How Do You Influence?

Ann

“People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.”—Harper Lee

Arun, a project leader could not understand why he was not able to convince colleagues of the urgency required to develop a new technology. In the same way, Jerry, another leader, was frustrated. Despite all the facts and data he provided making the case for a change in the procurement process, it seemed to go unnoticed.  Both of these leaders had years of experience at senior levels in organizations. They had strong track records in implementing goals. However, they were frustrated that they were not influential in garnering support for what they knew was “right” for their organizations. Colleagues shared that they appreciated the intelligence and ability to get things done of these leaders. However, they did not get high marks on their ability to influence or emotional intelligence. Arun and Jerry are not alone.  Implementing and influencing are different skills.

Often we try to convince people of our view by sharing research, data and statistics. You believe global warming is a problem, you share compelling facts with your colleague or friend and can’t understand why the person is not realistic and adheres to your view.  We see a lot of polarization in workplaces and families around myriad issues. The division takes energy that could be used for collective innovation and creativity.

It is becoming clear that we can’t change views by simply providing data and facts.  It is particularly challenging these days when we all have Google at our side and we can find data to support any view. Since we each gravitate and in essence are rewarded by information that supports our views, it is hard to influence others with facts and information. This confirmation bias limits our openness to different views.

When we take actions based on our beliefs, such as voting for a candidate, we become even more convinced that our perspective is right.  The more we believe we are “right” the harder it is for us to consider other views.

When trying to influence others, we need to first be aware of our view and recognize that we have biases and we could learn more. This openness and curiosity will have a profound effect on our interactions.  While we know it from experience, our emotions and energy are contagious.  If we believe we are right and that the other person “should” behave or comply, the other person senses our emotion and desire to “control” and naturally becomes defensive and gravitates even more strongly to their held view.

Anyone who has experience as a parent with a teen, or a manager will know the futility of telling another person to believe or do something.  However, when we are curious, empathetic and open, we create the space for understanding. Our emotional state of openness becomes contagious and the other person is often less resistant.  When we find common ground, the other person is less defensive and can become curious and open too. While we tend to focus on differences, we have a lot more common ground than we tend to realize.

Tali Sharot shares research in her book The Influential Mind that shows that as we interact with others our brain patterns become aligned.  When study participants were working together on a project to make financial decisions, their brain patterns were aligned when they shared common ground and they were more open to influence.  However, when pairs disagreed their brains became less sensitive to the information presented by the other.  The studies suggest that by focusing on common ground and creating an emotionally positive environment, people are more open to influence.

Sharot explains that scientists were not able to convince parents to vaccinate their children by just sharing data.  However, by emphasizing the common ground of care for children and the desire that they not suffer from horrible diseases, three times more people chose to vaccinate.

When we can catch our desire to tell or convince people and become open to listening and connecting emotionally and finding common ground, we are more likely to influence others.  We need to be open-minded and engage in conversations where we are empathetic, listening and seeking common ground.

Both Arun, the project leader and Jerry, the leader supporting a new procurement system, were able to alter their strategies of trying to convince and shifted to being open-minded, curious, empathetic and finding common ground.  They used the OASIS Conversations process and created a positive and productive environment and achieved their business goals.

Catch yourself when you are trying to control rather than influence others. Notice when you are not open and curious and resort to pushing and citing research without finding common ground and creating an open environment. Remember that emotions are contagious and you will benefit from being open yourself.

Contact us any time at Potentials.com.

Are you Jumping to Solutions?

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“It often happens that things are other than what they seem, and you can get yourself into trouble by jumping to conclusions.”—Paul Auster

I was talking with a colleague about a work situation. In the middle of the conversation, he asked me if a storefront near my place that had been vacant was occupied yet. I was a bit put off. Here I was, talking about something important to me and my colleague completely shifted the conversation. My first reaction was to feel hurt and disappointed that my friend was not interested in my challenge.  I began to close down and thought I would shift topics or leave, recognizing that he may not be capable of being a real listener or a real friend.

