Influencing with Words
Just the other day, I was trying to understand why I was not getting anywhere with talking to my son about his grades. I used language such as, “have a goal to shoot for”, or “look at how many doors it will open for you”, and even “the world will be yours for the taking”. Not only were these phrases clichéd, but they did not resonate with him at all. I asked my self, “How can he not have goals to shoot for?” Then I took a step back and thought about my training in Strategic Inquiry.
Strategic Inquiry is a systematic method of understanding a person by making inquiries using the words, phrases and language patterns of that person as the basis for those inquiries. Language is the primary means by which people convey their frames of references. Through language, they give us a glimpse of what motivates them to take action. If we take the time to listen and understand these underlying patterns, we can learn how to remove barriers and help them to create forward movement. We all have traits that, if triggered, will motivate us to take action. A couple of these traits are Criteria, Direction and Source.*
Criteria weigh large in our decision making process. If we can uncover what someone’s criteria are, we will know what is important to them in a particular area and elicit an emotional response. By tapping into their criteria, we help to engage them and bring relevance to the subject. People feel understood when their criteria are understood. As we weave their criteria words into our questions and responses, we are speaking their language. We create connection and rapport while strengthening the conversation. When you want to influence them on an idea, plan, product, training, etc., it is critical to know what criteria are the most important about that topic.
Some questions you can ask in order to reveal their criteria are:
- “What’s important to you about…?”
- “What has to be there?”
- “What do you want in …?”
- “What is important about that?”
- “What can you not live without?”
When you dig into the answers that come from these questions, place your focus and language on the criteria that are the most important. You can even have them choose between criteria so that the most critical ones rise to the surface. Be sure to let go of your own criteria in the process.
* Drawn from “Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence”, by Shelle Rose Charvet
In a recent blog, I promised to dedicate some time to the topic of building an effective team. I stressed the importance of giving team relationship adequate attention and outlined a couple of risks if the relationship is neglected.
In my work as a facilitator, there is one question that I get a lot. So what should you do if your team isn’t in sync? The answer depends on several factors, which include: the team, the problem (or pain, as we call it), and the cause of the pain.
It’s often best to start by unearthing the potential contributing factors to the problem. Have there been changes in the work environment? What are the demands that the team is being challenged with? Has there been a change in personnel? Has the personnel change impacted the group dynamic? There are endless scenarios that I could highlight here, but the important thing to remember is this – try to get to the root cause so you’re not just treating the symptoms, but you also understand the disease. You may or may not be able to change the cause, but understanding where the team’s pain is coming from can be important as you begin to work through the challenges.
I facilitated a staff retreat several months ago that provides a great example. In this customer’s scenario, staff changes had taken place at an executive level. This had resulted in a great deal of upheaval. The trickle down effects were additional personnel changes and a new methodology for running the business. New processes were put into place, and old, long-ignored processes were reinstated. No longer could an employee do something because “that’s the way we did it before.”
These changes created a new team dynamic. Some of the team members were excited by the new challenges and the potential for growth and success. Others resisted the change and were fearful of what was going to happen next.
When we designed and then delivered the retreat, we kept all of the above factors in mind. We spent two days focusing on the rebuilding of this team. Part of the process involved sharing information. This alleviated some of the fears of the unknown that the team members were experiencing. We also provided new tools in communication and leadership to equip the team to meet the business standards being set by the new director. Lastly, we combined social events and facilitated discussions to allow people to dialogue and solidify their relationships. At the conclusion of the event, definite progress had been made. The participants were open in their sharing, and the atmosphere was positive.
This is just one example of how a team decided to navigate a major transition. The solution for another team scenario could be completely different. As a leader, you might want to begin by taking the “pulse” of your team. How’s the team’s morale? How’s communication going? What are the challenges that the team is facing? Are any of these factors impacting the effectiveness of team? When you’ve drilled down into the cause of the issues, you’ll be much more likely to create an on-target team building effort.
Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations
Teamwork Is All About People
Building an effective team is a key principle and priority of our business at Advanced Team Concepts, and it’s certainly important to the customers that we serve. Teamwork is all about people. As leader, it’s about creating a place where the talents and energies of individuals can combine to create something great. It’s also a tremendous challenge. It takes ongoing work and focused effort. A common misconception that I encounter in the business world is the idea that you can “team build” once every year or two and then check it off the list and get to the “real work.”
Imagine a family that only has “family time” once or twice a year, maybe at a gathering for a major holiday or family reunion. The rest of the year, the family is busy – work, chores, school, bills….I’ve seen my own family get into this mode – we call it the frantic family syndrome. There isn’t time for quality time, family dinners or fireside chats. Have you ever noticed that this is when the family fighting starts? It’s the same with a work team. If you don’t take the time to communicate, connect, and build relationships, eventually you’re going to see some dysfunction.
When a team isn’t cohesive, you as the leader can see the signs. Is there an absence of trust? Does the team avoid conflict or handle it badly? Are the individuals in the team more interested in their own self-preservation and advancement as opposed to the success of the team?
If you’ve noticed signs that your team isn’t syncing well, that’s a start. Awareness is the first critical step, but it must be combined with a commitment for improvement.
To start you off, I’d like to recommend a great read. Patrick Lencioni’s, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s a simple fable that simplifies and defines the importance of a healthy and effective team.
Awareness is a critical step. In future blogs, we’ll discuss some practical tips that can strengthen a team from both a leadership and a contributing team member’s perspective. If you have any team stories or tips, please add your comments. We’d love to hear them.
Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations
Leadership’s Changing Skills
Research shows that many of the skills required for great leadership fall into three basic categories—technical, interpersonal, and conceptual. The importance of these relative to each other shifts as the leader moves up in the organization’s structure.
For front line supervisors, coaches or project/team leaders, the technical skills are critical. As a leader advances up the chain-of-command, the importance of technical skills begins to give way to increased importance of conceptual skills.
It isn’t that supervisors and coaches do not need conceptual skills. It is just that as they move up in the organization, the conceptual abilities to perceive and plan further out on the horizon become increasingly important.
As the diagram shows, the interpersonal skills remain equally critical at all levels within an organization. In other words, leadership is all about people. Regardless of the management level, the leaders’ skills in working through people are critical to the success of the enterprise. More than ever before, organizations are investing in the development of "soft skills" for their leaders. The successful flow of information is a perpetual challenge in most organizations, whether large or small. In recent leadership surveys, the number one leadership challenge cited by participants was developing management and people skills in technically-oriented people. Although many professionals know what needs to be done and how to get the technical job done, many have difficulty communicating this to others and motivating employees in order to achieve the best results.
Three variables come into play:
It is important to remember that each leader is an individual, each with unique strengths, talents, experiences and leadership style preferences. These are important in the approach to empowerment.
The follower (or team):
Certainly the employees and teams in an organization are not all alike. In fact, we spend a lot of resources trying to leverage the diversity that exists within groups. Again, the individual talents, skills, experiences and motivations will demand leadership flexibility.
Even with the same person or team, the individual leader’s approach to empowerment will need to vary based on different situations and circumstances encountered in the work of the organization. Time, complexity, costs and other factors will always have an influence.
 Research noted by Robert Katz at Harvard University
As always, best wishes in your Leadership Journey,