Influencing with Words: Part 2
In my last blog, I spoke about Strategic Inquiry, three of the traits that, if triggered, will motivate us to take action, and the first of those traits being Criteria. In Part 2, I would like to talk about the second trait, Direction.*
Studies have found that 80% of the population falls into one of two directions for motivation. Half of the group (40%) are people motivated by Moving Towards a goal and the other half (40%) are motivated by Moving Away From a problem. The rest of the population tends to move back and forth between the two. The interesting thing about these two directions is that they both have strong points as well as limitations.
Those who are Moving Towards people tend to be proactive, not responsive to problems and can be labeled as “blue sky” thinkers. They are always looking for the next big thing and are restless to stay in one place. Many leaders fall into this group because they are visionary and extremely goal-oriented. You will recognize these individuals by the fact that they promote quickly, change jobs frequently or move quite often. They are a huge resource for coming up with BIG ideas but tend to not want to stick around to see them sustained over a long period of time. They are too busy looking for the next BIG thing. Typical words that you will hear them use are: achieve, benefits, vision and advantages. If we want someone who is a Moving Towards person to take action, we will want to challenge them with a goal to achieve.
The people that fall into the Moving Away From category tend to be more reactive. They are okay with the status quo if it is a comfortable place for them. The real strength that they bring to the team or organization is that they are typically great problem solvers. They are quick to take action when a crisis or problem arises. The trick to motivating this group to take action is to create dissatisfaction with the current situation. They are often seen as cynics and have a hard time staying focused on being creative. Some of the words that you will hear them use are: avoid, fix, prevent and solve.
Questions that you can use to uncover which bucket individuals are the most comfortable in are:
· “What will having that <criteria> do for you?”
· “What’s important about <criteria>?”
· “What will you get out of that?”
The key to helping any of these people to take action is to create common ground by speaking their language. Use the terminology that has meaning to them. In the story I shared about my son last time, I uncovered that he is a Moving Away From person, by asking some of these questions. One of the reasons I was not getting any positive movement from him was because I was speaking to him out of my Mind Map which just happens to be Moving Towards. I might as well have been speaking a foreign language to him.
* Drawn from “Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence”, by Shelle Rose Charvet
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
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,
Soft skills are broadly defined as “the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people.” Soft skills tend to be a very important complement to the hard skills which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.
Recent research has found that companies are placing increasing focus and investment to develop these “people skills” in leaders/managers and those folks in particular that have a strong technical orientation rather that on people. In other words, it remains important for professionals to know what must be done and the technical aspects of how to get it done, but they must also be able to communicate this effectively and to motivate others in order to achieve excellent results.
Some of the most common soft skills employers seek include:
- Strong Work Ethic—motivation and dedication to getting the job done, no matter what. The desire is for people who will be conscientious and do their best work.
- Positive Attitude—optimism and an upbeat attitude. Good energy and good will tend to be contagious in an organization.
- Good Communication Skills—abilities to be both verbally articulate and a good listener. Professionals need to be able to express observations, interpretations, ideas, and even feelings in a way that builds bridges with colleagues, customers and vendors.
- Spoken communication is important, in all of its forms—face-to-face, presentations, team settings and more.
- Written communication has become super critical, as most groups are very dependent on email and other written forms of information within and outside of the organization. Every time we hit “send,” we are sending an image of our companies.
- Time Management Abilities—prioritization of tasks and work, often on a number of different projects at once. Time is a precious resource that must be used wisely.
- Problem-Solving Skills—resourceful and creative resolution of problems. Professionals are desired to take ownership of problems rather than leave them for someone else.
- Team Play—excellence of work in groups and teams. You can’t do it alone in today’s organizations. Professionals are desired that create and lead a cooperative environment.
- Self-Confidence—belief in one’s ability to get the job done. Pressure is a reality in most organizations. Leaders that project a sense of calm can inspire confidence in others.
- Ability to Accept and Learn from Criticism—the capacity to handle criticism. Receiving coaching well can create opportunities to learning and growth, both as a person and as a professional.
- Flexibility/Adaptability—adaptability to new situations and challenges. Change happens in most organizations at a pace never before seen in business. Professionals and leaders are needed who will embrace change and new ideas as paths to opportunities.
- Working Well Under Pressure—handling the stress that accompanies deadlines and crises. Pressure and stress can both motivate or harm an organization. People who perform with excellence, even doing their best work under pressure, are highly prized in today’s workforce.
The list above is not exhaustive. Here are a few other categories that we often see hiring groups focus on when interviewing candidates. In a hiring or interview context, techniques that utilize “open-ended questions” engage applicants in sharing from their personal experiences and past behaviors, how they utilize “soft skills” in accomplishing work.
- Decision making—using a range of options and processes to reach key decisions
- Leadership—influencing others
- Organizational skill
- Managing change—not just adapting to change, but being able to lead change
- Valuing diversity
This has become so important for organizations that ATC is now developing a soft skills assessment approach that can help you evaluate the GAP between where you are now and where you desire the organization to be. A paper-and-pencil survey is not always the path for evaluating these critical skills.
Stay tuned for updates on this important topic.
Best wishes for a successful 2010,
As a leader, you’re familiar with the importance of communication within your organization. Regardless of your company’s mission, communication is probably a critical area of focus. It can be the biggest enabler or the biggest stumbling block for your team.
You and your employees are most likely in some type of communication for the majority of the workday. It might be spoken, written, or only body language, but you’re doing it – giving and receiving information.
Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw said,
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Yes, we communicate all of the time, but are we doing a good job? Is it effective? Is the message being received as intended?
When we fail at getting the message across, a communication gap has occurred. Imagine a baseball game. The pitcher has thrown the pitch, but the catcher didn’t catch it. It could have been either player’s fault, but it sure isn’t going to help the game. It happens to all of us.
So what’s really at stake? Do miscommunications have a direct impact on our success? Absolutely. Think about the potential consequences if communication fails. Work isn’t done, or it’s done wrong. Sometimes it’s done in duplicate, resulting in wasted time and resources. We can fail our clients or our team, impacting the image and credibility of ourselves and our organization. It can hurt morale and deteriorate the culture of the organization. All of this can have a real impact on a team’s bottom-line results.
If we agree that this is an important topic, and we agree that there’s room for improvement in most of our organizations, what can we do to eliminate or minimize our communication gaps?
Slow down! We are in such a hurry in the workplace these days that we don’t take the time to communicate well. I’m all for concise communication, but we’ve become so brief and rushed that we’re creating more gaps than ever. This is true in our spoken communication and definitely true in our business writing. I can think of endless email examples.
Think of complete communication as an investment that will give you a return. If you take just a little longer to communicate, you might get it right the first time. We all know how much time it can take to undo a miscommunication. Doing it right the first time is actually the shorter (and smarter) path.
It never hurts to evaluate now and then. On a scale of 1-5, how effective are you and you team in workplace communication? Where are the gaps, and how can you bridge them?
Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations