Let me tell you a story.
I was working with a leader who was trying to bring in some much-needed changes in the workplace. She was struggling to get buy-in from her team even though they were the ones who had the most to gain from the change. She couldn’t work out why they didn’t see the benefits. She tried again and again to explain why they needed to change but simply wasn’t getting anywhere.
I asked her what her team members were saying. What were their reasons for holding back?
Although she could make some guesses, she couldn’t tell me for sure. It seemed the meetings she’d arranged were presentation based, with her out front explaining what she thought should happen. She was trying to convince them to adapt to her ideas.
Now, the problem with trying to convince people is that you don’t listen to what they say because your brain is ready to keep justifying your position. You listen to answer, rather than to hear.
This is a pretty common scenario, isn’t it?
Identify the benefits you can use to convince them. Find examples to support your ideas. Make sure you have an answer for every possible objection which might come up. Present your ideas in a high-energy way. Wait for acceptance. Sound familiar?
What this does is make people feel they are being told what to do. They aren’t being listened to, and it damages their trust in the leader. They think you don’t care.
I suggested to the unhappy leader that she goes back to her team and talks with them instead of presenting to them. I suggested she listens instead of trying to convince them.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a work relationship or personal, no one is going to change just because you tell them to.
You can’t manage team concerns if you don’t hear them. You can’t lead them towards change if you haven’t taken care of their needs.
What happened when my unhappy leader went and listened to what her people had to say?
Well, she realised she’d overlooked some things – things rated as important by her team. To use an analogy, she’d been trying to fire her gun using the wrong ammunition.
When she heard what they were saying, she was able to give them what they needed. They were reassured by her and were able to trust her once more.
In any situation where you’d like to influence a person, listen first. If you don’t hear their concerns, you can’t address them. Don’t focus your attention on what you want to achieve. It’s not about you. It’s about your team. Listening means paying attention to – and caring about – what people need or are worried about. And it means acting on it, too.
Trust isn’t something which, once given, is never taken away. Trust is something you have to work for in order to keep. Listening to your people is the best way to show you care and you can be trusted.