We’ve all been a situation where we need to work hard to win over someone over in the workplace. Whether it’s a new team, the Board or the whole company you need to get on side - our step by step plan should definitely help you out:
Day 1 to Day 6
Your job this week is to get your head around the situation. Maybe you just acquired a small company and you want them to feel part of the family (and keep them from leaving), or possibly you have a new strategy you would like an existing team to adopt. Whatever the situation, you need to understand 100% what you're talking about so your reasoning could stand up to the scrutiny of a board of directors, or your son's nursery group (especially the nursery group).
I recently watched a great video of a physicist explaining gravitational fields and black holes to students using a trampoline and rubber balls. What it demonstrated to me was that no matter the complexity of the subject you're talking about, if you have a deep understanding of the subject and your audience you are on the right track to helping them understand what you're talking about. So after week 1 you will have one element: an understanding of the subject. The next step is getting to know your audience.
Day 7 to day 30
As Mother Teresa once said, ‘there is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread’ and this is equally important in business as in the rest of our lives. Your job for the next couple of weeks is to take the time to listen to the team and to understand their point of view. You don’t necessarily have to agree, but if you can put yourself in their shoes and understand their point of view then you’re doing the important bit. Being in a small business, you will hopefully have a much better chance at knowing most of the people you will be trying to win over than those at larger corporations, but this might still take some effort to put your own agenda to one side to hear out the team.
The key thing to avoid here is listening to what the person is saying, hearing something mentioned that you have a really good point about, and switching off until they stop talking so you can say your interesting point. Doing this really turns down our ability to listen and understand people.
Take, for example, a recent exit interview I was in. The person said that one of the reasons they were leaving was that they’d been offered a much higher salary, one that we couldn’t match. Whilst there were reasons queueing up in my mind about why our salaries were at the level they were and why our package was competitive I put that to one side and tried to understand why salary was important to the person. As it turned out they didn’t actually care too much about the salary and had been offered higher salaries pretty much since they started. They had eventually had a bad experience where they didn’t feel their work was appreciated so the offers of higher salary stopped falling on deaf ears. After the interview the person told me they actually felt a lot better having got it all off their chest.
Once you have this rapport with people and they see that you’re willing to take the time to understand them they will put a lot more stock in your words than if you hadn’t taken that time.
Day 30 to day 37
Time to take what you’ve got so far and start actually talking to the team about your particular message you want to get across. Channelling the spirit of that physicist with the trampoline (how often do you get to say that?) you will need to use your understanding of what you want to say and why, and mix it with what you know about the different team members’ motivations and concerns so you can create a message that is well thought through and accessible to the audience.
Be ready to take difficult questions and, if you’re feeling brave, encourage them. Hopefully by this point you will be able to anticipate what the questions will be and the root of what the questioner is asking about.
Day 38 to 60
As the old adage goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’. These weeks are your chance to put your money where your mouth is and do whatever you’ve said you will do. This might be demonstrating something that shows your commitment to what you’ve said, like booking tickets for the new team to come and visit HQ to feel part of the family, or to put a process in place that backs up your new strategy (or stop an old process that doesn’t fit any more).
People will often take words lightly and wait for something to actually happen before believing what has been said will actually happen. Until you take some sort of action to back up what you have said, you’ll still have your skeptics. So don’t hesitate to back your message up with tangible action, multiple times. If you do this enough people will start to see that something is happening and be more likely to engage with it.
it is also important to consider what other key people are doing or have done in the past. For example, if half your management team are changing how they operate and the other half are going a different direction or standing still then people may doubt that what has been communicated is genuinely believed by senior management.
Days 60 to 90
This time period will be a good time to take stock of how it’s going. Have the staff started engaging with the message? Did you lose focus and stop demonstrating what you mean? After a month or two was the original message what you meant to say or do you need to clarify or course correct?
At this point you should feel comfortable revisiting any of the stages that have come before as needed to make sure everything is still on track and running smoothly. I know a yoga teacher who told me that it takes 3 months to form a new habit; 1 month to break the old habit, 1 month to learn the new way and 1 month to settle into the new habit. Although I’ve not managed 3 months of yoga in a row there is some wisdom in this. I have seen some great messages that have been rushed fall by the wayside and others that have been less powerful stick around much longer because of the consistency of approach discussed above. So in that spirit, namaste and good luck!
Photo credit: soccer practise by woodleywonderworks