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Real Influence – Part 1

| December 3, 2013

by Jim Bruce

I’ve titled this week’s Tuesday Reading “Real Influence” from the title of Mark Goulston and John Ullmen’s book “Real Influence:  Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In.”  Goulston is a business psychiatrist, executive coach and cofounder of Heartfelt Leadership.  Ullmen oversees the website and teaches at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.  This reading is drawn from four HBR blog posts from the two authors.

A part of the research for their book “Real Influence,” Goulston and Ullmen interviewed individuals who were known for getting things done.  One of the questions they asked was “Who persuaded you to do something really important?”  The answer was “Nobody.”  Probing further they asked:  “Who influenced you to become the person you are?”  From the answers they got to this question, they identified four steps toward becoming a strong influencer.

  1. Focus on a Great Outcome  –  Rather than being persuaded to do something important, people want to see the picture of a great outcome that will influence them to get to a better place.  So, what would a great outcome be for your team, your department, yourself?  How can you paint that picture and then use your influence to get there?
  2. Listen Past Your Blind Spots  –  To invite genuine buy-in and engagement, we need to step-up our listening practice so that we listen with a strong motivation to both learn and understand.  The authors identify four levels of listening:
  • Level 1:  Avoidance Listening = Listening Over.  This is the listening we do when we have no interest in what is being said.  We nod and smile and look pre-occupied.
  • Level 2:  Defensive Listening = Listening At.  Here we listen with our defenses up, preparing counter arguments, ready to react, and slow to consider.  People who listen this way are those Mark Twain was speaking of when he said “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses.”
  • Level 3:  Problem-Solving Listening = Listening To.  This is listening in order to move things forward.  If you want a solution, this is for you.
  • Level 4:  Connective Listening = Listening Into.  Here we listen to discover what’s going on inside the person.  It’s listening to the person’s terms, not yours.  Here you don’t defend your ideas, your approach, or explain yourself, or offer quick fixes.

Focusing on a great outcome and listening beyond your blind spots are the first two of Goulston and Ullmen’s four steps  to becoming a strong influencer.  Take time this week to put these two tools into practice.

.  .  .  .     jim