Top Tips: How leaders change hearts and minds

Joseph Grenny and colleagues have spent 20 years studying what makes leaders influential. They wanted to understand what enabled leaders to change hearts and minds independent of their formal authority to demand compliance. To date over 25,000 people have been involved in their study which has found that one versatile skill accounts for great deal of the most effective leaders’ influence. That skill is how they deal with crucial conversations – those emotionally and politically risky issues that seem to crop up nearly every day in an executive’s life.
Grenny has three key tips for managers based on what he and his team have identified as factors which make big difference to leadership effectiveness:

1 Learn to look
Those who are most effective at crucial conversations are most conscious of their own behaviour. They are aware of their own “style under stress” and catch it quickly when their approach to conversation begins to damage dialogue. Specifically, they watch for when their own behaviour moves to silence or violence – some form of withdrawal or attack. When another person is reacting badly, they do something profoundly different from others. They make it safe.

2 Make it safe
Have you ever noticed how some conversations – even about very risky subjects – go very well? And others, perhaps even about trivial disagreements, can degenerate into combat or retreat? Why is that? People can listen to tough feedback so long as they feel safe with the person giving it. Patients will even let doctors open their chest with scalpel because they trust the doctor – they feel safe with him or her.
How do you create safety? You help others understand that you care about their interests as much as you care about your own. Those who master crucial conversations are masters at watching for and repairing safety concerns the instant they occur.

3 Make it motivating
Influential leaders rarely face instances where they can’t engage someone in crucial confrontation. Why? Because they know that the key to influence is empathy. Before they start crucial confrontation they give careful thought to how the problems they want to raise either are affecting, or will affect the other person. They think about the natural consequences of the situation to the other person. If, in respectful way, you are able to help them see how their own interests are served by addressing the problem, they will be naturally motivated to engage in solutions. M

Joseph Grenny is co-author of Influencer, Crucial Conversations, and Crucial Confrontations and cofounder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance.

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