Instead of shutting down or making assumptions and judgments, I remembered what I teach. I suggest catching ourselves when we are making judgments and work to stay open and curious. I was able to cool down and ask with curiosity, ”What makes you ask about the open storefront?”  My friend thought it was obvious.  He said, “I was thinking that you could open a coffee shop and would not be faced with such complex challenges.”  He had jumped to a solution.  He quickly confessed that opening a small shop is his dream and his own fantasy solution.

A few things occurred in this short interaction. A common one is that when I brought up a challenge, my colleague jumped to a solution. This is a familiar reaction. When someone has an issue we want to solve it. It is often easy to see a solution when it is a situation that someone else is experiencing and we are not emotionally involved.  In addition, when there is an issue or problem, we want to get it resolved or off our plate.  It is useful to recognize our tendency to jump to solutions and work to refrain from immediately solving and focus on listening more intently to ensure understanding. If we listen with openness and curiosity and give empathy, often people solve their own issues or feel satisfied with just being heard. I was delighted to learn coaching skills and see the power of listening and giving space to another to reflect. When people are heard they develop their own solutions and are more committed to following through.

I jumped to a judgment about my colleague and moved to an habitual pattern of withdrawing and believing he was not interested. We all have habitual patterns that color how we see things and it is useful to learn ours and work to try new responses. In this case, I was fortunate to notice my assumptions and work to shift to being open and curious.  This takes some practice and I don’t know of too many more valuable skills to develop than being open.  When I caught myself and shifted to a more openor what I call an OASIS stateI was able to inquire about his question about the storefront.  I realized that my friend did care and had just jumped to what he thought was a good solution. Of course, I would have benefitted from more empathy and understanding.

I was glad that I asked him the question. We continued our conversation and he did listen more and I felt closer to him by engaging in an open-minded conversation than I would not have had if I had withdrawn or was negative toward him. What else could he have done? He could have shared his intention when he asked about the storefront. For example, he could have said, “I wish things were easier for you, I wonder if you would consider other career options such as opening a coffee shop?” Hearing his positive intentions would have gone a long way. I would have also had the opportunity to confirm my love of coaching and consulting.

While I just shared one small interaction, I often see the same pattern of jumping to solutions and people fighting or withdrawing in response to others not listening.  When assumptions are made and not tested there are continual misunderstandings. I have seen people be angry with colleagues and family members because of assumptions, judgments and jumping to conclusions too quickly all across the globe. It is natural for us to make assumptions and judgments and to jump to solutions. Yet with a few moves (catching ourselves, being open and curious and engaging in conversations) we can have more positive and productive interactions with greater results too.

We will all benefit from catching ourselves and shifting to being open to others (and ourselves).  Notice your tendency to jump to solutions.  Begin to notice your patterns and build new conversation habits. Kindly share what you are noticing.

Contact us anytime.

Leading with Aliveness

Leading with Aliveness

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who come alive.” —Howard Thurman

What supports you in experiencing aliveness?

So many of my executive clients, colleagues in organizations and others I meet report feeling stressed and disconnected these days. It is not surprising. Most organizations are experiencing disruption and change is a constant. Often companies are cutting resources yet more and more is required. There is a sense of unease and polarization both in organizations and everywhere.  Our daily news is filled with challenges and conflict.

People want to shift from feelings of scarcity and stress and to create more connection and possibility. Yet most don’t know how to do so. We are all influenced by our environments. How do we change cultures to allow more connection and innovation?

Leaders need to start with themselves. They need to make it their intention to create positive and productive environmentseven one interaction at a time.

It is worth the investment in paying attention to your experience and then recalling your commitment to create an innovative and inclusive environment. Yes, this does mean slowing down a bit to become aware and to really see your colleagues and to listen. It means catching yourself when you feel competitive and want to win over someone.  By being self-aware and making small shifts in our interactions, people start to feel heard and seen and more alive, and then they relax a bit too and are more apt to bring forth new and creative ideas.

