Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Influence (5 of 10)

<< Back to day 4

Day five of my look through "Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others" by John C. Maxwell and Jim Dornan.

Chapter 5: A Person of Influence... Understands People

Harry Truman: When we understand the other fellow's viewpoint -- understand what he is trying to do -- nine times out of ten, he is trying to do right. (Assume Positive Intent.)

Good point. Sometimes it's hard to remember we're all on the same page when things get really contentious. Of course, when that's because what I'm charged with upholding is in contrast to what they want to do, that seems unfair. It's not that I don't understand in these situations, it's just that I can't help because they're not asking for something I can do. In some situations, these seems exacerbated by all I feel is due of me. If I were able to slow down and just think more about what they wanted, maybe there is a way out or a solution. But I feel constantly pressed for more and more and more to the point that that kind of time is very difficult to come by and often at the worst possible time. Email is probably also a bad medium, but that's how most contact with me is initiated.

It's funny, that whole "seek first to understand, then be understood" is something that doesn't seem to be pervasive here. And so then I guess it has to be one of those cases where I have to "be the better man" or "be the change I want to see in the world." That's fair. Difficult, but fair.

This chapter mentions fear - that the unknown is something to be feared. That until you can fully dissect it, you fear what you don't know. Will it be requirements that can't be completed in the timeframe? Will it be a bad or contradictory idea? Are there better ways to the answer, or will they refuse to give up the problem, continuing to hold to the idea that their solution is enough information for us to get started?

Another reason for problems in understanding is self-centeredness. I'm not sure that's as much an issue here. There's a lot riding on scorecards and a desire to do good and be good stewards, but I'm not sure that people are self-centered. Now, we may be mired in our own viewpoint. James never gives me what I want. So-and-so always submits their requests late and incomplete. Seeking to understand means really trying to see their point-of-view. I think I do sneak in a little bit by trying to learn about initiatives and upcoming work before it's requested, but that's not really understanding the people, that's just anticipating what they're going to want before they ask for it.

Failing to appreciate differences is the next step. This talks about the choleric/sanguine/melancholy/phelgmatic traits and this is where I got sidetracked the first time, researching my own. I am Melancholic except that I am ambitious and prideful and I do not fear speaking to large groups. My hands shake but I feel confident. It's quite odd.

Understanding motivation is key. We seek to understand "what" a person is really asking for when they ask for something, but we don't do enough to understand "why."

Five Things Everybody Needs to Understand About People

  1. Everybody wants to be somebody
  2. Nobody cares how much you know until they knows how much you care
  3. Everybody needs somebody
  4. Everybody can be somebody when somebody understands and believes in them
  5. Everybody who helps somebody influences a lot of bodies

Understanding people is a choice. Some people do it almost naturally, but others (like me), it requires a lot of work. Things to work at knowing:

  • The other person's perspective
  • Personal empathy
  • A positive attitude about people - Harper Lee: "People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for." - so true. Again, project what you want. People will delight and surprise you, and in some cases, aspire to or work harder to meet the perception of themselves that they think you have.

"If you treat every person you meet as if he or she were the most important person in the world, you'll communicate that he or she is somebody -- to you."

Influence Checklist:
Understanding - somewhere between good and fair. People's behaviors and responses to me are typically predictable. I don't necessarily always understand, but I can anticipate with little surprise. Seeking to understand motivation would help me in this regard.

Action Plan:
- Where did they come from?
- Where do they want to go?
- What is their need now?
- How can I help?

"A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror."

I liked this chapter, too. I feel like I'm continuing to get validation that a lot of this stuff is right below the surface. I just need a prod, a reminder, a small illumination to get started, and then a willing desire to make it so. And that willing desire isn't easy. It's going to take work. The hardest part will be taking the time. Constantly feeling pressured is dangerous but it may also be somewhat self-manifesting. This morning, I came in, quickly reviewed my email, and then sat down to read this chapter. I did have a meeting in the middle of it, as well as a big interruption in the next set of offices I had to go and briefly join in on, but otherwise, I chose to deliberately focus on this book for the time. I am facing the prospect that I have until 5 pm today to finish everything I need to get done and one one-hour meeting later today. Then vacation for a week. But the part here is that I'll need to deliberate about trying to learn more from others without giving in to their impatience or hindering them. My melancholic nature will want to think about what they're asking for, but like I learned in this conference this week, overthinking is waste. And overthinking is definitely possible and frustrating to people.

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