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.

What kind of explorer are you?

pablo

“The more that you learn, the more places you will go.”—Dr. Seuss

“I am still learning.”—Michelangelo at age 87


Many leaders and organizations are experiencing great uncertainty. The rules seem to be dramatically changing and people often report that it feels like the ground is shaking.

With the rapid introduction of technology, globalization and innovation, we each are called to be resilient and to continually reinvent ourselves. You are no doubt hearing reports that many jobs are changing with the emergence of artificial intelligence and other world changes. Futurists are predicting that we are approaching significantly more marked changes in the next decade.  A colleague suggested the analogy of being on a plane to a dramatically different land. We need to ask if we are prepared for what we will experience after landing. Rather than being jolted and alarmed, we need to be open and curious like an avid explorer and learner.

I have traveled a lot and seen travelers who are alarmed when faced with different ways and keep wanting things to be “right” as they are back home. Others enjoy experimenting with new ways and work to understand different perspectives and grow from the experience. 

We need to embrace the unknown and to commit to continuous learning and to be open to disruption. We also need to be kind to ourselves and to each other. Adapting is not a linear process and not easy either. Just like an avid traveler, we also need connection and support more than ever and at the same time we seem to be more isolated. In a more stable time the paradigm for change was to experience unfreezing and then refreezing and stability. Now, we need a different mindset. We need to be open for what we will find as we disembark from a plane ride to a distant land. We need to stay open, curious and embrace our love of learning without hoping for stability.

We also need to ensure that employees and students are continually learning. A report by the National Research Council suggests that a combination of cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills—flexibility, creativity, initiative, innovation, intellectual openness, collaboration, leadership, and conflict resolution—are essential for keeping up in the 21st century. More than preparing people for a specific role or career, people need to know how to learn, embrace change and be open-minded with strong conversational skills to work in complex global environments with diverse perspectives.  We each need to be flexible to learn new skills and continually change roles.

Ed Gordon, author of Future Jobs and of the Gordon Report (www.Imperialcorp.com) posits that just as adjustments were required as we shifted from the Industrial Age to the Computer Age, we are experiencing a similar disruption as we enter the Cyber-Mental Age with a focus on innovation and intelligent machines. The U.S. labor market suffers from a lack of workers with the education and career skills needed in the tech-driven advanced economy. At the same time, workers are looking for jobs. Organizations are realizing the need to provide training and workers are recognizing the need to learn new skills. Some communities are bringing together various stakeholders including businesses, community members and schools to provide training and learning opportunities in Regional Talent Innovation Networks.  Many organizations are feeling the pain of job vacancies and the lack of qualified workers and are expanding their training programs in order to have the talent they need. A challenge is that not all have mastered the critical skill of “learning to learn.”  With this skill, people will have the confidence that they can explore and adapt to work in new and different ways. We each will be called to be flexible and resilient as marketplace conditions change. It will be easier with the confidence of being able to learn and with an explorer mindset. As leaders, we need to help others to embrace “learning to learn” and being an open and curious explorer in unknown lands.

As we shift in significant ways, we will benefit from working together rather than perpetuating polarization across differences. We need to learn with and from each other. I believe that adopting an open mindset and having the skills to effectively converse with people across disciplines, roles, locations and perspectives is one of the best ways to thrive in our current and evolving environment.

What are you doing as a leader to adapt an open-mindset embracing the uncertainty and continuous learning? What kind of connections and communities are supporting you as you explore new lands?

You are welcome to listen to an interview I had with Ed Gordon about the changing workforce conditions, the job-skills gap and the need to “learn to learn”  at https://soundcloud.com/ann-van-eron/interview-with-ed-gordon

What kind of an explorer and learner are you?

Are you Jumping to Solutions?

pablo

“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.

Appreciative Leadership

pablo

“Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.”—Seneca

In my work with leaders, I emphasize the importance of creating an environment in which people feel a sense of openness and respect, where people can engage in meaningful conversations and can explore diverse perspectives and be innovative. Emotions are contagious and leaders benefit from being aware of their disposition and how they influence others. One of the simplest ways to create a positive and productive environment is to build the habit of gratitude.

During the holidays, people are more apt to recall what they are grateful for. Making it a daily practice is even more powerful. Most successful leaders are problem solvers and implementers of solutions and are quick to identify what is not working. It takes a different stance to embrace gratitude.

When we are able to reflect and actually experience the sensation of gratefulness, we encounter more openness to possibilities and others sense this energy.

Research shows that being grateful has multiple benefits.  People report greater well-being when they appreciate what they have.  There are clear physical and mental health benefits. Those who are grateful experience deeper relationships and less stress.  It’s hard to argue against building the habit of noticing and being grateful and showing appreciation.

People often suggest having a journal to collect what you are grateful for. I have adopted the simple habit of reflecting on what I am grateful for about my day as I go to sleep.  I have noticed that connecting with people seems to bring me my greatest joy. I have also noticed and appreciate how much I do have and how fortunate I am. It becomes a cycle. The more I am grateful, the more I seem to be grateful for.  This sure beats my old pattern of reflecting on all I had not done and all I needed to do.  Oh, by the way, research shows that people who adopt the habit of gratitude sleep better too.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

Me or We?

pablo (100)

“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

pablo (96)

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.

