Energy Option: Influence or Persuasion

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The constant energy spent on persuading, arguing, coaxing and convincing others is exhausting.  If these describe your management habits, be aware, they are also draining energy from your audience.  Why not invest your energy instead in the art of influence that impacts, effects and sways others, while also generating the energy to move them forward?  Unlike the assault of persuasive argument, influence requires more action that words.

The actions that fuel your influence are the actions that build your credibility.  Steven M. R. Covey’s exploration of trust-building fosters tangible results in relationships and business.  His reminders speak to what draws people to us – without our use of exhausting ‘begging or bossing’ techniques that are often interpreted as our incompetence or self-promotion.

We are reminded, in Covey’s The Speed of Trust work, that when your consistent actions reflect your credibility, you gain the unquestioned confidence of others – and your confidence in yourself grows also.  There are no shortcuts to this, and to raise the bar to reality, you must target actions that build trust in both your competence and your character.  Covey’s model divides core trust-actions between these two areas of your behavior.

Credibility of Character

Integrity includes those actions that show you live in harmony with your deepest values and beliefs; this requires both humility and courage.  Actions reflecting integrity include making and keeping commitments to yourself first, standing for something you will live by, and showing openness to examine yourself and consider other viewpoints.

Intent is about displaying that your motives are rooted in your genuine concern and care for others; your agendas and behaviors consistently reflect your desire to act in the best interest of everyone involved.  Examining your motives, generously choosing to give credit, and discussing your motives willingly and regularly are some uncommon actions required to display your intent.

Credibility of Competence

Capability inspires trust as we consistently display our credibility through our talents, attitudes, knowledge and even our style of getting things done.  All of these tasks require wise action: it is smartest to know and feed your strengths, to show your relevance with high-value contributions, and stay the course to your vision that will keep your contributions effective.

Results are simply our track record.  They build trust as we get the right things done in the right ways, as we define results accurately, and as others can see us promoting a culture of learning and holding ourselves accountable to grow – even through our mistakes.

Is your energy drained from your efforts to persuade others?  Does trust need to be built or repaired?  Let’s talk about the roadblocks you see and the advantages you could see with increased trust: count the cost of changing nothing.

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

THANKS!

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You’ve seen managers who consistently thank their team members for making them look good with “we love you” feedback; oddly their team’s performance is often mediocre.  It takes little effort to see through that messaging and identify those leaders who use gratitude as a bribe to profit from momentary cooperation.  Praise is a fantastic energizer.  For leaders, that energy can explode or implode careers.

Don’t let the poor behavior of others keep you from effectively using gratitude to generate energized results within your team.  You can easily avoid the pitfalls of those who sabotage their own careers with self-promoting platitudes.

DON’T BUILD WALLS

Don’t excessively thank them…

  • for favors they offer that exalt you as an individual
  • for competitive behavior that demotivates their colleagues or the company’s customers

DO BUILD BRIDGES

Thank and praise them excessively…

  • for exhibiting emotional intelligence that clarifies and unifies
  • for demonstrating behaviors that strengthen efficiencies fueled by trust
  • for delivering effective performance toward targeted results

Leaders often gravitate to one extreme or the other.  We tend to either want everyone to love us or to want everyone to follow our direction.  If you realize you are stuck in one of those extreme paths, it’s time to find some balance.  Incorporating effective gratitude into your leadership toolkit is an easy first step.  Contact us!  And find a map to that equilibrium!  It could be one small step for you, but one giant leap for your career!

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

Be Trustworthy and Brave

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If you have the expectation of “performance management” anywhere in your job description or resume, you may have an idea of the juggling required to keep everyone moving effectively in the same direction.  Or you may be one of the millions of new managers who were not warned of the circus skills required to avoid chasing the dropped balls rolling around at your feet.

Hopefully you have the three kinds of balls required for successfully juggling performance management: 1) the ones that clearly describe what success looks like; 2) others designed to measure each individual’s progress; and 3) the slippery little ones that motivate the people you ‘manage.’

Demonstrate You Believe in Their Magic

A close look at that last motivational aspect will remind us that, unless employees believe that you believe in them, they rarely respond to your influence.  Sometimes it is difficult to see evidence that they are even trying, but find it you must, if you are to build the trust needed to encourage their success.  It is usually worth these risks. Perhaps this aspect of leadership takes more of that Scout mentality than the circus act managing feels like: be trustworthy and brave enough to face the risks.

