After talking about the importance of being a Seed Planter (see last week’s post: If You Want to Thrive, Plant Seeds), this week I will focus on HOW to plant seeds. If you have committed to trying to plant seeds (i.e, influencing people or decisions) rather than dictating what you want to happen and If you want to be successful at influencing people or decisions in your personal or professional life, then you must:
1. Act with integrity, always. I cannot stress this enough. Nothing else I’ve said matters if you fail on this one. You MUST absolutely and at all times act with integrity. Your peers, your subordinates, your supervisors, your customers must view you as honest, credible, and trustworthy. Without this, your ability to influence will be negligable. You may be able to fool some people, some of the time, but you will not be able to fool all people, all the time. Additionally, no peace (therefore no ability to thrive) comes from acting unscrupulously or dishonestly. Peace comes from doing what you say you’re going to do and doing it with integrity.
2. Be fair and respectful and get to know your coworkers. My Dad has great interpersonal advice from all his years in sales and as a coach. One of the best pieces of advice he ever gave me was, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I will tell you that I have found this to be true in about every situation I can recall. I advise clients and employees on this and try to diligently follow this advice myself. Take the time getting to know your coworkers, direct reports, bosses, customers…but do it with sincerity, please. You will create stronger working relationships and be more effective in influencing decisions. When people feel you care about them, their work, or their projects, they will be more apt to listen to your ideas, concerns, and ultimately recommendations.
3. Know your facts. Work hard to understand the project, to know the players, to understand the team and company dynamics. Understand the positive and negative consequences of the various options. Understand the opportunity costs of the popular and unpopular options of the table. If you’re not an expert on the subject, you need to become one. Meet with people who can tell you more about the options, meet with people to understand their opinions and concerns. Read trade journals on best practices, similar companies and/or projects. Post questions to industry groups on LinkedIn and other trade websites. Be ready to discuss what you know.
4. Have an opinion but be flexible. There is usually more than one right way to go. Often, the best solution is a hybrid of the strongest options being considered. That said, leaders and coworkers want to know your opinion. They want to understand why you think a certain approach is best and why you support it over other ideas. Just keep in mind that you will have more credibility with your colleagues, bosses or customers, however, if you can also weigh and advocate the merits of others’ ideas or recommendations. Over time, if you only advocate for your or your allies’ ideas, your opinion and therefore your ability to influence becomes greatly diluted.
If you are wanting more information on how to practice the recommendations I’ve made above, stay tuned for my blog next week. I will be wrapping up this series on planting seeds, with some specific next steps for you to try in a real-life scenario.
Until next time, plant those seeds…