Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Influencing When You Have No Authority: Tips to Making an Impact

This is a common question we get asked, “how can I possibly influence someone when I have no authority over them?”.

And our answer: the same way you would if you did have authority over them.

Really, that’s not as glib as it sounds; what we mean is that what you have to adjust is what goes on in your head because what goes on in your head will influence your body language, what you say, how you react and what your expectations are.

If you try to influence someone who is either higher up or completely unrelated to your area, department, etc., you could have the attitude that they really have no obligation to even listen to you, let alone give you what you want. Right from the off you will be expecting a no; you’ll be drenched in anticipated disappointment.

With that attitude you may come across as apologetic, diffident, possibly even slightly defensive. You won’t be able to convey your wants effectively because your approach will get in the way.

If, however, your attitude is that you have something exciting / relevant/ important / interesting / useful to discuss with them then your whole outlook and manner will be completely different.

We did some work with the marketing department of a very large global organisation a few years back and the theme we had to address in our Influencing courses was that the marketeers had virtually no authority over anyone else in the company with whom they had to negotiate to get things done or changed.

What they struggled with was that aside from benefiting the collective whole of the organisation, there wasn’t really anything in it for the people they were trying to influence.  Or so they thought.

Most delegate's aha moment came when they realised just how much their attitude 'influenced' their ability to influence. Once they saw that they could choose their attitude, then the practical tools were a piece of cake.

Once you have an attitude shift, there are so many more options available to influence where you have no direct clout.

Here are some easy, practical tips you can use to influence:

1. Think about what might make you more amenable to hearing someone out when you have no real obligation to do so. Although not applicable to everyone, a fairly reliable approach to take is to acknowledge what the other person has done that makes you want to influence them in the first place.

It isn’t about false flattery (you can try that but I’m not a great fan), it’s about genuinely recognising their talents, expertise, abilities.

2. Empathise with their position, perhaps letting them know that you assume lots of people must come to them for help or advice and you don’t want to overburden them. Personally, I’m far more likely to look favourably on someone who makes an effort to understand how busy I am than someone who just assumes my door is open 24 hours a day.

3. Make an effort to see the situation from their point of view. When we want something it’s very easy to get caught up in trying to convince the other person about what our point of view is and to keep plugging away till they ‘get’ it. A far better tactic is to put aside your perspective for a bit and look at it from their perspective, or what you think might be their perspective. You can even say something along the lines of, “I’m wondering if this might be going on for you…..” or “I’m assuming this might be happening…..I wonder if that’s the case?”

Get them talking about what’s going on for them and you will have a tonne more information than you did and you can use that information to adjust and tweak what you were going to say.

What all of this does is to help shape how others see you so that you are someone other people want to support rather than someone people duck behind desks to avoid.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director of Impact Factory

Check out our Influencing and Influence and Negotiation Courses.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Quicker Better Meetings: Changing unproductive, unhelpful patterns

Does this scenario sound familiar?

You’re at a meeting that’s going along rather well and the agenda items are being ticked off at a satisfying rate and disagreements are ironed out with ease. It even looks as though the meeting might end early and your mind flits ahead to the extra time you’ll have to catch up on all the emails that will have come in during the meeting.

And then……a voice pipes up asking a long, convoluted question that had to do with something three agenda items ago, accompanied by lots of shuffling of papers. 

“Oh no,” you say to yourself, “here we go again.” 

By the time whoever’s chairing the meeting has figured out what the question is and attempted an answer, your dreams of an early finished are dashed and you pretend to be interested in what’s being said, which is usually a repetition of something that was said half an hour ago. You might even be discreetly trying to sneak a peek at your phone so of course your mind isn’t on the meeting at all.

And that’s just one example of what can bog down a meeting. We, all of us, will have lots of examples of what can make a meeting torturous: a chair who can’t keep order, no agenda, lots of rambling and distractions, someone trying to hijack the meeting or browbeat others, drowning in minutiae and on and on and on. 

See if you can identify what gets in the way of you having ‘quicker better meetings’. 

One of the reasons why some meetings tend to be deadly is that they fall into a pattern very quickly.  All you need is to have two meetings in a row with the same people and if no one steps in to change the dynamic, then a pattern will be set. If that pattern includes allowing people to rabbit on, to go off the agenda, to keep dragging in irrelevant issues, to complain when they don’t get their way, then your meetings will be endless with greater conflict and fewer concerns resolved.

So how do you get your meetings to become quicker and better?

Change a Pattern

Look at the patterns that are slowing down your meetings and see what you could do to shift them.

The interesting thing about changing patterns is that this can be done in ways both subtle and not so subtle depending upon how embedded the patterns are.

For instance, we worked with a company that often had contentious meetings between management and union reps. Meetings inevitably ended up as ‘them and us’ scenarios. When we started working with the union reps we asked how the meeting rooms were set up and unsurprisingly the union chaps sat on one side of the table and management on another, and thus it had always been.