Extending your trust in individuals inspires their effort. If you consistently demonstrate to them that you are trustworthy, they will be more likely to reflect those credible qualities of character and competence back in their performance.

People believe you trust them when your relationship includes discussions of both their accomplishments and mistakes. When you discuss errors, focus on the facts instead of questioning their motives.  For errors in judgement, give them a chance to share what they think caused the mistake before you share your assumptions.

Show you care about their success by learning their priorities; people don’t value the same things. Honestly acknowledge the impact of their mistakes to whatever is most important to them: the customer, their compensation level, their reputation with peers or leaders, their career, keeping their job, getting more time for personal priorities, etc.  You must pay attention to the individual.

Influencing others is an important skill for all leaders; performance management is only one application.  Do you or your colleagues need support in sharpening this skill?  Pepperbox Solutions can support either the individual learner or a team of professionals.  It’s your career!

The next two blogs will continue these ‘performance management’ skill tips.

Ditch the Rose-Colored Glasses

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It is necessary to energize your team when you announce upcoming change.  But proclaiming an overly ‘Pollyanna’ perspective can drain that energy fast, so be wise about trying to get them to see the advantages from your viewpoint too quickly.  Physical resistance can be palpable in a room full of people being told they will be forced to make a significant change they didn’t choose.  And when the deliverer is unrealistically positive about the upcoming experience, trust in the message and in the messenger often suffers.

This is not a difficult concept; you’ve had change forced on you in your career.  You are familiar with the internal betrayal and push-back that humans must work through before they are ready to support or embrace the new direction.  Demonstrating the assumption that you have the magic to persuade others to skip that emotional transition is foolish and is often interpreted as an arrogant refusal to acknowledge the realities and struggles you are requiring of people.  The beautiful picture of success painted in your words can sound like lunacy to those who are mentally listing the obstacles between their reality and your vision.  And lunatics are suspected to be unpredictable and untrustworthy – even when they are admired.

People Need More Than the Vision

Yes, when you announce that change is coming, you must share the future results that will hopefully improve the business, your customer results and your employees’ careers or daily lives.  But to ensure your optimism doesn’t produce dangerous doubt balance that pretty picture with two more elements.

People must also understand why the business cannot continue to follow the current path.  They must feel a dissatisfaction with whatever negative effects will result from failing to make a change.  Give your group a high-level understanding of the short shelf-life of the status quo.

Your team also needs to be confident in a plan to get them safely from today to your vision of tomorrow.  Convince them you know they need a good plan – and share any contribution opportunities they may have in building it.  Acknowledge your awareness of challenges to be overcome – without discouraging them.

You’re the leader; you’ve already been through your own emotional revolt when you realized the change was needed.  But if you had a choice about making this change, your response was not as severe as your team’s will be when you surprise them with it.  And by the time you tell them, you’ve filtered through many feelings and have arrived at an excitement level of belief in the possibilities.  You need the energy this faith in the future provides!  But don’t let that fire-hose of passion frighten people away from the journey.

If you need support creating a solid strategy for leading your team or group through change, we can help show you the pitfalls and the bridges.  Revealing the journey to them is just the first small, crucial step!

Competing Teams Drain Energy and Profit

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When managed wisely, competition between teams can energize productivity – especially when they do the same tasks – because everyone can compare apples to apples.  But when one team juggles apples and the other juggles cats, that competition can drain everyone involved because of the naturally resulting conflicts – which also drain profits.

If you see these teams in your company, you probably experience the chaos; and if you lead one of them, you’re exhausted.  Untangling the mess is not simple because there are so very many factors driving suspicion and the self-protective responses to it.  As leaders, we usually just continue to fight the daily skirmishes because we can’t find allies willing to go to war for the peace – or even the profits – that could result from such a tremendous effort.  If you live in a world like this, there is hope, but you must find those allies and then you must prepare for the battles….

FIRST, DO NO HARM!

You and your colleagues who lead these teams must examine yourselves first to ensure you or your executives are not fanning the flames caused from the friction when your team members collide:

Are you rewarding customer sabotage or marketing sabotage?  Impractical performance numbers often lead employees to invent ‘work-arounds’ that have damaging results: 1) hurting the customer by hindering another team’s service ability or 2) misapplying marketing tools that actually decrease profit.  Often these ‘tips’ were shared as a way to improve their personal results, and employees are blind to the resulting damage.