Leaders can ask themselves, “Am I open to possibilities and experiencing aliveness?”  It is useful to develop a small practice or habit to keep focused on your intention. Perhaps you appreciate your situation and colleagues as you travel to work. You may take a walk, enjoy nature or a hobby, breathe deeply or listen to an inspiring podcast. You can share your goal to listen and create an open-minded atmosphere with a friend or a coach and reflect on your progress.

As we make the intention to be alive and open and engage in meaningful conversations the climate begins to change. Changing the culture involves supporting others in also being more open and addressing the systems and norms of the organization to be supportive and aligned.

Renew your intention of creating a positive and productive environment and start with noticing and nurturing aliveness in yourself.

Contact us anytime.

Applied Emotional Intelligence

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“If you want maximal productivity and you want work that gets the best results, you want the people doing the work to be in the optimal brain state for the work. You are a person who can evict them from the zone of optimal performance by slothfully handling your own interactions with them. So it is up to you to take responsibility for your impact on their ability to do their best.”—Daniel Goleman

Studies show that people with high levels of emotional intelligence experience greater job performance, stronger leadership skills, greater mental health and wellbeing and overall more success. Research supports that intellectual intelligence only accounts for about 20% of success and emotional intelligence is the significant differentiating factor. 

How do we be emotionally intelligent? It takes practice, the development of habits of self-awareness, and increased awareness in our interactions.  

Emotional intelligence involves becoming self-aware and honing the ability to manage our reactions. In addition, it involves being aware of others and successfully managing our relationships.  

I have worked with many leaders and organizations to share the key habits of emotional and social intelligence. It is useful to appreciate that emotions are contagious and that we are influencing others as our relationships influence us. We need to pay attention and take responsibility to create a positive and productive environment. I often ask myself if I am experiencing an oasis with others or more of the challenging experience of being in the arid desert heat. The metaphor helps me to pay attention and work to create an open environment in which I am listening and curious.

There are a few key OASIS moves of emotional intelligence. First, Observationnotice your environment, recognizing that we are each noticing different things based on our background conditioning. Next, Awarenessmake it a habit of checking in and noticing your assumptions, emotions and how your background influences your thoughts and emotions. We know that our thoughts are influencing our interactions and by noticing our thoughts we have more choices than just reacting. The key skill is recognizing when we are closed or in judgment and Shift to being open. It is the open, oasis state that supports others in being open to us and to possibilities. Then you can focus on understanding what is Important to you, another and both of you. Then you are positioned to explore options and create agreements and Solutions

Each of these moves can easily be learned and are concrete ways to be emotionally intelligent and create positive and productive interactions. We have opportunities to practice throughout our days at work and at home. For example, Ray, a manager,  became frustrated when he believed a team member did not complete a project.  He noticed tightness in his chest and his feeling of irritation. Here he recognized that he was not experiencing an oasis with the team member. He acknowledged his contraction and shifted to being open and curious about what happened. He remembered to “assume positive intent.”  He was able to say to this teammate, “I notice that I have not seen the report I expected today.” Since he was open, he was able to engage in a conversation and learn what was most important to his teammate. When he listened, it supported his teammate in being open and interested in his needs. After some open dialogue and empathy, they came to an agreement that the teammate had too much on his plate and had misjudged his capabilities. His teammate would be more forthright about his commitments to ease planning in the future. Now that the team member understood the importance of the report and the deadline, he shifted priorities and completed the report. The open dialogue and agreement on the solution and next steps supported the team member and enhanced their relationship. In addition to securing the report, Ray, the manager created a working environment of trust and openness. The investment Ray made in being emotionally intelligent benefitted him at work and at home. 

We can all learn to enhance our emotional intelligence. What have you found useful?

Contact us anytime at www.potentials.com.

Me or We?

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“Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” — Joshua J. Marine

Most leaders and organizations are experiencing disruption these days. The external environment is rapidly changing with increased competition and the need to be flexible and to make significant changes for success.  Amidst the volatility, leaders and staff are experiencing stress. There is a great need to have meaningful conversations across functions and business lines to create agreements on strategies and collective action.  While most recognize this need, often leaders and staff fail to engage in real conversations. Too often leaders continue to be locked in conflict with colleagues rather than together focusing on the external challenges.

