If you happen to be a human, you are in the business of people. It doesn’t matter what you do. At some point, you interact with others. Eventually you may also need to have some level of influence in those interactions. In today’s workplace environments, EQ (emotional intelligence) has become far more important than IQ. Mostly because, as a collective of individuals we have discovered that we work better and faster when we work together. So HOW we work together with others has become a much more valuable tool than one’s own individual level of knowledge. There are plenty of us still out there, though, who haven’t quite figured that out yet. Our egos have been stroked for years due to our level of intelligence and then one day we find ourselves in a position where we may have all the knowledge but nobody wants to listen to anything we have to say. There’s probably good reason for that. People around you may not feel needed. And you may not realize that others have important things to offer.
This post will be all about connecting those things. Since it is often easy for us to apply some form of this to our own lives and internally respond with “I do those things” I will also be sharing what some opposites might look like. If both sides apply, then some work will need to be done to make improvements wherever necessary.
The art of bringing others along has to naturally begin with letting go of “self.” Realizing you are not the only relevant party in the matter and that you need everyone else on board in order to move forward. That’s right. It’s not all about you. It’s not about your killer ideas, your wit or your intellect. Because you may have the best idea that ever existed, but if nobody is willing to come alongside and help you fulfill the idea, its utterly meaningless. Which is why it’s even better if the ideas don’t come from you.
I understand “letting go of self” can sound very broad and even much easier said than done. So we are going to spend some time in some specifics to help get started. The important part is being aware of these situations as they arise and then purposeful in how you respond.
Here are a few steps in the art of bringing others along.
There is a lot here and it will take some time to unpack. So let’s get started. This is the first step for a reason and probably the most difficult. Pride is the most common pitfall I have seen amongst those who fail at bringing others along. There was a young man I worked with years ago who felt he was ready to lead a team. The problem was, the team didn’t like him. Sure, he was good at his job, but he was terrible at helping others become good at their jobs. So if somebody is great at their job but can’t figure out how to communicate why they are good at their jobs, or help convince others that they can be better without sounding like an asshole, they probably shouldn’t be in a position to lead. Since this person thought he was the best at his job and everyone else was terrible, nobody cared to listen to him. He only made everyone else feel terrible about themselves. He was the best and they could never be like him.
Some of the best Leaders I know are quite the opposite. They believe their team holds the best ideas and the best answers to the most difficult questions. They don’t pretend to know it all. They don’t feel the need to answer every question that is asked in a group of people. They allow others to share in the decision making. So let’s talk about this more; our interactions with others.
2. Know your audience.
This is two fold. We have two types of audiences, our peer group and those above us. It is our responsibility to know both. And by “know,” I mean, actually know them. What drives them. What they are in to. How they learn. Why they respond to things the way that they do. One of the most important things you can know about somebody is what their aspirations are. To share ones hopes and dreams with another is a special thing. Mostly because it has no benefit to you in anyway. Its out of a place of care and getting to know somebody else. There is nothing that can be accomplished without a strong foundation amongst your audience. All audiences are NOT equal. They do not respond the same way. Do not make the mistake of addressing each one similarly. For example, a peer group of intellectuals do not like being told what to do. They appreciate being a part of the problem solving. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, sitting around a table with an audience of people above you, might appreciate a big picture view rather than being involved in all of the details. Know the type of audience you are dealing with and how to approach them.
3. You’re not the smartest person in the room.
So maybe you are. But it’s likely you’re not. And remember, we need each other. Your area of expertise is probably different from somebody else. At least it should be. Here’s the deal. You could very well be the smartest person in the room. However, nobody and I mean NOBODY should know that you think that. It is one thing to be the smartest person in the room, its an entirely other thing to be the person that thinks they are the smartest in the room. People can tell when you think that. And it reeks. Bringing others along will not come from a talking head. It requires collaboration. I am very lucky to work for an incredible Leader. One who asks our opinions. One who refuses to move on unless we collectively agree on something and allows us to be honest with our thoughts and opinions so we can respectfully argue it out if necessary. He could easily veto us for the sake of moving on. But he does’t. He believes the best idea wins. So we talk through our ideas and refine them together. We all add value. Every person has something to add. Give them the opportunity. This brings me to my next point.
4. Give credit where credit is due.
A quick and sure way to bring others along is to publicly give credit for their great idea. If you’re on a winning team, and it’s getting attention, give proper credit. This goes a long way. Shining light on your talent is imperative. It shows them that you see their value and think others should know of it as well.
On the flip side of this, if you happen to be right when you had the best idea, and somebody else was against it – steer clear from “I told you so.” This does the opposite. It make others feel small and devalued. They will be less likely to offer their ideas or support in the future. You are no longer a safe place to bring ideas. You are a person who’s ego is most important; not them.
5. Genuinely care about people.
This sounds easy but people can tell when you are faking it. They can also tell when they are being manipulated. I’ve seen people turn this on when they want to get promoted. I’ve also seen people turn this on when they are about to get fired. Caring about others out of self-preservation or for the sake of self-promotion is shallow and people see right through it. Caring about others should be a constant. When it comes to bringing others along, there is no compromise here. You need to have been unwavering in your care for others. From the beginning and all the way to the end. It has to be authentic and relentless. This will help others know your intent in the midst of more difficult conversations. They will be more likely to listen out of respect, knowing you care deeply about them.
6. Ask good questions.
Asking great questions goes a long way. And is helpful in many scenarios. There will be times where you were not brought along in a decision making process. And perhaps you strongly disagree with a decision. How somebody responds in these particular scenarios says a lot about their character. They can either go on the attack and name all the reasons why it was the wrong decision, or they can ask questions. The latter tends to show far more maturity. Seeking to understand rather than insisting to be understood is a fundamental approach to being a part of something bigger than yourself. Once you have all of the information (that you may not have been a part of in the first place), you may discover why a particular decision was made. Also, once somebody else has made their case, and you potentially still disagree, you now have an opportunity to offer a different perspective and ask for their opinion. This is a far more respectful approach, where others will be willing to listen because you also took the time to hear them out.
7. Be wiling to be persuaded.
This post is not about getting your way. This post is about the art of bringing others along. With that being said, sometimes we are wrong. And if we are trying to help others understand our perspective, we better be willing to hear out and try to understand theirs. Even more, we should be willing to change our mind. Are you a safe place? Are you somebody that others can come to and be honest with? I am not telling you to be someone who allows their minds to be changed on every little thing, that does not go over well. I’ve seen it. But asking others to hear you out, requires that you do the same. Otherwise, you are just a dictator. Listening with a willingness to be persuaded shows that you are invested in the dialogue. You are willing to hear somebody out because you care about them and what they have to say. And remember, you aren’t the smartest person in the room. Be a great listener. Be wiling to admit defeat or when an idea is better than your own. Then tell others why it was better.
Bringing others along, truly is an art. It’s give and take. “My way or the highway” just doesn’t fly anymore. And it shouldn’t. We are stronger and better together. Mathematically, multiple brains are far better than one. If we hope to influence or lead people in the future, this is absolutely something we need to get right. It will come with a lot of trial and error. Approaching others with humility will go a long way.
So where can you improve? Is there an audience you could get to know a little better? Could you stand to work on some of your personal relationships? Are you willing to be persuaded? Take one step today. See how it impacts your conversations.