Use the Carrot not the Stick: The Art of Influencing Effectively
The Sun and the Wind made a bet. They challenged each other to see who could get the man to take off his coat faster. The Wind went first and blew fiercely, expecting to strip the man of his garment. However, the harder the Wind blew, the more the man clung to his overcoat. Ultimately the Wind gave up. The Sun smiled, and then warmed the air temperature so high that the man quickly removed the coat himself.
The moral of this little parable is that people don't resist change, they resist being changed. As a dental leader, you will be significantly more successful when you understand change and how to influence it in others.
Leadership is about influencing others…to think differently or to behave differently. It is the ability to consistently gain support for your views and opinions, and to achieve goals through the work of others.
There is no ‘right’ way to influence because leadership is contextual. For example, if there’s a fire in the office, ordering people to the nearest exit is quite effective not to mention necessary for survival. But taking a ‘Wind’ approach just doesn’t work in non-emergency situations. The days of the Do-As-I-Say boss are gone; even the military puts its top ranks through leadership training now. "Command and control" is no longer a way to influence people. If you lead that way, you’ll pay -- literally. You’ll have staff turnover and patient departures because nobody likes that style.
If you’re going to succeed in influencing change, find the carrot and put away the stick. People are motivated for their reasons, not yours. And your ability to understand what drives the people on your team is a key factor in productivity and profitability. If you want an employee to change, you have to help her/him decide the change is in their best interest. Just as the Sun convinced the man to remove his overcoat, you need to influence, not force change.
Influence starts by connecting with your employees. Learn about the person/people you want to influence. Try to understand their perspectives and beliefs. By knowing their concerns, fears and assumptions, you increase your ability to gain cooperation. This also enables you to counter any resistance by pointing out how it will help them. The real benefit in truly understanding their perspective, however, is that you make employees feel valued…and gain loyalty.
Even if you disagree with an employee’s view, acknowledge their perspective. You don’t need to point out the flaws in their thinking even if you can find 10 reasons why they’re wrong. Part of the reason people resist change is that they don’t feel validated or acknowledged.
Once you know more about their issues and you acknowledge their perspective, then – and only then – help them see a different point of view. Talk to them about the differences in your perspectives. Reduce their fears. Build a clearer picture of the future after the change, explaining the parts of it that will be of greatest interest and benefit to them.
Be aware of natural temperaments. Some people are more open and move more quickly to a new approach or system. Others are more cautious. Not everyone will move at the same rate.
Persevere with patience. Give people some time. Let them reflect on what you have asked of them. Give them time to adjust to a new perspective in their mind. By allowing some time to pass you also help them to 'save face' as they start to agree with a change that they had previously resisted.
Successfully influencing others is an invaluable skill you can learn to do more effectively. I assure you that the more adept you are at appealing to the needs of others, the sooner you’ll negotiate your way from confrontation to cooperation.
Stop being the Wind. Start acting like the Sun and help your team to warm up to the idea of change. It’s in your best interest to show them how it’s in their best interest.
To strengthen your ability to influence your team, contact Dr. Haller at email@example.com.
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