How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others

influence

Bring Out the Best

As leaders, we are often wondering what the best way is to bring out the best in our organizations. We want to help people exceed all expectations and accomplish more than they thought possible.

Yet, the current feedback mechanisms and performance appraisal processes in our organizations often don’t work toward that goal. In fact, Tim Irwin, author of Extraordinary Influence: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others, argues that they do just the opposite. Tim Irwin, PhD is an author, speaker, and leading authority on leadership.

I recently asked Tim to share his perspective on negativity and criticism at work.

 

“Leadership is influence-nothing more, nothing less.” -John Maxwell

 

What are a few things we often get wrong with criticism in the workplace?

Our brains are hardwired to detect anything that threatens our physical or emotional safety. When a person senses criticism, it engages a “negativity bias” in our brains and generally shuts down the parts of our brains responsible for creativity and problem solving. This is just one reason the often-used term “constructive criticism” is such an oxymoron.

 

Research: Science has revealed that affirmation sets in motion huge positive changes in the brain.

 

Avoid Words of Death

What are Words of Death?

The workplace, and society in general, are filled with critical words and phrases. For example, in some organizations, the phrase “One Throat to Choke” is used to describe the need for accountability on a project or other initiative. While maybe colorful and entertaining at some level, the use of these words and many others diminish us, at least at an unconscious level. Leaders routinely use statements such as, “I’m going to hold your feet to the fire,” (a torture method in the middle ages) to motivate employees and presumably to get them to work harder. Our brains thrive on affirmation not threats.

 

Research: Affirmation activates areas of the brain associated with calmness and openness to new ideas.

 

If we are on the receiving end of them, what can we do to limit their impact on us?

If it’s our present boss, we may learn some valuable lessons about how not to lead and motivate others. If a “Words of Death” culture prevails in our organization, we may need to consider, “Do I want to spend 40 to 60 hours a week or more in such a toxic environment?”

 

Share an example of “alliance feedback” that works to bring out someone’s highest potential.influence

Recently I met with a senior officer of a company who had some significant deficits in “Emotional Intelligence.” I could have said, “You have the empathy of a fence post, and no one trusts you.” Those were actually true statements. Would he have heard my feedback and acted on it in a conscientious manner? Doubtful. Instead, I said, “I know you aspire to a larger role in your company, and I think that is a worthwhile and achievable goal. In order to realize that aspiration, I recommend you work on collaborating with your peers more effectively by appreciating the challenges they face in reaching important goals.” What ensued was a very productive conversation about specific actions he could take to collaborate more effectively. He was eager to learn and not defensive in the slightest. The research is compelling that connecting feedback to personal hopes and aspirations bypasses the part of our brain that stays in hyper defense mode.

 

3 Faces of a Leader

10 Examples of Nudge Theory

swimming

Motivation

A few summers ago, I watched a father coaxing his daughter to jump into the pool. It brought back memories of me doing the same thing with my daughter years before.

She was adamantly refusing to leap. He was frustrated. And then something happened. He sweetened the offer with a promise of a grape popsicle.

Splash!

She was in the water before I even knew what happened.

That little incentive was a nudge. Motivation at its best.

I first became aware of nudge theory from the book, Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. The authors highlighted how we think and make choices. Others had written about it previously, most notably James Wilk before 1995.

Since then, I am more conscious looking for how others are trying to influence my behavior. I also use nudges to help me meet my own goals. Putting healthy food within reach and making it harder to reach unhealthy snacks falls in this category.

Do you use nudge theory?

Here are a few examples of it:

How to Become a Person of Genuine Influence

genuine influence

Lessons from The Go-Giver Influencer

Part of my daily gratitude practice reminds me of the wonderful people in my life, who encourage and influence me to greater heights each year. One of the most extraordinarily positive and influential people is my friend Bob Burg.

Long before my book, The Book of Mistakes, was published this year, Bob not only read it and endorsed it, but was the very first to interview me about it for his popular Go-Giver podcast. After the recording of that podcast was turned off, Bob was still giving me praise for the book and a double-dose of encouragement. That’s the way he is.

In my life, he’s a person of genuine influence.

You may know him from one of his many books. If you’re super-fortunate, you may have seen him speak live. And, if you don’t know him, well, today is a great day for you!

When Bob sent me the early draft of The Go-Giver Influencer: A Little Story About A Most Persuasive Idea, a new installment in the Go-Giver series, I read it that evening. It tells a powerful story and left me with several pages of notes to ponder. And I was honored that he asked me for an endorsement.

Since that book is out this week, I reached out to Bob with some questions about his new book and his perspective on the topic of influence.

