Here is the eleventh in a series of brief blogs introducing The Relationship Journey in my chapter on Active Listening from The Journey Inside. Today is all about influencing and achieving change.
Whilst this is the final step in the Relationship Journey, it is not the end of the journey. Some journeys may never end. Through having positive intent and actively listening throughout the journey, you will have built up a high level of trust with your work colleagues, your coachee, or those closest to you.
As we all know, however long it has taken you to build the trust, it can be lost in a moment. One wrong remark, one silly moment, one off-the-cuff comment, and everything can change. Worst of all, those you have let down will question everything else you have previously said and will wonder.
As a leader or a coach, you now have the opportunity to inspire and influence those whom you serve and to achieve the change the business and individuals need.
Now is the time because you have earned the right to do so. As you have listened, they have felt heard, you been influenced by their thoughts and feelings, and they will now listen to you and be happy to be led by you.
This step is where the organisational values and/or individual values are exposed and come under scrutiny. For example, Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller has ‘one family’ at the heart of their values. When the business went through the recession in 2007, he asked a simple question, “What would a family do in this situation?” The decisions they made aligned with their values.
A good friend of mine was coaching one of her clients. Travelling the steps described in the Relationship Journey with her client, she reached this step and because it was done well, the client already knew what she needed to do. This is often the case because people feel heard and validated, what they have said has made a difference, and they feel part of the solution and future direction. In addition, the quality of your listening has increased the depth and quality of their thinking.
A financial services organisation needed to make a significant change to their business model, one that meant losing some of their staff. Rather than make this decision in secret, ivory tower and all that, they decided to treat their staff as adults and shared the business situation with them. Whilst this is never good news, the staff understood and appreciated what needed to be done.
Imagine a conversation between two people looking, from opposite each other, at a number written on the ground. For one of them, it is obviously a 6, and they tell the other, “It is a 6”. The other reflects on what has been said with incredulity, thinking why can’t they see that it is clearly a 9 and may say, “Sorry, you are mistaken, it is a 9”. This conversation could go back and forth and potentially get more and more heated. In some instances, maybe not over a simple number, things could get violent.
One approach you might take is to say, “You seem to be an intelligent person, if you think it is a 9, you could be right. Why don’t I come around to your side and look at things through your eyes” (empathy)? And when you do so, you too can clearly see that it is a 9 and you say so, agreeing with them. At this moment, there will probably be a shift in the stance of the other person, and they might then say, “Thank you, you seem to be an intelligent person too, let me see things from your side”.
This approach acknowledges Step 6 – Safe spaces, where disagreements are not only acceptable but are welcomed.