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You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time. J. S. Knox, in Fundamentals of Success
Did you ever try to get other people to do something that would be better for them, better for you, better for a project team or a company, better for their family or yours, or even better for the world ... and fail?
Odds are you had good intentions. You had hard facts to support your point of view. Maybe you even set deadlines, offered rewards, or threatened penalties.
You tried your best, but they didn't budge.
It's an unhappy experience. But what's far worse is when it happens over and over again. And for millions of smart, caring, and creative people just like you, it does. Even when these people are right—when they have brilliant ideas, inspiring goals, or the best of intentions—they can't get through.
If they're managers, they can't light a spark under their teams. If they're in sales, they can't make the big plays. If they're in relationships, they can't get their partners or children to agree to their ideas. And if they have revolutionary ideas that could make the world better, they can't get anyone to listen.
This book is for them.
If you're one of these people, the methods you're using to influence people aren't working. They're not inspired by your vision, and they're not willing to share your goals. And here's why: Most people, most of the time, aren't motivated to do what you want them to do. They don't feel your urgency, they're busy with their own priorities and crises, or they have hidden reasons for rejecting your ideas.
To break down these walls, you need to create powerful connections that make people want to do what you're recommending. But you don't, because here's what you're thinking:
"How can I get my boss to ..." "How can I get my team to ..." "How can I get this client to ..." "How can I get my partner to ..." "How can I get my kids to ..." "How can I get this interviewer to ..."
These are examples of disconnected influence. And they don't work.
On the surface, of course, disconnected influence makes perfect sense. You've got to get things done. Important priorities are at stake. You size up a situation and see gaps that need to be filled and mistakes that need to be fixed. Maybe your project team is making a foolish decision. Or your boss needs to allocate more money to your project. Or your daughter is dating someone who isn't good for her. Or your partner isn't sticking to your family budget.
But when you view influence as "getting people to do what I want," you actually reduce your influence. That's because you're viewing the person you're trying to influence as a target, an object, something to be pushed or pulled. You're not hearing the other person's message. And the other person either recognizes this immediately or—even if you get temporary compliance— resents it later.
Disconnected influence is what many business schools teach. It's what most experts teach. But if you have big goals and need long-term commitments, it's a prescription for failure.
To explain why, we'd like to start with a story. But be forewarned: The take-away lesson may surprise you.
Scott is a manager at a large global healthcare firm. He's at a strategic off- site meeting today.
Scott has a strong working relationship with Marcus, the vice president in charge of his division. Marcus values Scott's intellect, business acumen, and no-nonsense directness. He considers Scott the "honest broker" in the group— the person Marcus can count on to speak the truth even when it's risky.
In today's meeting, an important issue involving new hires comes up. Marcus makes a quick decision and tells the group to move on to the next issue.
Scott speaks up: "Wait a minute. Can we take a look at this decision? There are a lot of implications here."
"No," says Marcus, "we're moving on."
Scott knows Marcus is making a mistake. The distribution of new hires will have a huge impact on how well Marcus's team performs. There are crucial questions to ask and trade-offs to consider. Scott and Marcus have been discussing an exciting new project for the team, and this decision could make it much harder to launch.
Scott chooses his next words carefully. "But Marcus," he says calmly and respectfully, "let's consider a couple of things that I expect everyone will agree are important to discuss for the good of the organization as a whole."
Marcus says firmly, "Scott, I've made my decision."
Scott is confused, but he knows he's right. He's not trying to pick a fight. He's not trying to score points. He's simply hoping to stop Marcus from making a decision that could harm the whole team. No one else will speak up, and he knows Marcus will appreciate his honesty later. It's up to him.
So he says, "I understand, but I think it would help to ..."
Marcus cuts him off sharply, "Enough. We're moving on. The next issue is ..."
Scott is stunned. He feels devalued and disrespected. He's only trying to do the right thing, and he has the knowledge and expertise to back up his concerns. He's frustrated, and he leans back and folds his arms. He's angry that Marcus is behaving in an authoritarian manner, making abrupt choices on a complex issue, and cutting him off rudely. Scott won't act out, but he's displeased, and they're going to talk about it later.
This is an unpleasant situation, and it's likely to get worse. It's the kind of disagreement that can cause a close-knit team to fracture, or even make a top performer like Scott think about leaving.
But here's the thing.
It's not Marcus who's screwing up.
