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Breakthough on the Journey

If we are to make an impact with our work, it almost always involves bringing others along with us.

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I believe that we tend to limit ourselves when we think about what we can achieve. Most of us have this tendency rather than the opposite: being over-ambitious. I’ve been sharing some work I’ve been doing around leading others through change. Up until now, this has been through Exploring People Engagement (EPE), an online workshop based on my book, Practical People Engagement.

It is difficult to engage and influence others if we don’t approach them with the right mindset. In my last email, we looked at conventional training approaches to this. Although they might be worthy in themselves, they don’t take us very far

Variant of Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

In the Dreyfus Model (see above), we can stop short at Advanced Beginner level or merely become Competent. We owe ourselves more.

What if we only needed to focus on a few key areas? What if we did not need to cover some exhaustive curriculum typical of most business schools? What if instead, we attend to developing ourselves in a few high-leverage areas?

What if we only needed to focus on a few key areas in order to get outstanding results?

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That is what our Crib Sheet research began to reveal. There are only a few areas we need to attend to that yield disproportionate results. Also, these few areas are not exclusive to project management. In fact, anyone whose work requires more than the performance of a repetitive mechanical action, in other words, any work that needs us to use our judgment, can improve the results they get from these few key habits. They seem to be universally powerful, whatever our area of work.

And one of these is a Leaning to People, the ability to engage and influence others involved or affected by our work in positive ways. It is the skill of engaging individuals and groups, and how to handle relationships in a way that does not exhaust us but nourishes those connections with people.

A few days ago I was in a seminar with about thirty-five people talking about making their dreams and aspirations happen. These students had written down their dreams. And in almost every case, they needed to engage well and influence key people to make their dreams a reality. They shared stories of people who were resistant to what they wanted to achieve, and about individuals who could even block their dreams from ever happening. During the seminar, I saw eyes opening and hope in the room rising. Then, only two days later, although it was unrelated to my class, Whilst being almost entirely unrelated to my session, I watched one of these students two days later realise their dream! This stuff is powerful!

Finding ways to make your dreams a reality through others is powerful stuff!

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I confess I’m a learner. I’m always learning. I believe it makes me a better coach. One of the aspects of being a learner is that you may see better ways of doing things. One of the concerns I have with EPE on its own is that it is too content-centric. Even with the weekly live meetings and the online coaching, EPE can only be a foundation for people to grow their people skills. 

I want to help you become world-class in your people engagement skills. So I have looked again at the EPE workshop. With this as my aim, I studied the transition from Competent to Proficient to Positive Outlier. I saw that the means of this transition happening was often through coaching, peer group networks, mastermind groups and the relationships between delegates that emerge during a seminar.  This kind of learning environment is not primarily about know-what (training content), but about shifting perspectives and mindsets through discussion and practice, to true ‘demonstrate how.’ This shift can happen through a group of like-minded practitioners, a tribe.

We don't gain higher order skills in leadership primarily through more information.

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You will still be able to access EPE through the soon-to-be-launched Positive Outlier Academy in its original form, but if you want to develop yourself in this area, I’m launching Leading Others through Change (LOC) as an online seminar. 

You will find LOC challenging, but encouraging; progressive, but practice-based. It will be earthed in reality, in results gained on the ground. I will be exploring issues such as:

  • personal boundaries in healthy relationships; 
  • how we handle our own vulnerability and take steps to move towards people we might fear; 
  • how we recognise and deal with victims showing passive, passive-aggressive, and aggressive behaviours; and
  • how we can create our own culture in our change arena, where people feel safe, and are honoured and empowered, rather than reacting defensively.

So if you want a course that you can take any time, then LOC is not for you. It’s not for you if you want to rely on training your organisation thinks you need. Also, if you want a globally recognised qualification, it's not for you. It’s not for you if you merely want another feather in your cap.

But if you are hungry to develop yourself with others in this vital area of performance, this people thing, to get better at it, and to see powerfully positive differences in the changes you lead, then LOC is for you. Register your interest below. Enrolment for LOC1 won’t be open for long.

My mission is to equip world-changers, and I’m excited to see you emerge as one through LOC.

Are extroverts really better at stakeholder engagement?

Are extroverts really better at stakeholder engagement?

Last week I gave a presentation on our research into positive outliers to a group of public sector project managers. It included the finding that all these high-performing project managers had this leaning to people. I explained how this lead me on the journey first to write my book Practical People Engagement and then to develop the online coaching programme Exploring People Engagement.

During the Q&A, one manager asked me how many of the high performers were extroverts, and whether the Positive Outliers all had the advantage of their personality style. Well, we didn't actually test for extroversion in our research. But there are some reasons why I would not agree with the general assumption that extroverts are better equipped to engage with stakeholders, and so would be distinguished by a leaning to people.

The positive outliers, high performing project managers, are #learners

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First, the positive outliers were all learners. They demonstrated in their language and by their explanations that they were self-aware, self-reflective, and to some extent experimented with different approaches. They had learned that spending a significant amount of their discretionary time moving towards key stakeholders around their projects and programmes paid off, seemed to pay off handsomely.

It turns out extroverts do not necessarily make the best sales people.

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Then I quoted another research study from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania which looked at introversion-extraversion in a sales environment, specifically a call centre where they made outgoing sales calls. The people who were the most successful, as measured in terms of revenue generated, were those who were neither extreme extroverts nor extreme introverts. What emerged was that these ambiverts, people who score somewhere towards the middle of the range between introvert and extrovert, performed better. It seemed that they were better placed to Influence people, in this case to buy.

Graph from paper by Adam M. Grant, Wharton School

Also it is clear that there are certain aspects in this call centre workflow where the extroverts have a clear advantage: the decision to make a cold call, for example, is something perhaps that is easier for an extrovert to make than an introvert. That much is obvious. The introvert would need to establish this as a learned behaviour, say by establishing a routine habit or discipline, whereas it might be seen as energising and attractive to the extrovert.

But then, during the sales conversation itself, a key part of influencing is the paradox of being a good listener. And it's here with introverts tend to have an advantage. It seems that the ability to reflect and match the person you're speaking with, to adjust to their style, their tempo, their language, is a skill that is very persuasive. Whereas the extroverts might tend to ignore these clues.

In some areas of #stakeholderengagement, introverts have an advantage

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I explore in both my book and the online coaching programme this whole idea that engaging with people is a multifaceted skill. When we engage with people, when we identify the stakeholders, when we study them, when we talk with them, when we make our pitch to them, there's all different aspects of social skill in operation, but really across the whole spectrum of introversion and extraversion.

So is it a disadvantage to be an introvert? Well no. I would plead that in my own case, I have consistently scored as an introvert in MBTI assessments.

So is there something deeper at stake in this? It is possible whether or not people bring a growth mindset to this whole subject, or whether they bring self-limiting beliefs such as, “I could never do this people thing as I’m an Introvert.” In my short e-Book, the 7 Keys to Exceptional Performance, I identify the growth mindset, as set out by Carol Dweck, as a key attribute of the Positive Outliers.

Whether introvert, extrovert or ambivert, the Positive Outlier will bring a growth mindset to the challenge of leading and influencing people, will reflect, learn, and expect to grow in effectiveness. And it seems they do.

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