When it comes to selling your ideas across your team or organization; do you consciously frame your thinking?
Note the arrow on the top of this diagram. When we only evaluate what we did to produce a positive / negative result, rather than going one step further to ask ourselves “why”, we miss an important learning opportunity.
These situations are often exacerbated by a real or perceived power differential and the fear of being perceived badly, or failing, or both. For example, sometimes clients assume they can't be themselves with those who hold more organizational power, and in that case, we explore what gets in the way of thinking clearly about influencing their boss and others who are important to their success. People often ask me, “Do you really think I can say what I think without being perceived badly?”
While it’s true that some people possess more skill at winning others over to their ideas, the ability to influence is a skill everyone can acquire and continuously improve upon over the course of their life and career.
Assumption #1: “My work should speak for itself.”
(e.g. “I should be considered for promotion” or “I shouldn’t have to ask for more money” or “It’s not my responsibility to get other people to “buy-in” to what’s right or best for the company.”)…
Coaching tip: Notice “should” is a judgment of others, based on your expectations. Other people don’t live in your head. Go one level deeper and think about what you want and how that benefits you and others. Remain open and curious and willing to vet your assumptions. Often they are true for you, but not necessarily true for others.
Assumption #2: “They should … (follow the procedure, the rules…)
Coaching tip: Reduce stress by eliminating “should” from your vocabulary. Accept and embrace what is and move forward from there with curiosity about “why” rather than “what.” Welcome your and everybody else’s learning curves. Maya Angelou said, “When people know better, they do better.”
Assumption #3: It’s not appropriate to interact with those above me in the same way I do with my peers.
(I might get in trouble if I say what I really think or I may be perceived badly.)
Coaching tip: For the purpose of the discussion you’re having with those above you, rethink your notions about what organizational hierarchy means because its often so much less relevant to the person you’re trying to influence than it feels to you. Leaders and managers simply want good ideas to emerge and people to take action to solve problems. Leaders often tell me they’re truly surprised that others are reluctant to weigh in on important issues.
Let go of the need to be the smartest, most right or in control. Few people can be influenced by people who show up that way. Avoid the rabbit hole of locking yourself into a position that doesn't allow room for the underlying concerns of each person or department to be identified and worked through. (If you fall into this trap, you'll feel the need to protect your ego. This sets up a win lose / us-them posture and you’ll appear stubborn and inflexible.)
Coaching tip: Embrace not having all the answers. Instead, create a climate that allows imagination and creativity while (re)framing the issue and options for moving forward. “Find your voice” by setting an intention to constructively assert your ideas more regularly. Notice what gets traction and celebrate small victories; replicate success. If an idea gets shot down, ask yourself what fundamental assumptions need to be tweaked. Be kind to yourself during the process. If at first you don’t succeed, try another approach.
Assumption #4: (This other person) has a personal / professional agenda, so I can’t….
Coaching Tip: If you want to influence someone, you need to understand what they think and how they feel with the same emotional energy they’re experiencing. Hold open the possibility that any resistance is not aimed at you personally. Remain curious and continue to listen to fully uncover what people don’t yet understand or can’t yet support. Integrate their feedback into your evolving solution.
Assumption #5: That won’t work (because I haven’t been able to make it work so far).
Coaching Tip: Notice what you tell yourself about what won’t work. Is there evidence to support that conclusion or are you bringing baggage with you and believing someone else is getting in your way? When you lack confidence in your ability to sell your ideas, you may imagine catastrophic outcomes driven by black-and-white thinking, e.g., I'll either win or fall flat on my face; there will be a big blow up that can’t be remedied; I won’t be able to express myself in the moment
Establish a clear intention to reach both an agreeable solution and to strengthen your relationship through the process. Don't underestimate the importance of your responsibility to continually build trust by actively listening. Paraphrase what you’re hearing to build agreement. People will get behind decisions they co-create.
Get right with yourself first. Clearly articulate what you want and why it is important to you.
Be open and transparent about your process for creating common ground as this will build trust and help you and others generate more options and better results.