________________

Speaking of reliablity: How about a reliable source for those of you who are thinking about a business start-up?

My online friend and serial entrepreneur, GL Hoffman, has written a small book called Startup: 100 Tips To Get Your Business Going. There are over 100 short paragraph answers in the book, such as:

1.  Should you jump in and save every sales situation?  Number 59.  This answer makes you a leader.
2.  Do you have to know everything that's happening?  Number 39.
3.  What is the one thing that makes people join  your new company? Number 38.
4.  Is having fun at work over-rated?  Number 6.
5.  Why is firing someone at your startup extra hard?  Number 7.
6.  Why do you have to be an energy-creator?  Number 96.
7.  Why you don't want your people to worry like you are worrying.  Number 82.
8.  Why the "new guy" could be doing more harm than good.  Number 66.
9.  Why you shouldn't trust those who say they can help you raise money.  Number 67
10. What is the biggest sign of a culture that is developing badly?  Number 54.
11. Are your customers always right in a startup?  Number 47.
12.  On the priority list for a startup, where does SALES rank?  Number 30.
13.  What one thing can you do to motivate yourself? Number 23.

Darned good deal from a guy who has started and sold a lifetime-worth of companies.

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Influence: Help Competent People Grow Through Questions

Leaders do have to tell people exactly what to do when a person isn't yet competent--and confident--about the task or assignment. (The whole "leader" thing isn't just about high-concept and vision).

But how do you develop managers who are knowledgeable and committed?

You can build increased confidence and deeper understanding by asking questions designed to help them make their own discoveries and decisions. Here are seven questions to get you started as  a "coaching" leader:

Influence_7 Questions.001 

As you become more comfortable with probing questions, you'll develop your own. In fact, what are some of your favorites now?

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Fistful of Talent names All Things Workplace in Top 25 Talent Management Power Rankings. We're buzzed! The FOT folks are all top-notch themselves and use some serious criteria vs. "popularity" to create the rankings. There are some new blogs at the top of the charts that are good additions to your RSS feed.

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Effective Leaders: Balancing the "Either/Or"

“What would you say is the first key skill of a leader who hopes to balance over-assertive and under-assertive in order to  lead from between their two extremes?”



That was the email question posed by a reader who had seen research by Ames and Flynn.  That pair observed that, according to workers, their leaders managed better when they walked somewhere between the lines of too much and two little assertiveness.

This underscores the situational nature of management and leadership.


What About Over-Assertiveness, Under-Assertiveness and Leadership?



It’s easy to lapse into confusion based upon individual misunderstanding of terminology as well as one’s own “issues.” One person’s “assertiveness” is someone else’s “over-controlling.”  I find that the absence of behavioral jargon can make it a lot easier and more natural to discuss topics whose buzzwords can build tension.

Assertiveness2 

There is a recent history of attempting to carefully delineate behaviors using very specific language. This is, in part, the result of approaching human behavior in a more scientific way. Since behavior is, indeed, quite situational, this approach serves at least three purposes that I can see:



1. It provides a common language that, when used appropriately and above board, highlights nuance and helps one understand how specific actions impact one's effectiveness.



2. It provides specific definition of attributes that can lead to promotion, rewards, or dismissal. Which means that it also makes dismissal more explainable. (Likewise, terminology can become great fodder for one's attorney in the event of a dismissal).



3. It lends a "scientific" aura to common-sense training and development which, while fully understood as desirable by most reasonable managers, can't be bought and paid for without the "proof" that comes from a smathering of statistics and a few 6-syllable words that prove how deeply meaningful those statistics must really be.

The real issue: situational effectiveness.

If I don't know what to do or how to do it, then my boss has to be very directive and explanatory. If my task is something that I've done well a million times, then I want to know what the deadline is and I'll deliver it. Nothing more. If I need something along the way, I want a manager who I can go to for advice or re-direction.

In the first case, the manager manages me closely. In the second, the manager is my consultant.

The reason that Ames and Flynn saw what they did is really rather simple: Since most of us as workers are at least somewhat competent and, hopefully, somewhat mature, any behavior that operates at either extreme will be seen as:



1. Unnecessarily overbearing and somewhat demeaning



2. Unreasonably absent of relationship and connection, and therefore not engaged. Or overly focused on 'relationship and happiness' to the exclusion of completing the task successfully.



Anything in between will be close enough to respectfully  engage one's employees as well as create an atmosphere that invites questions and help, when needed.



So, Then: What is Effective Leadership?



The desire and ability to meet other people where they are and then spend the right amount of time helping them get where they need to go. 



