Today’s leaders cannot rely on the leadership style that dominated the past 100 years – the order giving that was driven by a military, hierarchical leadership.
If you want to be an effective leader in the next decade, you have to be able to replace order giving with influence.
Order giving is a lot easier than influencing people. Order giving relies on position and power while influence requires a good relationship, mutual respect, trust and a bunch of other subtle skills and qualities. That’s one of the reasons why today’s leaders are battling to let go of their “order giving” leadership style.
If you’re going to set about increasing your influence in people’s lives, you’re going to have to do some hard work on yourself. The first step to developing influence is to understand that your behaviour has the ability to influence other people’s behaviour. In the same way that animals respond to the behaviour of humans, other people respond to your behaviour.
If, therefore, you wish to influence other people, look at what you can change or adjust in your own behaviour first.
One of the simplest (but not easiest) skills to acquire is the skill of listening to people. This was a totally unnecessary skill for the order giver. If they were in charge of you, they didn’t listen to you. They gave you orders and YOU did the listening.
With the increasing complexity of today’s world, no one leader can claim to be the all-knowing expert in any particular field. The key to successful leadership today, therefore, is to surround yourself with the necessary experts and then listen to them so that you can make effective decisions for the business.
A leader who can’t or won’t listen to his/her people is engaging in high risk behaviour. None of us is as smart as all of us. So, when you embrace a collective, collaborative leadership style that involves listening to your people, you lower your risks and raise your chances of success.
But the big question is: HOW do you listen to people and, more importantly, how do you demonstrate to people that you do actually listen to them? If people get the feeling (and all it needs is a feeling) that you don’t listen to them, they’ll stop talking to you. When that happens, you switch off a very important source of information, rapidly increasing your chances of making uninformed decisions.
It’s therefore critical that you show people you’re listening to them. Of course, you do that in many ways. Asking people for their opinion is not enough. You can do that then not listen to their opinion when they give it.
One of the most powerful ways of showing people that you’re listening is to use two little words that send them some very powerful signals.
Those two words are, “You’re right.”
Naturally, you’re only going to use those words where appropriate. If you use them indiscriminately, people will soon spot what you’re doing, so save them for when you really mean them.
When someone tells you something that you realise is valid, innovative, helpful, valuable or insightful, look them in the eye, and say, “You’re right.”
Then give them a reason as to why you think they’re right and show them that you have taken what they have said seriously by using your position to translate their view into action. That may not happen immediately. It may be in a week or month’s time but, they will soon see that you have acted on what they said and word will get around.
You naturally don’t go around telling everyone they’re right thinking you’re going to win friends and influence people. You save the words for when you really believe you need to use them.
When you tell someone they’re right, an interesting thing happens in them. They feel heard, they feel validated and they immediately want to give you the opportunity to be heard by them. That increases your influence in their lives.
How many people have you worked for that you felt didn’t really hear you? Remember how you never bothered to give them your opinion? Remember how you never bent over backwards to support them or carry out their instructions?
Well, the same applies to you. When your people feel you hear them they will bend over backwards to support you however they can.