Is the way you compensate teams fueling animosity?  Often there is a reason for pay differences, but if one team does not understand or appreciate the expertise, pressure or expectations that drive that variance, negative feelings can fuel retribution, and perceived disrespectful shown by the higher paid employees to the lower paid ones can be even more damaging.

Is there an inequality in the learning or coaching provided to the team members?  Perception of discrepancies between career development opportunities often fosters a kind of step-child syndrome between groups.

Did a leader light a slow-burning fuse that has everyone waiting for the explosion? History has a tendency to blow up instead of blowing over in situations like this….

Is more consistent accountability needed to level the playing field? Leadership allies must be willing to look in the mirror and into the other team’s back yard to ensure rumors or management inequities are not fueling damaging perceptions.

PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF!

Before you can expect the members of these teams to engage in solutions or common direction, you, as their leaders – and usually, your leaders also – will need to identify the blockades you control.  That is the first step in preparing for this battle to regain ground that may have been lost by neglecting inequities, trust and profits.  You don’t have to tackle this alone.  Pepperbox Solutions has years of experience helping leaders and team members identify and disarm explosive situations.

Re-frame Your Networking Strategy

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Congratulations if you have a great networking strategy that energizes you!  If you would rather call in sick than attend another networking-like event, then an adjustment in strategy may help.  Traditional self-help in this area has focused on personal branding, elevator pitches, professional appearance and even handshake methodology.  Instead of working to juggle a dozen tiny tweaks that have worked for others, might it not be easier to just practice introducing people to your best self?

Besides the traditional organizations that some people actually pay money to experience, network-like venues are frequent for most of us: business conferences, job fairs, non-profit and civic volunteer occasions, church events, a spouse’s work gatherings, wedding dinners…. Besides wanting to survive the situation without being thought to be foolish, most of us have limited goals beyond telling others about the advantages received by doing business with us or promoting some other personal agenda.

“Always be networking” might unsettle your stomach, but it may not be as uncomfortable to view interactions with strangers as “opportunities to build trust bridges.”  Whether you eventually benefit from that bridge or you view it simply as a chance to practice your trust-building skills with another human, it puts a different spin on the typical networking strategy.  You may already be doing this without calling it such, but the awareness can be energizing.

How Does Building Personal Trust Sound?

It sounds like using more questions than statements in your conversations;
… like asking specifics about the other person’s successes and challenges;
… like listening and confirming your understanding of their world.

It may sound like applying your expertise to questions that build their confidence in your competence;
… like offering the name of an acquaintance or organization that could impact their goals;
… like confirming an idea of how you could recommend them to others;
… like sharing solutions from your expertise tied directly to a challenge they describe.

Networking is miserable for many of us because we feel we are the center of attention.  Invite others to you and host the conversation.  You will be shocked at how painless it is to focus the attention on others and how often that turns into your growth, enjoyment or benefit.

These same skills are used by the best business leaders to lay an effective foundation for employee engagement!  If you didn’t see that connection, we might have more to offer you.  Let’s talk about building the kind of trust that builds your career opportunities!

Political Tension is Seeping Through Work Walls

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Has the unbridled language heard on our media devices been reflected in your breakrooms recently?   Unless your employees are clones, it is expected that extreme passions are exposed during unsettling times like these.  For leaders, walking this very tight rope requires a balance between acknowledging that people have a right to their convictions and affirming that individuals must still work together.  You probably need a strategy before you enter this battle of words armed only with more words.

Strategies for Rebuilding the Trust

Be the example: You must be the consistent example of building bridges and not walls if you expect anyone to hear your words – when you finally decide which words to use.

Remember core values: Explore the expectations your company has already set regarding conduct and values, but don’t just parrot the slogans Marketing put on the walls.  You’ll need to translate those mantras into the behaviors of cooperation and respect you’ve seen your employees show to each other in the past.

Listen patiently: Be genuine but willing to allow employees to vent to you in private without bullying them into your perspective – because that is exactly what it will feel like to them if you are not careful.  It is wiser to build their trust in you for the long term than to prove your point in the short term.

Show you care: Remember, you can empathize with their feelings without agreeing with their message or behavior.  Carefully learn why they feel the need to push against others’ views so aggressively at work.  You may find that, because these differences had never before surfaced between people they had daily depended on, they feel a sense of betrayal.

There is no one-solution-fits-all strategy for navigating complex human interaction and dependencies.  When the people working together suffer, the results suffer, so leaders must respond.  Pepperbox Solutions is about hearing your story and using our experiences to help bring teams together to perform – especially in uncertain times.  We’re here if you need us.