Much of our work today depends on our ability to influence groups of people we lead or work with on projects. Groups are made up of many personalities, mindsets, motives, and agendas, some explicit and some hidden, so having a specific strategy for influencing teams can mean the difference between success and failure.
To successfully lead a group or team, consider the following dos and don’ts. These tips will help you be an effective influencer and prepare for the unique challenges you are likely to experience when looking to influence teams and groups.
Mentally separate the group. Prior knowledge is essential for efficient planning, and to influence the people in the group, you should address each of them before the meeting takes place. Think of the group as a collection of individuals, each with opinions and issues that you must try to understand in order to influence them. Put yourself in the shoes of each team member and make some assumptions about what your main concerns might be so that you can create a strategy for the people you will have to influence. For example, if you look at the people on a work team, you might think:
If it were ___, what would worry me the most?
What would ___ respond to my efforts to influence the group?
If you were ___, how would you respond to “me”?
What does ___ feel like you have to win and lose?
Form a coalition of common ground. Again, before the group meets, reach out to those you have identified as key stakeholders and listen to their concerns. Review the assumptions you have made. Ask questions to find out the main stakeholder concerns, how each sees the issues, and where you might experience resistance.
Consider revealing something on your own if you think it’s appropriate, such as similar situations you may have been in or ways you think you can identify with the position of a key member.
When you have established a relationship with these key people, you will establish your focus and be prepared to capitalize on common ground issues when the full group meets. You can open the meeting by saying something like, “I know none of us in this room are really grateful for the change right now. We all have something to lose from this proposal, but we all have something to gain. I think we can work together. to make that gain greater than the loss. “
Make your desired results clear. From the group’s first meeting, let them know what you hope the team will accomplish. Create a vision for the group by presenting a clear picture of future success; This can play a key role in your ability to influence them. For example, you might say, “What I can see us doing today is coming up with a strategy that we can all accept and achieve.” Or “I can see us looking back at this meeting a year from now and saying that’s when we really turned things around.”
Provide a justification for your ideas. Supporting your arguments with facts shows that you have done your “homework” and provides a good balance to your vision. Remember, people can be convinced by rational reasoning, but they are more likely to move into action when rationality is supplemented with emotion-based arguments.
Ask open and focused questions. Your goal should be inclusion and building a relationship with everyone in the group. Without being passive or giving a lot of ground, ask how, what, where and why questions that break down, focusing on a particular issue or statement. For instance:
“How do you suggest we proceed with an initiative like this?”
“What are some of the ways that you think we could move more quickly on these issues?”
“Can you tell me more about your concerns?”
“What do you think we should do, ___?”
“Who do you think we should add to make this happen?”
Create a “brainstorming” atmosphere. Let the group know that they will need to create and explore many options and that you are open to hearing their ideas. Motivate the group by establishing ground rules for brainstorming and how the group will listen to each other to promote open thinking.
Vote when appropriate. Votes must be private because when people must take a public position, they will naturally feel more defensive. Always vote only when there are several options on the table. Before voting, keep people open and thinking about the possibilities, rather than just giving them two options: this or that. Otherwise, they will select you and have a tendency to defend their choice, even if they do not wholeheartedly believe in it.
NOT TO DO
Do not allow people to take a fixed position. To avoid being defensive, encourage openness and collaboration early on. If people take a position too early, they will tend to dig in and defend it. Suggest putting several options on a flip chart and then narrowing them down to the top three before voting. If you do your homework, you won’t be surprised by team members who come to the meeting with fixed positions in mind trying to move on. The best way to deal with this when it happens is to say, “I know some people have a solid idea about how we should do this. I’ll put that option on the board. I also want to have a couple more options. Here too, so which ones do are some other possibilities? “
Don’t put people in like-minded discussion groups. To encourage diversity of opinion, group people together as much as possible who have contrasting points of view. That way, instead of reinforcing each other’s positions, the groups will explore new territory and create new material through the interaction of their ideas. Combine groups to discuss with each other and you eliminate self-reinforcing “groupthink”.
Don’t let objections sabotage the team. When a member of the team raises an objection, it is not necessary for him to sink the boat; Rather, view objections as signals of an opportunity to gain information that will allow you to influence the group. Dig deeper into objections and empathize with the team members raising them, really listening to what they have to say about why they disagree. Then take some time to reflect on the information before trying to overcome the objection. Do not give an answer too quickly or the objector will feel that he did not really listen or that he is giving a ready answer.
Let’s go Team! Influence your path to success
Great communication skills are essential for you to effectively influence teams and groups. You cannot lead a group well if you attend the meeting “cold.” You need to do your homework ahead of time, communicating with key stakeholders individually, so you can understand their concerns and move the team in the direction you want it to go. When you are prepared, but remain flexible, your influence will also extend to those in the group who tend to hunker down behind a predetermined position to defend it. Practicing and honing your team’s influencing strategy will lead to the success of your group, your project, and you!