Have you ever noticed that magnets both attract and repel?
If you place them end to end one way, they cling strongly to each other. But if you turn one of the magnets around so that different ends are facing each other, they begin to move away from one another and simply cannot connect.
Magnets are a lot like our attempts at influencing others
Done well, we can attract the support, resources, and commitment we need to accomplish things. We can lead people to sing the merits of our ideas and creations as though they were their own. We can transform our adversaries into allies. And we can dissolve the greatest of obstacles in the same way water erodes the hardest of surfaces.
But sometimes our best attempts to persuade people end up driving them away
Despite the brilliant case you’ve created for action, and the fact that people have nodded their heads in support, they fail to take action and nothing gets done. Even though you’ve addressed every imaginable objection with your customer, the sale falls through (or goes to your competitor).
Some people confuse influence with authority and manipulation
And they are flummoxed when they get short term compliance without long term commitment. They may not recognize that they are surrounded by yes people who tell them only what they want to hear and fail to bring up important information that could derail their efforts. And they may not realize that people are walking on eggshells around them lest they trigger an emotional outburst.
This leads to personal and organizational ineffectiveness at best, and more often than not low morale and high turnover. Often people who are very passionate and authoritative rely more on their positional power than on true influence and end up alienating the very people they need in order to succeed.
Other people aren’t really sure how to influence — and don’t use their magnets at all
Some of these people have really great ideas, but they don’t know how to communicate them in a compelling way or take steps to get the support they need. So they never really act on them and end up cheating themselves and their organizations out of what could have been amazing accomplishments.
Some equate visibility with arrogance and humility with playing small
In their hesitance to “toot their own horns” they fly under the radar, fail to speak up in meetings to promote their causes, and remain largely anonymous. When people like this lead organizations they really should be championing and advocating for, everyone loses.
Others shy away from conflict or saying anything that could provoke discomfort
These people hold back on sharing what they are really thinking and tend to accommodate in an effort to maintain harmony. But too much of this behavior breeds resentment and can lead to passive aggressive behavior. And it keeps others from hearing the kind of constructive feedback that can help them correct problematic behavior and lead to exceptional performance and strong teamwork.
But how do you know whether your attempts to influence magnetize or repel?
People who magnetize tend to…
- listen more than they talk
- take steps to find out what people care about
- go to great lengths to surface objections (rather than submerge them)
- invite (and value) input and suggestions
- have confidence that keeps them from being desperate or needy
- get people’s commitment (rather than just compliance)
- be included in strategic discussions
- become trusted advisors (regardless of their title or role)
People who repel tend to…
- talk more than they listen
- place their own needs over those of others
- hammer objections (rather than being curious about them)
- fail to ask for input or to solicit reactions to what they’ve said
- appear controlling, desperate, or needy
- get people’s compliance (but not their commitment)
- wonder why they weren’t invited to strategic discussions
- rely on their positional authority (rather than earning the trust of others)
People who tend to shy away from influence tend to…
- withdraw from conversations and discussions
- accommodate even if they don’t agree
- shut down in the face of objections
- resist asking for help, feedback, suggestions or input (and go it alone)
- lack confidence and allow their doubt to keep them from acting (or talking)
- fail to realize they need (or could get) others’ commitment
- be overlooked as someone who could contribute to strategic discussions
- undervalue themselves and their contributions and remain silent
If your ability to influence others isn’t what you’d like it to be, take heart
Influence is something that can always be developed and improved. Below are some steps you can take and resources you can utilize to ensure that your magnets are facing the right direction and attracting the results and the people that are important to your success.
Check out these articles
- Three Common Mistakes Leaders Make When Trying to Influence Others — and What to Do Instead
- What the Best Leaders Know About Getting Feedback (that the worst ignore)
- How to Lead Through Uncertainty
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