INFLUENCING DECISION MAKERS
“ I would assume someone at this level …” followed by “ should know what is happening ”, “ should be more logical ”, “ wouldn ’ t make that kind of mistake ”, or “ would never engage in such inappropriate behavior ”? Even the best of leaders are human . We all make mistakes . When your managers make mistakes , focus more on helping them than judging them . Treat decision makers with the same courtesy that you would treat customers – don ’ t be disrespectful . While it is important to avoid ‘ kissing up ’ to decision makers , it is just as important to avoid the opposite reaction . a surprising number of middle managers spend hours ‘ trashing ’ the company and its or other co-workers .
Before speaking it is generally good to ask four questions :
• Will this comment help our company ?
• Will this comment help our customers ?
• Will this comment help the person that I am talking to ?
• Will this comment help the person that I am talking about ?
If the answers are no , no , no , and no – don ’ t say it ! There is a big difference between total honesty and dysfunctional disclosure .
SUPPORT THE FINAL DECISION OF THE ORGANIZATION – DON ’ T SAY , “ THEY MADE ME TELL YOU ” TO DIRECT REPORTS .
Assuming that the final decision of the organization is not immoral , illegal or unethical – go out and try to make it work ! Managers who consistently say , “ They told me to tell you ” to co-workers are seen as ‘ messengers ’ not leaders . By demonstrating our lack of commitment to the final decision we may sabotage the chances for effective execution .
A simple guideline for communicating difficult decisions is to ask , “ How would I want someone to communicate to their people if they were passing down my final decision and they disagreed with me ?” Treat decision makers in the same way that you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed .
MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE – DON ’ T JUST TRY TO ‘ WIN ’ OR ‘ BE RIGHT ’.
We can easily become more focused on what others are doing wrong , than how we can make things better . An important guideline in influencing up is to always remember your goal – make a positive difference for the organization .
When I was interviewed in the Harvard Business Review , I was asked , “ What is the most common ‘ area for improvement ’ for the executives that you meet ?” My answer was , “ Winning too much .” Focus on making a difference . The more other people can ‘ be right ’ or ‘ win ’ with your idea , the more likely your idea is to be successfully executed .
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE – ‘ LET GO ’ OF THE PAST .
One of the most important behaviors to avoid is ‘ whining ’ about the past . Have you ever managed someone who incessantly whined about how bad things are ? When people consistently whine , they inhibit any change they may have for impacting the future .
Successful people love getting ideas aimed at helping them achieve their goals for the future . They dislike being ‘ proven wrong ’ because of their mistakes in the past . By focusing on the future , you can concentrate on what can be achieved tomorrow , as opposed to what was not achieved yesterday . This future orientation may dramatically increase your odds of effectively influencing decision makers .
In summary , think of the years that you have spent ‘ perfecting your craft ’. Think of all of the knowledge that you have accumulated . Think about how your knowledge can potentially benefit your organization . How much energy have you invested in acquiring all of this knowledge ? How much energy have you invested in learning to present this knowledge to decision makers – so that you can make a real difference ? My hope is that by making a small investment in learning to influence decision makers , you can make a large , positive difference for the future of your organization . +
At the recent Thinkers50 ceremony in London , Marshall was recognized again as the World ’ s # 1 Leadership Thinker and # 1 Executive Coach . His newest book , Triggers , is a # 1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller , as well as an Amazon Best Business Book of the Year .
Dr . Goldsmith is the author or editor of 35 books , which have sold over two million copies , been translated into 30 languages and become best sellers in 12 countries .
Marshall ’ s other books include : Succession : Are You Ready ? – a WSJ best seller , The Leader of the Future - a BusinessWeek best seller . Three of his books have been American Library Association – Choice Award winners for best academic business books of the year .
MarshallGoldsmith . com