Work is a combination of “have to” and “want to.” People must comply with clear directions from their manager. They want to work hard for ideas they understand and believe can work.
Best results come from that extra level of commitment. Using actual managerial authority sparingly while maximizing influencing skills is a potent combination for any manager or leader.
Employees, vendors or contractors without actual authority must focus exclusively on influencing skills to get what they need from others.
What makes someone influential? Why do others want to help them solve problems?
Influential people use the right combination of “push” and “pull” styles. Push means logic, numbers, rules, deadlines, fears, negotiation and clear requests for a specific action. Pull means trust, personal loyalty, respect, painting a picture, listening, finding allies, praising, and working together in various ways.
The push style is sometimes called carrot-and-stick. It is best when time is short, there is an emergency of some kind or you need to get everyone’s attention quickly. It is useful to finalize a discussion or timeline and agree on the end goal.
The pull style is more about motivating people to change. Removing the barriers to change by showing what life will be like after the change is a pull method. Understanding what people need in order to accept and assist the new idea is key.
Each of us comes wired with a preference for these styles. As a rehabbed attorney, I overuse “push” with logic, reason, linear thinking and negotiating. I must remember to use pull by considering the context of the problem: what the other person understands, what causes them to resist and what they need from the change.
Think about influencing by considering this four step sequence.
Prepare: Clarify your own thoughts before approaching others. What do you want to accomplish, what are the benefits of the change, who do you need to involve and what are their needs?
Describe your idea: Help your audience focus on the idea. Their minds are swirling from the day’s events and you need a good opener, fact, visual or story. Keep your idea as short and clear as possible. Support it with data or charts. Restate what you recommend clearly without hedging or confusing language.
Address concerns: Ask for questions and concerns to make the idea clearer and the solution better. Closed questions seek yes or no responses (such as “do you understand?”). Open questions seek ideas and revisions such as “what is your No. 1 concern with this plan?” and “which parts of the plan are unclear?” Listen well and watch body language. Acknowledge what you heard and empathize with any genuine concerns.
Ask: Finally, after considering needed adjustments, ask clearly for what you want. Agree on a plan with who is doing what by when.
Influencing with a combination of push and pull styles makes ideas better, gets buy in and improves results. Anyone in any role can improve their effectiveness with these basic skills.
Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit www.capital.org.