* The "Blind Spot" in Our Brains
Why are we pointing the finger at Scott, who is the rational, respectful manager who's trying to make a logical point while his boss is riding roughshod over him?
Because Scott is making a dangerous mistake. He's practicing disconnected influence—"How can I get Marcus to do what I want?" He's completely focused on his own point of view, and as a result, he's failing to connect with Marcus. And that means he's operating in his blind spot.
To get a feel for this, imagine you're driving on the highway. You scan everything around you through the windshield and the rearview and sideview mirrors. The road is clear, so you move into the next lane.
The next instant, you feel a thud and hear a wrenching of metal. Your heart leaps into your throat as you realize you've sideswiped a motorcyclist who was coming up behind you. From your perspective, he "came out of nowhere." But he was there all along. You just didn't see him, because you didn't check your blind spot.
What does this have to do with influence? Your brain doesn't merely have a blind spot when it comes to driving; it also has a blind spot when it comes to influencing. And like a driver who changes lanes without checking to see what's in the blind spot, you're dangerous when you're blinded by your own point of view.
When you practice disconnected influence, you're stuck in what we call your here. You can see your position, your facts, and your intentions clearly. But to connect with the people you're trying to influence, you need to communicate from a perspective we call their there. You need to see their position, their facts, and their intentions clearly. And you can't reach their there if you can't see it. From your point of view, these people are invisible—just like the motorcyclist.
And that brings us back to Scott. Because he's focused solely on his own message, he's communicating from his here. As a result, his brain has a blind spot when it comes to Marcus's there—and that's where he gets into trouble.
Scott and Marcus do talk later, but things don't go the way Scott expects them to. Scott is expecting an apology from Marcus. Instead, Marcus shuts the door and says tersely, "Sit down." Then he lights into Scott.
"You ignored the clear signals I sent you," Marcus says. "You know I respect your opinions. You know I don't normally cut you off. You know I don t make snap decisions. So you should have realized that I did what I did for a reason."
As it turned out, upper management was planning a reorganization that would affect Scott's peers and their teams. Things weren't entirely settled, and the senior team needed to keep the discussions confidential until the final decisions were made. Marcus knew that discussing the new hires would quickly put him into an ethical bind, because he'd have to say things that weren't true.
"I was annoyed when you continued to press the matter," Marcus says, "but I know that's what you do—and usually I appreciate it. But what really disappointed me is how you sulked afterwards and tuned me out. That was immature."
Three months later, on Scott's next performance review, along with the usual excellent ratings and comments, there's a critical entry for the very first time: "However, sometimes when Scott doesn't get his way, he's prone to act with immaturity and petulance."
Scott made a huge mistake in the meeting because he was blind to the urgent messages Marcus was sending him. He was so sure he was right that the only question he asked himself was, "How do I stop Marcus from doing this?" He completely missed the real question: "Why is Marcus doing this?" As a result, he jeopardized a great outcome—the innovative project he and Marcus were envisioning for their team—by creating a rift that may be permanent.
This kind of error isn't rare. In fact, it's nearly universal when you approach situations from your here. It's virtually a given that there's some important clue you're missing—and that clue is keeping you from influencing another person.
And here's another important point: You're most likely to make this mistake when you have the best of intentions. Notice that Scott didn't screw up because he was self-serving or because he ignored what was best for his team. In fact, it took a lot of courage for him to keep challenging Marcus. But he did it because he knew he was right.
And that's the irony: Good intentions can steer good people the wrong way. In effect, they expand our blind spot. When you feel committed to doing the right thing, you can easily give yourself too much benefit of the doubt and ignore what other people are trying to tell you. Worse yet, a belief in your own rightness can encourage you to fall back on tactics, tricks, and maneuvers to gain short-term compliance
Put another way, good intentions often create a sort of intellectual and emotional laziness. We use our high-mindedness to justify failing to take the time to get where other people are coming from and why. Sure that what we want is best, we keep driving forward under the blinding confidence of our good intentions. We're convinced that we don't need to learn or hear more from others, that other options and alternatives don't exist, that our agenda is the single best plan possible, and that we're justified in using any means to achieve it. And we're nearly always wrong.
And what if we aren't wrong? It doesn't matter. We still lose.
That's because even if what we want is best for all concerned, other people don't want it shoved down their throats. They want to align with us, work with us, and be valued by us. They don't want to be run over by us. If we trample them to get our way, we may get them to do what we want right now, but they'll be angry about it later ... and they'll let other people know.