 

“The single greatest people skill is a highly developed and authentic interest in the other person.” -Bob Burg

 

Be a Person of Genuine Influence

In Bob Burg terms, what does it mean to be a person of genuine influence?

Skip, influence itself – on a very basic level – can be defined simply as the ability to move a person(s) to a desired action, usually within the context of a specific goal. That’s its definition but not its essence. The essence of influence is “pull.” This as opposed to “push” (i.e., how far can you push a rope?). People with genuine influence don’t have a lot of push with people but rather a lot of pull. That’s because influence is really an attraction.

Great influencers, genuine influencers, attract people first to themselves and only then to their ideas. And they do this through discovering what that other person wants, needs, desires, and values. And they ask themselves questions to ensure that that is their focus.

They don’t do this as a form of manipulation, in order to self-centeredly get people to do their will, but rather as a way to build and serve everyone in the process.

Genuine influence itself is really then the ability to attain the results you want when working with or dealing with others but in such a way that everyone comes away from the situation far better off than they were before—and just as importantly, that all parties feel good about the results, about each other, and about themselves.

 

 

“Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.” -Bob Burg & John David Mann

 

The story is one that starts with adversarial negotiations between two characters. Was this negotiation based on a real one?

While not based on one specific event, it was indeed based on the many, many similar scenarios that occur every day. The interesting thing in this case is that both characters had exactly what the other wanted and needed. So, it should have been a marriage made in heaven, right? Yet, it was anything but that. Instead, each conversation resulted in their being even further apart. And…neither one understood what the other person was thinking, never mind what would most likely result in their being agreeable to a solution. This leads into your next question.

 

“Retrain yourself to respond to conflict and disagreement by unruffling your feelings. Make calm your default setting.” -Bob Burg & John David Mann

 

Understand Their Being

2 Core Motivators That Impact Our Decisions

2 Core Motivators

You walk into class and take your seat in a large lecture hall. It’s only the second week of law school and your senses remain on heightened alert. You’ve been warned about this particular class. The professor is known as tough. He sees his role as weeding out the students who are smart but cannot make it in the courtroom. Fail his class and you’re out.

Perhaps even more importantly, he runs the class like a courtroom. He will question you as if you were an attorney fighting for your client’s life. You watched what he did to one student in the last class, reducing the student to an emotional mess.

You’re determined not to show weakness. You’ve prepared and studied like never before.

That’s the way I felt during my first year of law school. Some level of fear, I learned, may have its place as a self-motivator. No one wanted to walk into class and look foolish and unprepared. More than pursuing a good grade, it was the fear of public humiliation that drove most students to study and prepare for class.

Whether you want to motivate yourself or others, there are motivators at the core of every action. Knowing what is driving you and others is critically important.

Recently, I saw Greg McEvilly’s talk on motivation. Greg suggests that fear and love are the twin drivers of most actions. Greg is the CEO of KAMMOK, a company that sells outdoor equipment specializing in hammocks. In graduate school, he began to ask questions about motivation and behavior. Why is it that people behave the way they do? Even more important, Greg studied his own actions and thought about the definition of the words love and fear.

 

Love versus Fear

Greg’s definitions:

 

“Love is being other centered with little to no regard for self.” – Greg McEvilly

 

“Fear is being self-centered with little to no regard for others.” –Greg McEvilly

The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders

The Influence Effect

Women represent half of all professional jobs today, but only 4% of CEOs in the S&P 500 are held by women.

Surprisingly, that percentage hasn’t really changed much in the last ten years.

The authors of a new book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders, argue that what works for men on the job doesn’t work for women. I recently caught up with the authors (Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, Mary Davis Holt, Diana Faison) to share more about their extensive research and experience in the area of women in leadership.

 

Only 4% of CEO’s in the S&P 500 are women.

 

Women Lack Access to Sponsors

Give us an update about your research and work since writing the last book, Break Your Own Rules.  What have you been up to and learning?

We conducted original research to help us understand why women were so turned off by office politics and how we could help. We surveyed 134 senior executives in leading organizations, and the results revealed that women and men fundamentally disagree on the overall objective of politics.  Women said they use the tools of politics to “manage relationships,” whereas men use them to “win.” Women were far more likely to mention “creating impact and ideas,” while men were more than twice as likely to describe “carving a one-time advantage.”

Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics, and our lack of access to sponsors puts us at a disadvantage.

Also, women and men have differing approaches to power and influence. It’s collaboration vs. competition.

 

Study: Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics.

 

You start with a premise that what works for men on the job won’t work for women. Would you share an example?