One way we influence others is through feedback. Feedback can be an effective tool for getting others to repeat behavior that pleases you. Some feedback is as simple as saying, “Thank you,” with a smile. At a restaurant you tell the server, “I really appreciate your keeping my water glass full.” You tell a co-worker, “I really like it when you ask me if I have time to talk instead of immediately launching into a conversation. I wish everyone would do that.”
Let me share with you a feedback tool I learned many years ago that is AMAZING in terms of being able to provide feedback without it being heard as criticism. The acronym for it is LBNT which stands for “like best/next time.” Here’s how it works:
We’ll start with leaders but keep reading if you’re not a manager. There are opportunities for you to use this tool, as well.
Let’s say a staff member (we’ll call her Lupe) turned in a project to you and you’ve had a chance to review it. You set up a meeting with Lupe to review the results. If you’re like most, you start by telling her what you liked about her work. By the say, employees refer to this tactic as “being buttered up for the kill.” That’s because they know what’s coming next—a stinging (at least to their ears) critique of all the things that weren’t done well. Both you and Lupe walk away from this meeting dispirited. It wasn’t easy for you to tell her these things and it wasn’t easy for her to hear them.
LBNT is a tool that sets up a very different scenario. In the review meeting, you start by asking Lupe, “What did you like best about your work on this project?” She might answer, “I was proud of turning it in a week early.” This is great because, truth be told, you didn’t even notice that she’d turned it in early and now that you know, you can tell her how much you appreciate it (without, of course, mentioning that you didn’t even notice). You keep probing, “What else?” until she’s given you a picture of what she liked best about her performance. Then you ask, “What, if anything, would you do differently next time?” This is an opportunity for Lupe to “tell on herself.” Maybe she says, “I thought I could have researched the data on page 12 more thoroughly.” Without commenting, you continue to ask, “What else?” until she has given you HER OWN CRITIQUE of the project.
Here’s what’s so great about this. Lupe is doing her own performance evaluation! It is much kinder to allow her to do this herself versus hearing it from you. Additionally, you will gain valuable information: (1) details about the work that you didn’t notice; and (2) insight into the way Lupe thinks and works. This kind of feedback is an essential leadership skill.
Now it’s YOUR turn. You tell her what you liked best and what you would like to see next time. What you DON’T have to do is point out the issues Lupe already revealed in her own evaluation. If appropriate, you might comment on them and let her know if you agree or disagree. Maybe Lupe was too easy or too hard on herself. That would certainly be valuable feedback to give.
LBNT gives both parties a voice and a voice is what we all want.
What if you’re not a manager and wouldn’t have an opportunity for the scenario above? There are many opportunities to use LBNT—when family members do chores at home, for example. It wouldn’t be as formal as the meeting with Lupe—that would be weird—but it still works. Let’s say your son Malcolm cleaned his room after using up every excuse he had for NOT doing it. Here’s how the conversation after he’s done might go:
You: What did you like best about doing that?
Malcolm: Not a thing.
You: Well, if you DID like something about it, what would it be?
Malcolm: I found my iPod.
You: Great! What else?
Malcolm: I don’t know. I guess I like that I can see where things are now.
You: Okay, what will you do differently from now on?
Malcolm: Maybe keep it cleaner so it doesn’t get so bad.
You: Anything else?
Malcolm: Sheesh! Isn’t that enough?
You: Okay, what I liked best is that you did it without moaning the whole time. Finding that iPod was a blessing; once you put those ear buds in, you seemed to work faster. Also, I appreciate your going the extra step by carrying your hamper to the laundry room. And I agree with you. If you keep it cleaner as you go, you won’t have such a mess to clean up next time. I’m proud of you, son.
Note: I’ve outlined just two scenarios here–one to improve leadership skills and one for parenting skills. Use them as a model for how to do this in your own life. I’d love to hear back from you when you do.
P.S. You have my permission to anonymously slip this into your boss’ In Box. LOL.
Undeniably, the fastest way to decrease your influence with anyone is to give unsolicited advice. Whether or not you are in a leadership role, using questions, not directions are the better way to influence. In fact, give it a try at home first. If you apply the process outlined below, your family will send me thank you notes.
Have you ever had this happen? You’ve given specific and clear directions to someone about how to perform a task. You’re pleased when that person even acknowledges your suggestions. Yet, when the task is completed, you discover it’s been done in a completely different way!
Margaret J. Wheatley, a writer and management consultant who specializes in Organizational Development has identified the three things others do with your ideas:
3. Criticize (this is the one that creates the most mischief)
Given this reality, why are you wasting your breath? The best quote about this type of situation came from one of my mentors, Esther Hicks who said,
“An answer to a question no one asked you is a wasted answer.”
Think about that. There you are sprinkling your fairy dust of “incredibly good ideas” over others. Are they paying any attention whatsoever? If they seem to be listening at all, it’s probably because they are formulating all the reasons why your idea won’t work. They may even be planning how they’re going to entertain co-workers later with, “You won’t believe what he suggested I do!”
If you doubt this, try an experiment–the next time you’re gifting someone with your good ideas about what they should do, pay very close attention to that person’s face. They may be looking right at you but are they listening? Better still, follow up to see whether they implemented your idea. You will likely find that they did one of the three things Wheatley has identified.
Here is the process for influencing: instead of telling another how to perform a task, outline the end result you are expecting. Then ask, “What are some ways to get this done?”
Let’s say you need a co-worker to produce a report that lies within his/her area of responsibility. You’re not the boss but you need the report. You say, “I need a report on ______________ by next Friday. Can you walk me through some ways to make sure that happens?”
Or you need something from your boss and you know she doesn’t like “upward delegation.” Yet, she’s the only one who can provide what you need. You might say, “In order to finish X project, I need the following information _____________. Can you help me figure out a few ways to get it?”
Insider Tip #1: (hold onto your hat!) People LOVE to be asked for their advice. That’s why we give it out for free–there are not nearly enough people asking us for it!
Insider Tip #2: Never ask for “the best solution” or “the solution” as if there is only one.When they think there is only one correct answer, people freeze; their minds problem-solve more effectively if asked for potential solutions (plural).
I am with Bill on a business trip to Southern California, spending the day working in the hotel while he attends a Board meeting. I didn’t want to be in the room all day so I’m sitting in the coffee shop working away (bonus: tea on demand!)
Anyhow, I am in search of the ladies room when I encounter a small group of people standing at the hostess stand waiting to be seated. The hostess is nowhere in sight. I overhear one say, “We’ll just seat ourselves.” I hesitate for a second and very nearly turn around to go in search of the hostess. Then I have to stop myself from offering them my advice on what they should do.
What is that? Why do I think I have to fix any problem I encounter, even when it has nothing to do with me?
Do you suffer from this? Could it be one of the reasons we are desperate to find ways to take better care of ourselves? It’s one thing to give of yourself to people you love or you’re paid to care for but if you think the whole world is your responsibility, life becomes exhausting.
A key to Passionate Self Care is (said gently) mind your own business. I want this to be a gentle admonition because I KNOW that you don’t do it to be a busy body or what we used to, as kids, call a “buttinski.” You likely do it because you are so service-oriented that you want to serve the world. But, when I examine my own motives, I notice that there’s a good deal of ego in there. I have to admit that there’s a part of me that secretly believes I know best and that, if everyone just followed my good advice their lives would work much better.
Sometimes, when I indulge my buttinski people seem stunned, as well they should.
This happens when they don’t even know me and I suddenly insert myself into their lives by offering some unsolicited solution. The most useful pearl of wisdom I ever heard about this came from my friend Esther Hicks who says, “An answer to a question no one asked is a wasted answer.” It’s wasted because whomever you’re advising is not listening. Mostly they wish you’d just stop talking and let them get back to solving their own problem.
Imagine; just imagine how much extra time you’d have to take care of yourself if you simply minded your own business. And I don’t mean only with strangers. If you’re like me, you’re spending way too much time solving the problems of your mate, your children, and your second cousin’s stepson’s daughter. We have a tendency to think we should insert ourselves into our family’s problems but take it from me they don’t like it any more than strangers do. They only put up with it because it’s easier than fighting. They say, “OK,” or “Yes, dear,” hoping you’ll just stop.
You might protest, “But what if they do it wrong?” They will! So what? I’m guessing that the most powerful lessons you’ve ever learned came from painful mistakes. Why deprive them of this same learning?
If that’s not enough to inspire you to MYOB let me add one last insight. I try REALLY hard not to answer the question when my kids ask, “What should I do?” Because if they follow my advice and it doesn’t work, who do you think they’ll blame? Instead I try to remember to say, “You’ll figure it out, honey.” I’m there to help if they fall but preventing the fall? Once they’re past childhood, that’s not my job.
MYOB—try it. Your friends and family will send prayers of thanks to the heavens and you’ll have more time for you.
My favorite definition of the word upset is: an unfulfilled expectation. You were expecting X to happen but Y happened instead and now you are upset. Expectations play a big role in Dancing with Change. Whether you are a child, an adult or an adult behaving like a child, when you become upset it is important to ask, “What was I expecting to happen that didn’t?” You will be blown away by how quickly you can get to the bottom of what’s upsetting you.
“What were you expecting to happen that didn’t?” is also a great question to use when interacting with others. Think about how useful this question would be when you are:
– Managing a team
– Providing customer service
– Interacting with your spouse
– Trying to please your boss
Imagine being at the Customer Service counter in a store. A clerk is trying to calm an upset customer. The clerk says, “I really want to get to the bottom of this. Please tell me what you were expecting that didn’t happen.” What you are seeing is the clerk setting a context for the conversation that gives both parties power to resolve the problem.
The uses for such a brilliant question are endless. Whenever someone is upset, ask the question and then listen. Many negative situations can be diffused as a result. The act of merely asking the question implies that you care about why the other person is upset and that alone carries a lot of weight.
I am on vacation with my grandchildren. What a luxury—a week to just hang out by the beach and have fun. As I watch them interacting with their parents, I am struck by how often we ask (actually demand) that children dance with change.
Last night Abbie and Christopher wanted to go miniature golfing. We adults couldn’t get our acts together in time for that to happen. Naturally, they were upset. We used it as an opportunity to teach them about dealing with change. We wanted them to understand that life doesn’t always go as one might hope.
This morning, as I reflected on the event, I started to wonder how understanding we adults would have been if the roles were reversed. When children delay something that we want to do, are we equally understanding? I haven’t always been. Usually when children are the delay factor, I have gotten upset and what follows is a lecture on the “rules” or “respect for others’ time.”
As a child, the rule I always hated was, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Yuck. The Dancing with Change version of that same hypocrisy is that we want everyone else to fully embrace the DWC step Accept that which cannot be changed. However, when it comes to our own response to change, acceptance is nowhere in sight. We want to manage and control events in the face of overwhelming evidence that it can’t be done.
So, when children get upset over changes they cannot control, we lecture them about being more accepting and “rolling with the punches” that life inevitably delivers. But heaven forbid we should follow our own sage advice.
As you go about your day and week, and you get upset, practice asking, “What were you expecting to happen that didn’t?” Then, start noticing where it would be effective in situations you observe. This question is a powerful tool that will help you more gracefully Dance with Change.