Pushing, Pulling or Motivating?
Andrew Carnegie once said, “You cannot push someone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb.” Influencing another person to take a course of action is a difficult task, one that requires patience and perseverance. Regardless of whether you are trying to improve employee productivity or increase treatment acceptance from patients, influence is about shaping others’ thinking and/or actions.
Keep in mind that whatever motivates you may not motivate someone else. In fact, if you expect others to be like you, you’ll be trapped into disapproving of them and being angry that they aren’t doing what you want them to do. Resentment builds, creating tension and conflict.
Unfortunately in our frantic pace to get things done, we’re often too busy ‘telling’ instead of ‘selling’. If you’re going to succeed in influencing someone to 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 and the patients in your operatory is a key factor in productivity and profitability. If you want to influence an employee to change, you have to help her/him see that change is in their best interest.
There is no ‘right’ way to influence because it is situational and 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 that approach just doesn’t work in non-emergency situations. If you try to overpower others with your knowledge and expertise, you’ll have staff turnover and patient departures because nobody likes that style.
Influence starts by connecting with your employees and your patients. 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 and patients feel valued.
Even if you disagree with an employee or a patient’s view, acknowledge their perspective. Don’t 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 respected.
When I am coaching leaders, my first step is to ask about the obstacles that are preventing progress. Asking in this manner removes the suggestion that the person is a failure. It still identifies the problem(s) but the shortcoming is mine - I'm the one who does not understand. Of course, once the person identifies the obstacles, the next step is to get him/her to begin suggesting how the obstacles can be removed. This helps them to see that THEY are the problem solver and I can reinforce that he/she has the ability to promote his or her own success.
Once you know more about another person’s 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.
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.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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