Leaders will benefit from noticing their language and saying “we” more than “I”.  It is useful to draw attention to the bigger collective goals.  I often draw a simple diagram to demonstrate the need to expand “we” to include others in our organization. When leaders expand the “we” to include their peers and other groups, staff are free to make changes, less energy is expended on internal disagreements and trust can be enhanced.

I have seen the damage of many power struggles.  I have also experienced the power of leaders joining together to face an external challenge. One company had lost market share to new competitors. However, when the heads of the businesses and other leaders stopped fighting each other, they were able to work together and gained significant market share. With a shared vision and commitment to work together, the leaders reported that it was one of their greatest experiences.  It can be a fun game working together. Often it requires someone stopping the internal competition and choosing to work together for the benefit of the organization.  It often takes someone making the first move.

Where is your focus as a leader? Are you willing to join with your peers in addressing external competition?  Are you having open-minded conversations? It will serve you and others in the organization to draw a bigger boundary.  It takes courage and can make a difference.

Contact us anytime.

Communicate your Intention

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People will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. Intent does not equal impact.

We each are seeing the world differently. It is hard for us to remember this.  Since things seem so obvious to us, we assume that others are “getting it.”  More times than we imagine—they are not.  We each have different experiences and thus our conditioning has us pay attention to different things. Millions of bits of sensory data are available every second and only a small portion can get through.  We are seeing and hearing different things than the person next to us.

A leader texted his team member, Jerry, that he didn’t need to attend a meeting. Jerry immediately assumed he had done something wrong and became anxious.  He felt it was rude of his boss to send such a note and not talk with him directly. Jerry told fellow team members that he did not feel valued. Jerry assumed the worst and experienced stress. Based on research called the fundamental attribution error, we are wired to assume negative motivations of others. This disposition along with our negativity bias helps us to be prepared in the face of potential danger. However the cost can be high for all involved. It turns out the leader thought he was being helpful to Jerry since he knew Jerry had a lot on his plate. The leader thought he was being kind by relieving Jerry of attending the meeting since he would be there.

This simple misunderstanding cost time, energy and good will of Jerry and his coworkers. The climate of the workplace had become fearful. The manager had no idea of the impact of his action until later when he had to deal with Jerry and the team’s negative engagement and decline in outcomes.

Unfortunately, these kinds of misunderstandings happen frequently and cost time, energy, good will and money.

Jerry would have benefited from checking out his assumptions by engaging in a conversation with his manager. His boss would have benefited by sharing his intention behind his request.

Make it a habit of sharing your positive intentions and check to make sure people are receiving your requests and comments in a positive way.  Try to engage in respectful conversations when possible.

Have You Experienced Peer Coaching?

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Some of my most meaningful learning has come from groups of peers who provide real feedback and support. I have had the fortune of being in such groups and facilitating peer learning groups throughout my career.  For example, I have facilitated groups of CEOs of companies, people responsible for changing organization cultures, change agents, various professionals, managers, students and coaches.

Peer coaching allows participants to receive support on a strategic challenge, opportunity or learning goal they are facing in a positive environment. Participants gain valuable input in an efficient, effective and enjoyable way. The impact goes beyond the individual to be a positive force for an organization or community.

While there are many formats for peer learning groups, a central theme is creating a safe space for reflection, learning and sharing perspectives. It is valuable to hear multiple views, receive real-time feedback and to explore how to be effective with peers. We realize that we are all learning and “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Participants receive “ just in time” challenge and support. In addition to creating awareness, the peer group provides a sense of accountability that supports taking action and results.

I actually started peer coaching in my high school many years ago. I saw that students were more open to learning from peers and gained the benefit of being a part of a community. I believe that peer coaching supports progress on various content issues as well as strengthens emotional, social and collective intelligence. Peers gain a deeper appreciation for what others are facing and enhance their communication and coaching skills.

I am using peer coaching in companies to enable managers and others to practice conversation skills and adopting an open mindset. Participants learn coaching principles. It is a way of changing an organization’s culture and supporting people in building habits and extends the benefit of training. Engagement is enhanced and it supports creating the desired organizational culture. Participants value the relationships formed and it supports them in being more productive. Given our increasingly volatile environment, peer coaching creates the space for innovative collaboration.

I recall one peer coaching group that was comprised of directors of various functions of a major organization. One particular leader was aggressive and difficult for peers. He perceived that he knew more than others and had a reputation of being uncooperative.  He received support and feedback and dramatically shifted his way of communicating. He became more open and supportive. He said that the experience changed how he interacted with staff and others in his personal life. The bonds formed supported the leaders and allowed the company to make significant changes that did not seem possible beforehand. The company became dramatically more profitable.

I recently participated in a peer coaching summit and more organizations and coaches are creating peer coaching experiences. Peer coaching is being used in leadership and management development programs, for problem solving, to support culture change, for embedding and integrating learning, to support transitions, for achieving goals and networking and for professional and personal development.

Research shows emotions are contagious and we are influenced greatly by those we interact with. Creating a positive, growth-oriented experience with other peers may be what we all need these days when faced with multiple challenges and fewer resources and less time. Many participants say that peer coaching is one of their best learning experiences and that many of the relationships formed last a long time. The best way to evaluate the power of peer coaching is to experience it.

Of course, there is still a need for executive and other coaching. Peer coaching is one way to expand some of the clear benefits of coaching including listening with curiosity, creating awareness and determining action and accountability to a wider group.

What kind of peer coaching experiences are you a part of and what has been their impact? Contact us at any time.

Should You Send an Email or Call?

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“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things.  Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” —Sydney J. Harris

An executive I work with shared with me the frustration he was experiencing over a colleague. He learned that she was criticizing him and telling people that he was “out to get her”. He was frustrated and angry during our discussion. He had been working on being collaborative and this accusation of hers which she broadcasted to others seemed to come out of nowhere.  

As we worked to understand the circumstances, he reviewed the details. The last email he sent to his colleague was meant to give her a “heads up” that an issue falling under her responsibility was going to be addressed at an upcoming Executive Leadership Team (ELT) meeting. He had written in his email, “I want to make perfectly clear that I am trying to let you know what I heard…”  He thought he was being a good citizen to let her know. When she received the email, she reacted in a way he didn’t expect. She was defensive about what her team had accomplished, blamed my client, and copied many people. Then he started hearing from people that she believed he was out to get her. She did not want the issue that he identified to be addressed at the next ELT meeting. She didn’t feel ready to do so and assumed my client put it on the agenda (which he did not). So where did my client go wrong?  

Well, we found a few places. The week before, he had learned that the budget he had anticipated had not been approved. And what’s more, he felt that his colleague’s team should give up some of her budget or a person from her team to compensate for a new role he needed filled that would benefit both of them. So he complained about the situation to her boss and to his own boss. She heard about the complaint (of course!) and she was angry and felt, “He is trying to throw me under the bus.” My client heard that she was upset, and so he chose to send the troublesome email assuming he was helping her. From her end, when she received his email, she read it with the perception that he was against her, even though it was not the case.

What to do?  My client needed to vent his disappointment and anger about losing resources. He then needed to speak with his colleague. Instead, they were conveying messages to each other through others rather than talking directly to one another.  Once he calmed down, he was able to speak with her, give her empathy and recognize that it was not her fault that he did not receive the budget he wanted. He explained that he was actually trying to let her know that an issue important to her was going to be addressed at the ELT meeting and that he had not proposed the agenda item. They were able to communicate effectively and resume their positive relationship. As it turned out, they each were focused on different issues and had different views of their team’s responsibilities. As a result of their conversation, they were able to clarify and reconnect. They also came up with a solution to the budget and staff issue.

