Friday, 27 March 2015

Influencing and Negotiation

This isn't my weekly political blog (you can read my run-up-to-the-election-blogs here) but I can't help but reflect on how I have or haven't been influenced by 'the election gang' as we get closer and closer to voting day.

If I weren't a committed voter (though I do wish we could have the choice of 'None of the Above), would I be persuaded by any of the party leaders to go to a polling station on Election Day to vote for one of them (as opposed to against one of them)?

Probably not.

Their powers of persuasion are rather weak as far as I’m concerned.

What influences me certainly won't be the same as what influences you, and I'm not just talking politics here. We are influenced dozens of times each day by any number of things:  the weather, the traffic, whether we had time for breakfast, the newspaper headlines, the text that didn't get a response or the one that did. 

We are influenced by the people around us - what they say and do. If you have children, they will have been influencing you since before they were born.

Your boss will influence your behaviour and if you are the boss, your employees will influence you.

In turn, you will be influencing those around you by what you say and do, both verbally and non-verbally. I'm sitting on a train right now and the chap sitting next to me has influenced me in a positive way as he hasn't taken up more room than his allotted seat (as has happened with others in the past), so I don't feel hemmed in.

That's one tiny influence in many that will happen today.

A lot of what influences me I have no control over; the frost on the car this morning meant an extra few minutes scraping it off which meant I was on the road a bit later than planned.  A little pedal to the metal made up for lost time and I caught my train in plenty of time not to be stressed. 

What I do have control over is how I react to these outside influences.  I also have a degree of control on how I influence others.  The key arena where I want to influence today will be a meeting where I want to initiate a new system for invoice chasing.  Here is where I have to start planning, consciously, how to persuade a couple of my colleagues that firstly, a new system is required and secondly, that they will be willing to implement it.

I could just do the 'boss' thing and demand it, but it's unlikely I'll get much buy-in and more likely I'll get reluctance and resistance. 

This is where choosing how I influence comes into play; this is where I give thoughtful reflection on how I can convince my colleagues that this system should at least be given a try. My first step is to involve them in the discussion rather than telling them what has to be done.  They may come up with an even better process.

So my goal isn't about putting a new system in place, much as we may need one; the goal is to create a setting where everyone will feel able to contribute and together we'll find a solution.  That form of influencing not only will solve the current problem, but will build trust, engage people and encourage everyone's creative problem-solving juices.

Influencing isn’t just about getting what you want, but more importantly, giving people what they need in order to want to help or support you. 

This is key to getting buy-in and developing relationships long-term.  You might strong-arm someone into doing something for you but you won’t build trust and they’ll certainly be wary the next time you ask them for something.

What about the Negotiation part of Influencing and Negotiation?

We believe that you can’t negotiate if you can’t influence. Since much of influencing is understanding what other people want, bringing that into a negotiating arena will give you a much greater chance of success. 

You hear the phrase ‘win-win’ a lot when it comes to negotiation – how do you create an outcome where both ‘sides’ get something they’re happy with?

One thing I see a lot that makes negotiations difficult is how entrenched people can become in their positions.  They hold on to what they want and start from that place and find it almost impossible to let go of that position, wanting all the movement to be from the other ‘side’.

What I see works a whole lot better is to spend good time really understanding what the other person wants and if you can, get to the why; why do they want this particular thing at this particular time?

I have a five year friend old in my life who I think could negotiate for the UN. First she lays out her stall – she wants to play for a half hour before bath time. When told she can have five more minutes she’s goes into her high-powered tactics. She knows begging won’t wash and tantrums only work occasionally. She begins to bargain with offers to sweeten the deal.  She knows that cleaning up, brushing her teeth before bed and helping set the table are all things she’s willing to do in exchange for more play time.

What she does almost instinctively, is to give the other ‘side’ (the grown-ups) a range of things they want that actually cost her nothing because she’s going to do them anyway – she rather enjoys doing them as well.  And her coup de grace is to agree to 20 minutes instead of 30.

These are terrific negotiating skills for any age and I really enjoy playing the ‘game’ with her since both us know it is a game and at some point we will achieve agreement.

Would that more people could use such tactics – life would be so much easier.  If you treat negotiations more like a game then it’s much easier to loosen the grip on what you want and to find a different want that might edge you closer to an agreed resolution.  It’s also much more fun.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Influencing and Negotiation courses.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

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