You cannot NOT influence people.
Think about it for a moment. That’s is an interesting concept, eh?
Even if you don’t say anything, that still speaks volumes.
It’s not only what you say to your team that will influence them. It’s the way it’s said.
So, the only question should be:
“Is it the influence you want to have?”
When was the last time you paused to think about how you want to influence someone’s thoughts and actions, simply by what you say and how you say it?
I recall working with a particular retailer some time back whose senior leaders had been mis-directing their teams every day, without even knowing it.
Like most retailers I know, this one had established a regular pattern of reviewing the week’s sales performance against last year, budget, forecast, etc.
So, when visiting stores, the first thing senior and regional managers would ask went something like:
“what happened yesterday / last week?”
This played out in almost every conversation I observed and will be familiar to many of you, too. It is normal, how we’ve been taught and what we’ve experienced ourselves, so why wouldn’t we do this?
Well, when you stop to consider this, it becomes clear that the store team’s attention is being directed to past performance, often to gather reasons and excuses for under performance.
Of course, if you want analysis rather than action, then this is a really useful pattern.
But, if you want to influence your team to come up with ways of improving business, then there are better ways to open the conversation!
By simply replacing this existing pattern with one that uses future paced language such as “what are you aiming for this week?” or “to achieve your goal for today, what can you learn from last week?“, the regional managers were able to influence the team’s attention away from excuse, towards possibility and action.
Another example emerged over a latte with one of the regional managers before a store visit.
As we talked, she explained how her team were always coming up with reasons and excuses for sales performance rather than specific actions for improving it over the coming week and month.
We chatted further, until she suddenly slapped her forehead and exclaimed “Doh!“
In that glorious Homer Simpson moment, she realised the power of her words!
A simple form she’d designed, with the intention of helping her team identify actions to improve performance, contained a comments box with the title: REASONS.
By simply changing this box to ACTIONS, her team’s attention was gently influenced toward future possibilities and progress, as opposed to past excuses.
Call to Action
Make sure that you say what you say, in a way that is purposeful.
Become a conscious influencer, use your language to direct people’s attention in the direction you want and to support the behaviour you want to observe.
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