Leaning to People Positive Outliers

Thinking well enough of the other person

I remember when I had a role in a large corporate, years ago. I described a particular director to a colleague as difficult. They were surprised.

“Really? I know he is a bit gruff, but he really means well. Catch him in the right moment and he will listen to you.”

And so it was. I realised when I had thought about it later that I had made a case against this man on the basis of little or no evidence. And it hampered my ability to relate to him, as well as influence him.

There are opportunities to influence people that we may have closed down unwittingly because, in our own estimation, we have written them off. We have limited our expectancy of them in our own minds. “Oh, they are hopeless,” we think and say. 

And right there, we have created the real problem. 

In effect, we have projected onto that person (and this applies to a group as well) a stereotype that they are impervious to persuasion. In the process, we disempower ourselves. We make ourselves their victim. Our attitude is as if we have a mental map with a sign that says, “Change attempts do not work here.”

What if we were doing this differently? If we think the best of people first, then we are likely to see potential in them that they don’t even see in themselves. This approach positions us to inspire them and to lead them. Often leadership is first about calling out the best in people. 

We love leaders when they do that in us. 

In stakeholder engagement, we discuss the stakeholder engagement strategy. Yet, the most basic strategy stands or falls by the hope we bring to it. If we don’t expect a lot of the people involved, then it is likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, if we think the best of them, we set ourselves up for surprising success. 

What could you do change your view of that person or group?

Leave your comment below.

Leaning to People

The Relationship Bank Account in Action

One of my projects right now is helping the opening of a new local school for 5 to 11-year-olds. Since the government likes the idea, much of this will be publicly-funded, which means we need to evidence demand for the school by getting parents to sign up before it opens.

So, I was with another volunteer, who is also a friend of mine, visit a manager of a pre-school nursery recently. We left leaflets and asked this manager to make parents aware of this new school. 

I found the manager to be a helpful, experienced woman, who was willing but overwhelmed by all the demands and constraints placed upon her. I began to see before me not so much merely a gatekeeper, or manager, or even merely a channel to market.

Rather, I saw something of the real person. This woman clearly had a great passion for her kids. It kept her going

Burdened by bureaucracy, imposed by this same government, she nevertheless was willing to extend us the courtesy of her precious time in the middle of the day.

I was impressed.

My friend and I began to empathise, asking how we might help her. My friend also began to ‘call out the gold’ in her; that is, telling this woman what she recognised in her that was good and worthy.

If we get the chance, my friend and I will help her as best we can. We will, where possible, deposit something into our relationship with her.

The relational bank account technique is a simple and powerful way of building relationships.

This is the relational bank account in action. It’s a simple concept: never make a withdrawal from a relationship without depositing something in first. 

We could have just tried to make a withdrawal without depositing anything into her account. We could have asked her to hand out our leaflets to parents, and then left her.

Instead, we came away committed to seeking ways to make that manager’s burden a little lighter, ways of helping her express her passion and vision for her children more possible. We did come away with a new friend and, I think, ally.

The relational bank account is a concept we explore more in EPE. You can download a paper about 10 ways of making such relational deposits here.: