When it comes to managing, subtlety can prove just as effective as more heavy-handed techniques, especially when dealing with team members who have strong opinions. You want employees who will willingly go along with the strategy, rather than act as blockers. (Or as Dwight D. Eisenhower once reportedly put it: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”)
What are some good techniques for managing and influencing without bringing the proverbial hammer down? Take a look:
Understand Any Resistance to Change
Do your reports not seem all that excited about a new initiative? Is there grumbling in the ranks about the company’s strategy? Before you confront the issue, make sure you understand the reasons behind their skepticism. When talking to your team members, keep the following questions in mind:
- Does the team member understand all aspects of the strategy?
- Does the team member understand the problems or issues that the strategy will solve?
- Does the team member understand what will happen if the strategy isn’t implemented?
Once you’ve voiced the benefits of the strategy, the resisting team member may have questions—or even an alternate strategy. Listen to them, and be prepared to (politely) address those concerns.
Adapt to Social Styles
Everyone has a different “social style,” or way of approaching life. In broadest strokes, there are four primary social styles:
Driver: Direct, results-orientated
Expressive: Outgoing, creative, social
Amiable: Dependable, easygoing, sensitive
Analytical: Systematic, accurate, structured, logical
Once you understand your report’s “style,” you can more effectively respond to their concerns or resistance:
- Drivers are best influenced through direct but brief, results-orientated discussions.
- Expressives want social contact; including them in any decision-making is the best way to sway them.
- Amiables place a high regard on harmony and like to avoid personal risk. In order to best influence an Amiable, show patience and query about their feelings.
- Analyticals are focused on ideas, so it’s best to provide them with hard evidence and invite their critiques.
Make Your Points… And Stress the Positives
When pitching ideas to others, it is important to create a good order and flow of points to set the scene for maximum receptivity. Start with something that catches their attention (short, personal stories are always good); from there, move on to explaining the problem.
Only after explaining the problem, tell them what you are suggesting, as well as the benefits if the problem is solved. Be explicit, and don’t assume that people will magically know what you expect of them. Clearly show how your idea will create more value than the cost.
If your idea links to a key organizational strategy, then make the link explicit—never assume that others will do that. With a detailed enough explanation, you can greatly increase the odds of your good ideas being taken to heart.