Getting a result that meets the legitimate needs of both sides. The word legitimate is important. It is not a legitimate need, for instance, if you have a gunman holding a planeload of passengers hostage, and he asks for fuel to fly the plane to another airport. It is a legitimate need if a team member asks you to OK having a vacation in August because his children have their time off from school then. It is legitimate for you to think this may not be a good idea if everyone else in the team is also away and there is continuing demand for your services as a team.
Achieving results which stick. Influencing , which seems to get a good result at the time but which is not sustained, is not effective influencing. For instance, if you and a member of your team agree that she will redo a piece of work and she then reneges on the deal, you have failed as an influencer.
Improving, or at the very least, not damaging the relationship between the people involved. This is where the might is right style of influencing always fails. People may appear to agree. They may appear compliant. But over time, the cracks begin to show. A boss who forces a team member to do his or her bidding may achieve a short-term gain, but in the longer term the employee will have the last word – by leaving, by complaining, or by inflicting damage in some way. When one side has been forced to do something, a relationship of trust is destroyed and will be very hard to rebuild.
It’s very easy to confuse influencing with advice-giving. Here are some situations where influencing is needed:
- A member of your team approaches you about a project she is working on. She knows you have more experience in the subject of the project and asks, “What would you do?”
- You can see that a colleague is getting into difficulties with his drinking. He’s in the bar every lunch hour and again after work. People are beginning to talk about the smell of beer that hangs around him. What would you do?
The easy answers are:
- Tell the young member of your team how you would solve the problem; after all, she has actually asked you for your experience.
- To take your colleague aside and tell him that drinking is damaging his health and his reputation. He should control his alcohol intake and, if he can’t do that, then he should get some professional help.
The likely results
But let’s look a little more closely at what would be likely to happen if you gave the above responses.
- With the team member, she gets her answer and the problem appears to be solved. But in the longer term, she has not done any thinking of her own, and you are reinforced in her mind as the person with the answers. Her own ability to develop has been curtailed.
- With the colleague, it is unlikely that he doesn’t already know he has a problem with his drinking. He is probably worried about it and its causes. Giving him advice may mean that he does it in less public places, rather than controlling his drinking.
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