Encourage Conversations

pablo (89)

“Conversation is food for the soul.”—Mexican Proverb

Julie, a staff member of an executive, complained that another business unit was not cooperating and satisfying corporate requirements. What would you do if you were Julie’s manager? Do you speak with your peer, the head of the other area, or do you support Julie in having a conversation with her peer?  Either or both could be appropriate depending on the issue and the greater context.

Somewhere a conversation is needed. Often, I find that challenges my clients are experiencing are because those above are not aligned and are not having open-minded conversations. I once facilitated an agreement meeting between heads of a corporate function and a key business unit. They had been fighting for a while and the business unit had actually duplicated the corporate function in many ways to avoid contact. However, they were stuck and not able to solve an important business problem.  After some work with them we were able to get to the core issue and resolve the technical issue and enhance their relationship. However, we discovered that their leaders were misaligned and there were many ramifications.  After I facilitated a conversation with the top leaders, they were able to make progress and gained significant market share.

While conversations need to happen at the senior-most levels, I believe a role of a leader is to encourage team members to have meaningful and open-minded conversations. After some coaching, Julie did have the conversation with her peer. She was able to resolve the issue at her level. This was more efficient for Julie and her boss and others in the organization.

Leadership is about conversations. All day long leaders need to engage in conversations to inspire others and support alignment toward a compelling vision. In addition, leaders need to give feedback and support and resolve issues.  Open-minded conversations are essential for success and like any skill require practice. Leaders need to create a culture where respectful conversations are the norm.

Are you engaging in open-minded conversations today and encouraging your team members to do the same?

Contact us anytime.

 

 

How is blame working?

pablo (85)

“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. —His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

After working at a company for nine months, a manager complained bitterly about the organization and his colleagues. He believed he was brought into the company to bring about needed change. His expertise would clearly benefit the company with their changing market demands and increased competition. He knew what the company should do. There was one problem. People were not open to his ideas or even to him for that matter. Of course, many experienced hires have a similar onboarding experience. The newly hired expert has a paradigm of how things “should be” and comes across as negative and not understanding. The experienced hire begins to feel anxious because he or she wants to demonstrate value.

The challenge this manager had is that his solutions seemed so obvious to him. After all, they worked at his previous employer and he was an expert. However, rather than influencing his new colleagues, he blamed them for not listening or adopting his solutions.  Not surprisingly, the blame did not endear him to his new colleagues and complaints about him grew. Eventually, HR suggested he work with a coach.

It is human nature to blame others.  We naturally feel like the “good guy” or the innocent victim.  It feels good to “be right” and we are supported when others agree that we are right.  However, the cost of staying in this stance can be high. Many new hires don’t make it in their new companies or they continue to feel alone and as if they are fighting an uphill battle.

I am reminded of the saying that when we are pointing a finger to blame the other person that more fingers are pointing toward us. You may also recall the parable of a man in a boat who demanded that an oncoming boat change course. The other boat kept heading right toward him and eventually hit him. He was furious. Then he realized that the boat did not have a navigator and must have broken free and was floating down the river.  We can only try to manage or change ourselves.  The blaming takes a lot of energy that is diverted from the business problem we are eager to solve.

How do we manage our instinct to blame? First, we need to get empathy and understanding from a caring friend or coach and also give ourselves compassion.  It really is difficult to come into an organization with new ideas. It is also stressful to feel you need to prove yourself quickly.  It is upsetting to see results slip when you sense you could make a difference.  You paid a high cost to move to a new organization and you and your family are counting on being successful. It is frustrating to feel blocked out of conversations. You’re disappointed that behaviors that were appreciated in your previous organizations are not recognized at the new organization. You don’t feel valued.

Don’t underestimate the importance of empathy and self-compassion. It is not easy to join a new organization and introduce change for anyone.

Choose to want success and connection more than being “right.”  Assume that people have good intentions and are doing the best they can. Work to notice when you are blaming and focus on learning. That’s right. Look for what you can learn and be humble. It will take multiple times to shift from judgment to being open-minded.  It is a great muscle to develop and use this experience to build the muscle. It will serve you in multiple areas of your life.  When we get trapped in the victim mentality we need to jump out of the cycle to change the dynamics.

Then, you need to work to understand and give empathy to your new colleagues. When we are able to calm down and see different perspectives, we can often see a mistake we made or are continuing to make.  Each culture is different and it is hard to interpret some of the unwritten rules. Upon reflection, this manager realized that he had publicly doubted a colleague’s solution. This kind of action was expected and rewarded in his previous organization. No wonder this important peer did not share information now and be open to his ideas.  With understanding, small changes can make a difference.

When my client was able to shift from blaming to understanding, he was much more acceptable to his colleagues. He began engaging in meaningful conversations. He experienced more ease and he was able to share his views and build a solution with his colleagues that gained market share for the organization. Over time, he gained a positive reputation as someone who was emotionally intelligent and a team player.

Where are you frustrated and blaming others? What has supported you in shifting to being open-minded?

Contact us anytime.

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.