A manager needs his team to stay over and work extra hard to get a critical order to a customer but gets only lack lustre effort.
A supervisor attempts to motivate her team but her inspiring words fall flat.
An executive gives a thorough and technically excellent speech to an employee group who yarn and struggle to stay awake.
Find yourself in any of these scenarios?
If so you are not alone. In fact you are like just about every manager who has yet to meet me and take a Developing Leaders communication class. Simple fact is there are few places where you can take a course that will teach the “HOW” of communication rather than the much more common “what it is”.
The challenge is that in order to become an effective communicator we need to understand a little about people. Speaking to people from a place of awareness of others creates multiple opportunities to engage them actively and hence persuade them.
I find it fascinating to observe human behavior. In fact if you and I were talking in person right now I would be either talking or listening AND observing at the same time. Huh? you say. I observe too! My eyes work, I watch whats going on around me. That is certainly true but are you intentional about what you observe? What exactly are you observing for? Are you allowing random observations in based on what stimulates your interest or are you intentionally looking for clues on the effectiveness of the communication process. What I have experienced is that many managers are not very intentional in their efforts to communicate. They simply have not been trained on how critical this skill is to communication.
To illustrate the point let me share an example. In Developing Leaders classes I often conduct a simple exercise in which participants are given a post it note and are asked to “influence” me to leave the room. (Influence: the ability to get someone to do what you want them to do because they think its a good idea) Without fail every participant will do one of two things:
1. Bribe, manipulate and or deceive me (I’ll buy you lunch, there is an emergency, a family member is sick, in a crash etc)
2. Get me to act to meet their need (please leave, we want to meet without you etc)
Neither of these approaches stands a chance to engage me and hence motivate me to get up for them. It truly is a fascinating exercise.
The challenge embedded within this exercise is the same as in all communication, we are not going to connect, engage and persuade if we are simply focused on our own needs.
I love the work of Steven Covey in his book Principle Centered Leadership where he offers 30 methods of influence. Two of which are:
1. Seek first to understand
2. Be open to be influenced first
If you put these two approaches together you can influence people much easier than with a self serving approach. Truly listening to the needs and thoughts of others creates a connection between people. When a person feels listened to they are far more likely to open up and listen to you.
Listening is a powerful ally in the life of a leader. In fact listening can take on a significant power when a leader starts a talk by featuring something important to the follower early in the conversation. Essentially connecting what is important to the follower to the needs of the organization significantly enhances the followers willingness to listen and engage.
So if your goal is to be more persuasive and get people to do what you want I have a few simple pieces of advice
1. Commit to becoming an excellent listener
Learn to be a student of human nature, both yours and your own. Learn about and discipline yourself not to give in to pseudo listening techniques.
2. When you talk to followers be certain to consider and incorporate their needs into your talk to demonstrate you have been listening.
Recognize that most of us focus our attention on self needs and when you as a speaker acknowledge this, people are more likely to engage. Be certain not to manipulate here. Losing your integrity is a certain outcome of a manipulative approach. Never promise what you won’t deliver, never mislead to get attention.
3. Pay attention to how people react when you speak and learn to change it if its clearly not working.
Most speakers know when someone falls asleep in the audience. More often than not this is the speakers fault! They simply don’t understand the audience and how to engage them. Learn how to use tonality, rhetorical questions, group exercises, discussion questions, volume and motion to engage and energize an audience.
If you commit to learning these simple yet powerful skills you will find people more able to follow you because they actually heard what you said. Certainly there is much more to discuss on communication but that is left for another post.