People can be difficult. At times, they might seem unbearable. Yet, as a leader, you need to find ways to get through to your team. There are many books written on the topic of influencing people. One such book is John Maxwell’s “25 Ways to Win With People”. As I read through it, my brain categorized those 25 methods into 5 groups. Here is a quick summary of the book.
Category 1: Start with the Self
It always starts with the self. That is why I focus so much on self-leadership. Multiple of the “ways to win with people” that Maxwell mentions have to do with you as the individual. First off, you need to know your value. What do you bring to the table? Know your worth. Be secure in who you are. Your insecurities will show up. They might block your ability to be authentic or to create connections. Your insecurities might cause you to fall prey to others’ manipulation. They might cause you to become manipulative yourself. Know your value. Don’t fall into the trap of insecurity.
Part of being confident and knowing your value includes acknowledging where and when you need to step up your game. Is there something more you should be doing? Could you improve your skills? If you want to win with people, you need to offer your best. This is the dichotomy of confidence and humility. It is the balance of “I know how great I am” and “I know I am not perfect”. It is the balance of knowing the value you provide to others, and also knowing that you are not God’s gift to all mankind.
Maxwell includes some sage advice when it comes to the self: keep things in perspective. Stop focusing so much on the person in the mirror; focus on others. A leader is a leader because of OTHER people. The purpose of focusing on the self is so that you can help OTHERS. Keep it all in perspective.
Category 2: The Power of Interdependency
In order to win with people, you need to understand that we are interdependent. We are mutually reliant on one another. Because we are social beings, we cannot truly do it all on our own. Leaders need their followers, just as followers need their leaders. Let people know that you can’t do it without them. Let your team know that they provide value to you and to their team. Let them feel that they are significant contributors to the team. This also means you share credit where credit is due. Good leaders share credit when things go right and take responsibility when things go wrong.
Interdependency means that you, as the leader, ought to be the first to help your team. Be aware of potential challenges or bottlenecks; hence why you can’t be solely focused on yourself. Be proactive in helping them. Your helping, your giving, should be with no strings attached.
Now, for all you go-getters, this part will be harder. Part of interdependency means ASKING FOR and ACCEPTING help. That’s right. You need to reach out to your team for help. What more powerful way of showing your team that you need them by asking them for help? Yes, this is hard. You know that feeling you get when you have helped someone else? That feeling of deep satisfaction and inner worth, knowing you provided did something that had a positive impact? That’s the feeling your team has when they can help you. Don’t rob them of this confidence boosting and relationship building opportunity.
Category 3: Build Others UP
As a leader, you are also a coach and a mentor. If you want to truly win with people, build them up and help them win. The first step is to get to know them. Have conversations with your individual team members. Get to know them. What are their values? What are their goals? What are their aspirations? Encourage their dreams. Some of them might not have any aspirations. Help them uncover their aspirations and create goals. Some of them might have a low view of themselves. Give them a reputation to live up to. Create a positive self-fulfilling prophecy for their life. People will often go further than they thought they could when they know that someone believes in them.
Once you’ve helped them with goal setting, help them win. Encourage them as they work towards their goals. Provide feedback. Yes, this means holding them accountable when you see them getting off track. In most cases, people know when they are not staying the course. You might not even need to “call them out”. All you might need to do is ask them how their progress is coming along and they will acknowledge their lack-of progress. This also means providing positive feedback. Let them know what they are doing right. Affirm their progress. Let them know what strengths you see in them. We often tell people what they are doing wrong so that they can correct their behavior. How often do we tell them what they are doing right? If people don’t know what they are doing right, they might stop doing those actions. As Ken Blanchard mentions in The One Minute Manager, catch your people doing something right, and let them know it.
Help them achieve their goals. Add value to their lives. Help them uncover their dreams, affirm their potential, encourage them as they pursue their goals, and provide opportunities for them. Help them win. Along the way, affirm their progress.
Category 4: Techniques
It’s good to know what to do. The tough part comes to HOW do you do it? Here are a few techniques that Maxwell recommends.
Affirm or encourage people within 30 seconds of talking with them. Set the tone right at the beginning of your interaction.
Compliment people in front of others. Be sincere in how you do it. The point is for you to recognize them in public, not just in private.
Learn and remember people’s names, regardless of their positions. Being able to call someone by their name when you see them, even if it is a brief hello to the security guard as you walk in, has a tremendous impact.
Write notes of encouragement. This could be an email or an actual handwritten note.
Get to know people personally first before you jump into business-talk. Take the time to connect as persons.
Train yourself to listen to understand, instead of listening to solve. If you focus on “how can I solve their problem”, you are likely to miss the real issue. If you focus on understanding, you are more likely to get to the real need.
Maxwell shared a powerful story about the power of written notes of encouragement. John Wesley, a renown Christian preacher, wrote a letter of encouragement in 1791 to John Wilberforce regarding Wilberforce’s effort to end slavery. Wesley died a few days later. Wilberforce used that letter to encourage himself in the following decades as he fought to abolish slavery. That is the power of a written note. In Wesley’s case, it literally changed history.
Category 5: Harness the Power of Stories
There is tremendous power in stories. We remember stories. Go back to the previous paragraph. It is one thing for Maxwell to have encouraged the principle of writing notes of encouragement. We could have nodded our heads in agreement. How did it land, though, after learning the story of Wesley’s note to Wilberforce? That is why before we had the written word and computers, important information was passed down through stories. Those stories shared the timeless principles that humanity had learned.
Harness the power of stories! Get to know your team members’ stories. Whether it was moments of success or failure, there are lessons and principles to be learned from them. The very act of listening to someone’s story demonstrates that you value them. If you want to win with your team, encouraging them to share their story is a powerful. Be sure to share your stories with them as well.
Maxwell encourages leaders to create new stories with their team. Create shared experiences that will leave lasting memories. Those experiences will the stories told tomorrow. They will be the team bonds that strengthen relationships and increase productivity. Harness the power of stories.
As I look back at the teams that I have been a part of, I realize that I was putting into practice many of the techniques that Maxwell mentioned. I have been able to get through to those whom others considered “extremely difficult” people. How? By listening to their stories and encouraging them to share. By seeking to understand them and the challenges they faced. By giving them a reputation to live up to and holding them accountable on their journey. By sharing my stories with them. Basically, by being a person and connecting with them.
Winning people over isn’t about manipulation: it’s about being a person. It’s about relationships.