”Spend less time trying to convince people, and more time trying to understand them.” My mentor Mark Cole, CEO of the John Maxwell Company, recently shared this thought with me. Mark's point is that great things happen when a leader seeks to understand more than to be understood. It’s caused me to ask myself a new set of questions- questions that I wanted to share with you in hopes they would challenge your thinking about what transformational leadership requires.
1. When do I try to convince people?
For me, it’s when I put my agenda ahead of the people. I can slip into believing that winning with my idea is more important than people. It’s natural for me to argue my point, listen only for facts that support it, and talk a lot to try and convince people to adopt it. But natural is often selfish, especially when I miss the value of people in the process.
2. What happens when I try to convince people?
Usually nothing good. Convincing people looks like me discounting what’s important to the other person, talking over them, or getting impatient with them. Am I the only one who's been there? No one responds positively when they are t valued.
3. How does the team respond to me convincing them instead of understanding them?
People remember the experience the next time we have a discussion. They may hold back because I’ve been overly passionate defending my argument, to the point they don’t believe their opinion matters. Behaving this way causes them to be less willing to innovate, take chances, and own alternative solutions in the future.
When I as the leader spend time trying to convince people to adopt my ideas or methods it disempowers them to a large degree. Instead, I can practice seeking to understand them and get a better result. Here is how.
1. Be intentional- It’s natural to try and convince, it’s leadership to seek understanding. No one drifts toward intentionality. We have to work to achieve it. Start being intentional about seeking to understand your team and their perspective. Ask more questions than you make statement and you'll be well on your way.
2. Listen- Not to validate my thoughts but to better understand theirs. Not to find faults in their argument but to understand their point of view. Listen for what's not being said. Watch body language and facial expression- they tell you more than words sometimes.
3. Admit mistakes- You and I will get it wrong from time to time. Rather than trying to justify our convincing ways, let’s own it and tell our team we recognize the impact it has upon them. Saying, "I've been trying to convince you and I see it's shutting your ideas down. Let's start over" is one way to own it. This builds trust and trust is the foundation of leadership.
W. Shane McKenzie is The Leadership Transformation Coach. He helps leaders achieve greater effectiveness and become more fulfilled in their work by facilitating positive changes in their leadership behaviors. Join the Leadership Transformation Roundtable to receive dial-in details for Shane's next live teaching call on September 26th, 2017.
What others are saying about W. Shane McKenzie
“Shane has the ability to frame a conversation in a way that brings a thought or concept full circle. He’s excellent at tying each session together, which helped me recognize a pattern of growth. He’s not a “teacher”; he’s a discussion facilitator…in other words these sessions aren’t built around Shane teaching concepts. This method of facilitation opens the door for personal application, which is critical to this development process. He asked questions that forced me to think with intention.”- G. Williams, Product Manager
W. Shane McKenzie is an Executive Coach and Mentor who specializes in helping successful leaders leave their job to own a business using proven strategies to minimize risk.