Sometimes it's a long walk together. Other times a brief conversation and a nudge in the right direction.



What does a person need to manage in such an effective way?



1. A high degree of self-awareness regarding one's innate tendencies toward one extreme or the other



2. The desire and ability to manage those tendencies in a way that serves the needs and performance of others



3. The humility to pause regularly and ask "How am I doing?"



4. The decency to listen to the answers.



5. The wisdom to make selfless changes as a result.



That's my take, minus the jargon. 

What's yours?

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Leadership: Actually, It Is About You

How do you know a leader when you see one?

Here is a simple, straight definition of a leader that I think works in every situation:

"Leaders are people who can inspire others to participate."

Period.

Why is it about you? Because the first move is becoming clear about your own purpose. It's this laser-like clarity that gives you a foundational strength that others will sense. Without it, you're just another idea person.

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Influence: Use Words That Connect

You need to find the connection between people's needs and wishes and your own goals in order to genuinely be influential. 

When asked how he became influential, former U.S. President Harry Truman said simply: "I find out what people want and then I help them get it."

First, Find Out What They Want

If you're looking for questions that work well, here are six. You can use your own variations on the theme:

  • What do you really like about the current situation?'City_of_Words'
  • What would you like to see happen differently?
  • What do you need from this?
  • Is there something that is most important to you?
  • What is your preferred action in this situation?
Then, Use The Right Words

You've asked questions and have a good grasp of the other person's situation. Now, it's time to select words that really make your ideas pop. Do what good writers do and pick words that stimulate and connect. Here are some examples:

Feeling words: Impress, thrill, intrigued, lively, brisk, grasp,

Words that attract the sense of hearing: resonate, harmonize, tuned in, clear as a bell, loud and clear

Visual words: pinpoint, bright, focused, imagine, reveal, picture

You get the idea. Words matter.

Toss out the professional jargon and focus on the senses of your listener. Then, imagine the thrill of knowing your sharp idea made the right impression.

photo source:wikipedia http://tinyurl.com/yzc7eeg

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Four Ways To Gain Support

"One of the best ways to persuade others is by listening to them."

    --Dean Rusk, former U.S. Secretary of State

Just Pay Attention To Me sparked a stream of comments. Most focused on how simple it is to talk with other people yet how difficult it continues to seem for many managers. Check out the thoughts and add your own to the mix.

Getting Attention to Gain Support

Managerial attentiveness is certainly high on the list of employee wants/needs.

PersuasiveCupcake But how about when it's time to gain support for your idea or program? Managers at all levels will give you their attention if you understand how to legitimately capture it. Here are four ways to diagnose listener preferences and deliver your message. (It's often helpful to be able to sort and classify).

1. The "Trend-Chaser": Help Them Follow The Fad

These folks pay attention to what others are doing. Perhaps they need to feel like they "belong"; maybe it's just a matter of not thinking too much. Who knows? It doesn't make any difference. You need to provide social proof--testimonials--of what other people think about your ideas.

Use these phrases:

"The benchmarking companies have implemented . . ."

"The top experts in (name the appropriate field) have just written that. . ."

"Statistical trends now show that. . ."

2. The Analytical: Facts and Stats

Even though we know for a fact that people decide based on emotion, these people need to hear supporting evidence. And you'll be questioned on it, so be prepared. They won't go to a fast food outlet without seeing which one has the "best" value meal: $1.00, $.99, or $1.03. Why? One reason is that they want to be confident that they can give a "logical" answer should someone ask them. So, give them the confidence with facts and figures. Quantify everything.

3. I Love A Challenge!: Overcome Obstacles

Routine bores this group. When the sun rises, they're ready to assault a mountaintop. When they hear that something can't be done, it energizes them to prove otherwise. So, tell them:

  • The system doesn't work
  • It's too late too change (or too early)
  • They can't afford to do what will really make a difference

Watch them leap into action when you present your ideas as barriers to be overpowered. 

4. What's the Payoff? Incentives & Rewards

Here's the group that examines the benefits of your idea, both organizational and personal. They want to improve their situation every day. Show them "how to".

  • How to increase profitability
  • How to reduce conflicts
  • How to be more effective at managing
  • How to leapfrog their career

These are the Four Biggies that I see regularly. If you have experiences that show another category with descriptions, weigh in with a comment!

______________________________________

Recommendation: Ryan Williams writes Listen To Lead and offered the a helpful resource in the comments on Just Pay Attention To Me. Thanks, Ryan. He doesn't post very regularly but has substance when he does. And, you can follow him on Twitter: @willy26.

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