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Influence or Manipulation – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post: Influencing or manipulation, it all comes down to one word.

As leaders, we influence people every day and yes, sometimes we manipulate people as well. What is our intent? Is it to make us look good as leaders? Is it to help the team mitigate destructive habits or behaviors that derail a change initiative? Do we manipulate people in a way to make our job easier? Do we use our time to coach someone to help build or reinforce good behavior for them? 

When you are about to do something that affects people, ask yourself, “What is my intent?”

This is a deliberate practice that you need to do for yourself. Before you walk through the office doors or sit down at your computer, ask yourself what’s your intent for the day. There is nothing wrong with wanting things to go better for yourself, remember to ask what is in it for them as well.  

Practice influencing yourself. Pick two behaviors that you can practice. 

Behavior has these three elements:

  1. It’s specific
  2. It’s observable
  3. It’s repeatable

Let’s say you decided to pick two challenges to work on:

  1. You want to improve your active listening so people feel more included in conversations with you.
  2. You want to improve a leader coach skill to help you identify challenges.

Behavior – listening skill

To improve your active listening skills you decided to focus on giving your full attention to whoever is talking with you.

Your behavior is, giving your full attention. Does it meet the three requirements?

  1. It’s specific, it means you stop what you are doing and divert your attention and focus to that person. You are focusing on one skill, not all six active listening skills and you know when you are listening.
  2. It’s observable, yes, especially to anyone speaking with you.
  3. It’s repeatable, yes, every time you are engaged with people you practice this behavior.

Now, you look for the crucial moments when you practice this behavior. A crucial moment is a point in time when you practice this behavior to get the results you want. Here are some possible crucial moments:

  • You are working on your computer and someone wants to ask you a question.
  • You are talking with someone and your cell phone rings.
  • Your spouse is talking to you and you are thinking of the next thing to say before they finish. 
  • You are sitting at the dinner table, or out to lunch with other people and someone texts you. 
  • You are talking to someone, you get a text and tell the person you are talking with to hold on while you respond to the text.  

Each of these is a crucial moment where you practice your behavior of giving your full attention.

Behavior – leader coach skill

To improve your leader coach skill you decided to focus on asking clarifying questions. You often find yourself assuming you know what is going on which has resulted in ineffective suggestions or directions.

Your behavior is, asking clarifying questions. Does it meet the three requirements?

  1. It’s specific because you set aside what you think you know and instead ask yourself what you don’t know. 
  2. It’s observable, especially to anyone speaking with you because you ask questions to better understand the situation. 
  3. It’s repeatable because every time you are engaged with people or are faced with a challenge you practice this behavior.

Now, you look for the crucial moments when you practice this behavior. 

  • Two employees are at odds with each other.
  • The team is pushing back on a change.
  • There is a conflict or confusion over what was said in a meeting.
  • A staff member is struggling with a job assignment.
  • A staff member fails an assignment that they are usually successful with. 

Each of these is a crucial moment where you practice your behavior of asking clarifying questions and as a bonus, you get to practice your other behavior of giving your full attention.

The point of this exercise is to identify one to three crucial behaviors to focus on instead of a bunch of behaviors that may not give you the return that you are looking for.

What does this have to do with influencing? If you can identify behaviors within yourself that you can practice to influence your ability to lead, then you can begin to identify behaviors within your team to help the team perform better or be able to handle difficult situations. 

So ask yourself,

  1. What is the crucial challenge, what do you want to see happen or change? Understand the intent, is this for you, or your staff, team, department, or organization? 
  2. Choose only a couple of crucial behaviors that everyone can agree to and practice to reach the desired outcome.
  3. Look for the crucial moments, the points in time where the behavior can be practiced.
  4. Support each other, hold each other accountable for the practice of the behaviors, and celebrate the victories. 

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