People tell us they often sense the vibe changing when someone moves from apparent listening to clumsy influencing. They feel baited into lowering their guards, and then they switch into a defensive posture as the self-interested agenda becomes evident. ("Hey Joe, it's great to talk with you after all these years. We had some great times back then, didn't we? Anyway, I see you're doing well in your job, and what a coincidence, because I was looking to get hired at your company ...")
Even if your approach is subtler, people will sense it: "Okay, here's where you go from caring about me to all about you. Next, you're going to push me to do something I don't want to do." It's dispiriting for them to realize that in your universe, they're not people but merely props.
And here's the biggest problem of all with the manipulative influence techniques many experts recommend— techniques often based on social science experiments. These experiments typically stop measuring after people comply, as if no aftereffects come into play. But real life consists of a web of relationships and reputations that spread far beyond an initial interchange. In the real world, interactions are never isolated. Anything you do might affect your relationships, as well as your reputation, for a long time to come.
* The Solution: See Past Your Blind Spot
In a busy world where you're competing for people's attention, it's perfectly fine to use a few tricks to get people to listen to you. But once they're listening, you can't cheat them. If they sense that you're focused entirely on your own viewpoint and can't see theirs, they'll cooperate just as far as they need to—and no further. And the next time you need them, they won't be there.
To reach these people and win their long-term support, you need to stop pushing. You need to stop "selling." You need to stop focusing on what you want them to do. And you need to stop using sleight-of-hand schemes to trick them.
Instead, you need to influence them in ways that spark a genuine connection. You need to see their vision and make it part of yours. You need to make them want to work with you to achieve amazing outcomes ... and that means you need to start from their there. It's the secret for building long-term commitments—and for reaching big goals. Here's an example.
Giselle Chapman wanted to work as a pharmaceutical sales rep, but she got turned down at every interview.
Giselle asked why she wasn't getting the job. Each time, she got the same answer: The managers wanted people with at least two years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.
So she asked a follow-up question: Why is two years of experience important?
Her interviewers answered: "Because experienced pharmaceutical reps have a much better chance of getting in to see physicians. Those are our key customers. It takes time to understand the environment in medical offices, know how to navigate conversations and build relationships with influencers, and ultimately get in to see the doctors."
Giselle said, "Thank you."
A couple of days later, she went to a medical building and took the elevator to the top floor. She started there and worked her way down, going into each office on each floor and asking, "May I please speak with the person who normally sees pharmaceutical sales reps?" In many cases they said yes, and in several of those cases the person was a physician. To those doctors she said, "I'm doing interviews to find out what's going well and what should be different, to help improve the service you get."
Toward the end of her next job interview, Giselle asked, "Is there any reason I wouldn't be the candidate of choice?" Once again, the hiring manager said that she lacked experience.
Giselle asked, "If you knew that I could get in to see physicians, are you confident enough in your training program that I could do well in this industry?"
The hiring manager said "absolutely"—they had one of the best training programs in the industry.
Giselle said, "Last week I saw ten of your customers. Would you like to hear what I learned?"
Giselle said, "I met with physicians from ten different medical groups last week. I gathered data on what they need that they're not getting from their pharmaceutical companies. Would that be of interest to you?"
The hiring manager said, "You have no company, no business card, and you got in to see physicians? If you did that, don't move. I can get you hired before you go to a competitor for your next interview."
Giselle Chapman was hired by Bristol-Myers Squibb, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies at that time. She became their number one sales representative, and went on to form her own consulting company.
Giselle won her first pharmaceutical industry job by doing what almost no job candidate does: She visualized a great outcome both for her and for her interviewer. She went from her here (I'm smart, I'm a go-getter, I want this job) to her interviewer's there (we need someone who can get in to see physicians and learn what they want). When she did this, she engaged the interviewer's attention, offered something of value, and—in the end—got the job she wanted.
Excerpted from Real Influence by Mark Goulston John Ullmen Copyright © 2013 by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 4, 2013
In a world of sound bites, instant gratification and speed dating, this book is a breath of fresh air. The book helped to immediately change my filters and behavior for the better. The book is pleasure to read with real examples that articulate and illustrate every key point. Regardless of your background this book will help. It changed my perspective from the quick win to the long view, helped to reinforce the importance of relationships and transformed my interaction with others via better listening skills. Just a great book, read it.
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