Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Who is more important if you want to influence someone…You or Them? Think about a time when you struggled to influence an individual and failed. Did you base your message on your style or their style? If you are a leader struggling in this area, perhaps it is time to consider emotional intelligence in your approach.
Of the 24 workshops I teach, “Leading with Emotional Intelligence” is by far my most requested. The reason for this is partially due to the reliance on technology and the increasingly impersonal approach to management by leaders relying on e-mail to communicate with employees. This makes it extremely difficult to build trust and closeness with your team if you’re a leader. In turn, it makes it even more difficult for leaders to influence employees to change direction, motivate, and inspire. That said, there are ways to tweak your approach using some specific, effective emotional intelligence techniques.
Before we review a few techniques, let’s define emotional intelligence or EQ. I define emotional intelligence in two distinct parts. The first part of EQ is understanding yourself and managing your behavior. Who cares if you know that you’re a hothead if you can’t manage your temper? The second part of EQ is understanding others and managing that social relationship(s). Do you possess the ability to read others and the subtle cues that they relay to you? Do you know the mindset and/or style of the individual(s) in front of you and more importantly do you consider that in your communication(s)?
Imagine you are a very straight-forward leader who bases his decisions more on logic and data than emotion and relationships. You inherit a team that is very relationship-oriented and bases their decisions on emotions and the effect decisions have on people/relationships rather than logic, data and the bottom line. How do you approach your new team? Do you continue to lead based on your approach and the way you think? After all, your previous team thought like you and you achieved great results.
You walk into your first meeting with your new team and they inform you that they like to begin each meeting recognizing anniversaries and birthdays as well as going around the room and hearing about how each member spent their weekend. You immediately dismiss that approach and inform the team that time is limited, and you need to jump right into the agenda. What do you think their reaction will be either implicitly or explicitly? Do you think they will be focused on your agenda or are their minds now wandering to a place where they are extremely distracted?
Now imagine a different scenario where you are a leader with a different style altogether. You are trying to influence one of your counterparts in another department whom you have no position power over. Imagine you are a big picture leader who loves to come up with new, innovative, and creative ideas. You are a trendsetter, but you usually leave the details up to others. Now imagine your counterpart is a detail-oriented person. She focusses on organization, checklists, detailed agendas, and ensuring all her Ts are crossed and Is dotted.
If you are trying to influence a person like this but come to your initial meeting with no details, no agenda, little research or organized format, imagine the effect that approach would have on a detail-oriented individual. Do you think they are turned off? Do you think they are truly listening to your idea or are they completely distracted by your lack of organization and preparation?
In both scenarios, success is going to be an uphill climb. I coach people on emotional intelligence and challenge them to try a different approach. I stress the point of not changing who they are but to maybe think about coming to the middle and meeting the person they are trying to influence halfway. Could you spend a little time at the onset of each meeting with your staff getting to know them just a bit? Could you allocate 5-10 minutes in order to satisfy their itch to come together as a team? Could you come to your one-on-one meeting with the counterpart you are trying to influence with a simple agenda or a few key research items to provide them with what they need in order to truly engage in your pitch?
These are the questions that many leaders fail to ask themselves and inevitably fail at their attempt to influence the audience in front of them. Once again, who are you trying to convince them or you? I joke in my coaching sessions with my leaders that if you are going to try to influence only based on your own style, go buy yourself a mirror. However, if you’re trying to change an individual’s or group’s perspective and want to influence them to behave differently, try approaching the conversation based on their style, thought process, and approach instead of yours.