We recommended that they get to the meetings ahead of time and to dot themselves around the table which would immediately break the physical representation of ‘them and us’. Once they changed the physical set-up it was almost like magic one of the reps told us, because instead of squaring up across the table, the found they were chatting to whoever was next to them which took the heat out of the situation.

That’s just one pattern that was easy to change and really was done under the radar.

Other patterns require a less subtle approach. I call these the ‘people patterns’ where individuals fall into the same behaviour every single time there’s a meeting, just like the person I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. 

As a matter of fact, that description is based on my personal experience and the frustration and impatience I felt was mirrored around the table. Since this was a group that met often, I would grit my teeth as this person asked yet another question that had already been answered ages ago. I finally came up with my personal strategy since the chair didn’t seem to know how to handle her in any effective way – as a matter of fact, he kind of treated her as though her interruption was normal which only encouraged her even more.

My tactic was first, to wait till she was seated and then to sit next to her. That way I could monitor her body language when it looked as though she was about to speak after shuffling her papers.  Second, was as soon as she asked a question that had already been dealt with I intervened in a really friendly way saying that since the question had already been covered earlier I’d be really happy to stay on after the meeting and go over it all with her. 

Over the course of a few meetings I did this about three times and I knew I had broken the pattern when instead of asking the chair a question she turned to me and whispered if I’d mind going over something after the meeting. Victory!

The reason I have used these two examples (and we have so many more tricks up our sleeves when it comes to making meetings more efficient) is that in each case something really different but not confrontational had to be done to change the dynamic. 

Here’s a couple of quick tips:

1.       Look at what you could physically do to change the layout of your meeting room or where people sit. Be the first to ‘sit on the other side of the table’. 

2.       Identify what behaviour patterns both you and other people do that slow things down. It’s easier to change your behaviour so let’s start there. You can do simple things to do with your body language which will have a subtle impact on everyone else (sitting straighter in your chair, leaning forward, ensuring you give eye contact to everyone when you speak).

In other words, if you want productive meetings you have to start to change the patterns that make them unbearable. 

Don’t wait for someone else to rescue your meetings; put on the life preserver and take the plunge!

Check out our Quicker Better Meetings Open Course.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Negotiation: Does Compromise Get to Win-Win?

I've been thinking a lot recently about compromise when it comes to negotiation. 

In negotiation-speak the phrase 'win-win' is often used as the sought after outcome of a negotiation.  So where does compromise come into it when compromising can often feel like giving in?

Certainly, when I was much younger compromise felt like win-lose, with me on the losing side. I hated compromising because it felt as though I was conceding and the other person would be triumphant that I had ‘caved in’.

What happened to me then (and what happens to a lot of people in many kinds of negotiating arenas) is that I held on to my position because it felt like life or death (even negotiating what to do over the weekend). It’s as if compromising not only meant giving in over this one thing, but it also was an indication that I was a pushover, that everything I believed was up for grabs.

It doesn’t make any rational sense but back then, when negotiating, my rational side often disappeared and in its place, a fight to the death. I look back and cringe at some of the situations where I ‘held my ground’ because it felt as though my very being was being attacked when I differed with someone during a negotiation. I hid it very well, but inside I felt my sense of self was on the line when I compromised.

How wrong could I have been?

It wasn't till I became older (and wiser) that I began looking on compromise not only as a terrific bargaining chip but also as the manifestation of empathy.  The more I empathised with the other 'side', the more I was able to see his or her point of view; the more I was able to see the other point of view, the more I was able to understand what would help them feel heard and acknowledged.

The more the other person felt heard and acknowledged, the more they would be willing to meet half-way. Conceding was no longer about losing but far more about bridge-building. 
I was no longer buffeted by irrational beliefs but liberated because I became a much better negotiator the more I was willing to give stuff away. 

Negotiating isn’t about getting my own way, but is about building relationships so that everyone feels good about the interaction.

This shift in attitude really does make life easier. I go into negotiations with a much lighter heart, no longer feeling threatened or attacked if what I think I want isn’t going to happen. I’ve talked about this before in previous negotiation blogs about changing my want. So instead of hanging onto what I thought was my bottom line and focusing all my attention on getting it, I now am willing to change what I want often to something intangible like both of us just feeling like we had a good conversation and not necessarily arriving at a conclusion.

Compromising means it all doesn’t have to happen right now just the way I pictured it. I can change the picture if it means I don’t have to get into a fight. 

Let me take up the image of bridge-building. Bridge-building is about making an offer rather than demanding a concession from the other person. I’ve used this analogy before but it bears repeating:  if I put a plank down or even two or three planks, then the other person inevitably will put a plank down and this can carry on till you meet in the middle of the bridge and both still feel good about carrying on communicating.

Each time you consciously and deliberately compromise you are laying down a plank and the more planks you put in place, the easier it is for the other person to offer a plank and to make the bridge stronger.

Think of compromise as an art, a skill, a tool, rather than something that takes an emotional toll (as I used to think and feel) – it’s a much easier way to get to win-win.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of One Day Negotiation Skills and Two Day Influencing & Negotiation Skills courses.