When you know there is some disruption in a relationship, consider calling or talking in-person (when possible) before sending an email. It is so easy to read the tone of emails differently depending on our mood. It is useful to recognize our own mistakes, too. It may seem efficient to send an email and document. However, many issues have been cleared up with an open-minded conversation. In addition, relationships can be strengthened.

Where would a call or a visit serve you today rather than sending an email? What lessons have you learned about communicating via email?

Contact us at any time at www.Potentials.com.

Look for Humor Amidst Polarization

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“I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.”— Frank A. Clark

A client told me how angry he was with his long-time business partner. “How can he be so stupid?”  The partners were disagreeing again about something they heard in the news. One assured the other that President Obama did not wire-tap the Trump Tower in New York. The other partner as vehemently stated that it was true. Neither actually knew the truth at the time. Both felt agitated by the news and were confident that they were “right.”  

The challenge for these long-time business partners is that because they began to assert their view and consider the other wrong and unintelligent, they began to experience their trust disintegrating.  My client was stressed and talked to me and others about his incredulity. Their disagreement drained their energy. What’s more, they also began to see division in their organization, as staff members began to take sides. A lot of energy was wasted around this simple disagreement.  

What could they do?  I empathized with my client and supported him in cooling down. He did not want the political divide and polarization taking place in Washington to hurt his business and his stress level and health. While he felt that he was “right” on this issue and many related issues, he practiced breathing and recalling that his partner did indeed have many positive characteristics.  Even more important, he valued their relationship. He appreciated our discussion about how our background experiences color our perception and have each person paying attention to different data. As a result, everyone comes to a slightly different (or vastly different) conclusion.  My client wanted to remain open to his partner. He remembered to “assume positive intent.” We concluded that using humor would be a viable option. He agreed that he wanted “success” with his partner more than being “right”.

So my client began to look at the humor of the situation. Here they were arguing over things that were out of their circle of influence.  Isn’t it amazing how people can see things so differently? My client was able to perceive future differences with a lighter attitude and was not so committed to being “right”. He imagined a dog letting go of a coveted bone. He joked about how his old problem of being “right” was emerging, like his old knee injury from high-school sports. Most importantly, my client laughed at himself for becoming so committed to being right when it really didn’t matter that much to him.

I also encouraged my client to recall what he liked about his business partner and longtime colleague.  He was able to identify many strengths including his ability to attract clients and manage staff and he was fun to be with (most of the time).

Look for ways you can be open-minded when you face a colleague with a different view. See the humor in your polarization and laugh first at yourself for your desire to be “right” and the costs associated.  It is useful to look at the bigger picture and the common ground. In this case, my client and his partner both wanted their business to succeed as well as their friendship.

Let me know how it goes for you. Contact us at www.Potentials.com.

Experience Gratitude

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Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”—William Arthur Ward

By now you are likely to have heard of the many benefits of being grateful. You will experience more inner ease, notice more good moments and be able to connect more easily to others. Not bad.

However, it is not enough to have a gratitude journal or casually identify what you are thankful for. Ideally, you build the habit and neural pathway of noticing and expressing gratitude.  You will benefit from actually experiencing gratitude in your body.  For example, you will feel warmth in your chest or heart area as you are grateful for a child or friend or a job.  Too often, we focus on what we don’t have, or what could go wrong and we experience more fear and anxiety.

We need to build the habit of experiencing gratitude. This is especially important during these periods of unprecedented disruption and change. This means continually noticing and appreciating the good around us. Our emotions are contagious.  As leaders, we need to positively influence and support others.

I will never forget waking up one night and experiencing gratitude for my life rather than my old pattern of worry and fretting about what I need to do and what I don’t have. I developed the habit of being grateful and it made a big difference for me and those around me.

Try an experiment of loving your life and being grateful for all you have. We forget to appreciate the abundance. This becomes clear to us when we see others who do not have enough food, friends, money or a home.

Really allow yourself to focus on what you do have and experience gratefulness.  Let me know how it goes.

Contact us at www.Potentials.com.