Have you ever wanted to persuade someone? Have you, as a leader, needed to get somebody to do something? And, no matter what you say, how nicely you say it, or how forcefully you are, ARGH!! It just doesn’t work. Does this happen in your world? It can seem impossible at times.
When it comes to influencing others, there are three magic words that you must master in order to be a more effective leader. Before I get to those magic words though let’s look at what NOT to do.
When asking someone to do something, it seems like they act like 2 year olds and want to know “Why?” Why – why – why. Can’t they just trust you and blindly follow your lead? I mean, they always want to know why. (OK, don’t we all want to know why we do most of the things we’re asked to do?) But still!
As a leader, one of the last things you would ever want to say is “because…” If you were asking someone to complete a document, you don’t want to say “because the client needs it” or “because it’s really important” or”because it’s your job.” While all those statements may be factual and true, it sounds an awful lot like my mother. And it probably sounds like their mother too. While we love our moms, we don’t typically like to be treated like 2 year olds.
Do you remember when your mom used to ask you to do something and you would ask her “Why?“. And then she would say “Because I said so.” That really wasn’t an answer; it was just an aphorism. That wasn’t leadership, that was dictatorship. When you don’t present an authentic, inspiring reason to the people who you’re leading, they tend to withhold a large percentage (40-80% in most research studies) of their cooperation and productivity.
Now, because can be followed by a reason. it just usually isn’t a “good” reason. And by “good”, I mean getting the results that you desire. There is one more aspect to that reason that you must consider…
Your because is usually followed by something that is important to YOU! Ok, maybe you’re conveying the reason from your higher-ups. In either case, others don’t do things effectively and efficiently because they are important to you or others… they do these tasks because it helps them reach their goals and objectives. As a leader, it’s in your best interest (and theirs) for you to remind them of their why. You’ve got to help them with their why. Why do they want to take responsibility for this work? What does success look like from their perspective?
As a leader, you have to choice. You can choose to take the “shortcut” and remind them in a threatening way (“Because it’s your job”) or you can choose to invest in your team and practice an inspirational and uplifting way. Sure, threats can be effective ways to get followers to deliver but only for short periods of time. People do perform well under stress if the stress is acute. However, chronic stress has the opposite effect. It wears people out, demotivates them, and decreases their productivity and effectiveness. It doesn’t have to be that hard (on you or on them).
The 3 Magic Words
So, what are those 3 magic words that every leader needs to know?
… so you can…
Now, these 3 magic words are a lot like “because”, yet they may not trigger those childlike reactions. These words will be even more powerful when you take THEIR perspective. Let’s say you need someone to complete a document for your project or meeting. You can say:
You need to complete this document because we’re going to need it in our meeting tomorrow.
The focus of this statement is you (which is so often communicated as “we” to make it seem like there is an army of people to whom they would have to answer if they didn’t produce.)
OK, so you should focus on the person, right? Maybe you would say:
You need to complete this document because YOU are going to need it in the meeting tomorrow.
Yep, that might work but only if they already see the value from their perspective. If they are already overwhelmed and plan on, say, skipping the meeting tomorrow, then they don’t have to complete it.
What could happen if you changed your approach a bit and used the 3 magic words? It might sound something like this.
You’ll want to complete the document before tomorrow’s meeting so you can wow the C-level folks.
You’ll want to be sure to complete the form for tomorrow’s meeting so you can been seen as the authority in the room.
… so you can avoid having any attention drawn to you where you might have to speak in front of the group.
Do you see the difference? “So you can” followed by a reason that is important to them focuses on what they want and what they may be trying to achieve. Now, this does mean that you’ll have to do a little homework to find out what motivates your team members to do a good job. What are they looking for out of the work that they do? Why are they a part of this team?
This approach may not come naturally to you. You’ll want to take some time to practice (maybe on your kids 😉 ) so you can lead more effectively and persuasively. You may even want to script out an outline or the text of what you are going to say so you can increase your influence and have others want to follow you.
Most of us plan our projects so we can run them more effectively. Most of us plan our marketing and business practices so we can test and measure the effectiveness of each approach. Most of us plan our vacations so we can create the memories we want in our lives. Yet, so few of us plan our influence.
Look at the next meeting on your calendar where you may want to influence and persuade others. Take a few minutes to look for the “so you can” for each team member, so you can accomplish your goals and be more effective at leading others.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please place your comments below so you can help all of the readers to experience another perspective and increase your influence.