I was FL in 2011 to facilitate a sales strategy retreat for a client. I arrived early as I usually do to check out the venue and make sure all was in order in the meeting room. I also needed to get some focus time to gather my thoughts and do some run-throughs of my presentation.
The morning after I arrived, I decided to walk across the street and have breakfast at this little local cafe that prominently posted a sign for $3.99 breakfasts. Such a deal! Local places are always the best and the crowd they attract adds the entertainment factor. So, I took a seat at the bar where you can usually strike up a conversation (or not) with folks. Never found that $3.99 breakfast but as I was about to pay my bill, a gentleman took a seat at the bar a couple stools away from me. One look at his eyes and his face and one listen to his voice and I knew I had to hang around a bit.
Immediately, the title of the book "The Old Man & The Sea" came to mind. And yes, as it turned out he was a 72-year-old ex-executive who had sailed around the world twice. He left in 1999 and returned in 2004. His name is Jim. His face was lined with the lasting impressions of years in the sun, the wind and the salty sea leaving deep trails on his cheeks and around clear blue eyes that seemed to see a horizon that is visible only to those who are alone with the sea.
He told me his story and then he asked if he could share the one truth that guided his interactions with others. My bill laid unpaid on the bar as I leaned in to hear what he had to say. He said, "Well I am a mechanical engineer by trade and I've also worked for companies, had and still have my own company and picked up and dropped off young people, old people when I sailed around the world. I've been married and divorced. The one thing I've learned is this: If the resistance is high, the approach is wrong. Whether I'm working with something mechanical and it won't do what I want it to do, dealing with the force of nature at sea or whether I'm asking a lady to dance, if the resistance is high, my approach is wrong. I have to shift my thinking and the way I'm coming at it."
Well, that's it isn't it? Boiled down so succinctly into a convenient and useful soundbite. And it's applicable no matter who you are or what your situation is or who you're dealing with. (I asked him if I could quote him at the strategy session and his eyes lit up and he smiled as he said "Would you really? Of course you may." ) If the resistance is high, your approach needs to change. If you're the one who wants something from someone else, it is incumbent upon you to make the shift. Take a look at all the conflict and issues we have going on today. What could we accomplish if we weren't so stubbornly tethered to the way we see it? Who could we get on board with us if we just understood how to engage those folks who seem to resist ideas that make so much sense to us and maybe even to them but they're still not budging? How can we align and understand how they see it?
As 2020 approaches, we know that the demands on leaders to influence successfully will continue to be high. Leaders aren't the only ones though are they. Everyone at some point is trying to influence someone to do something they want them to do. Most of us apply the same principle we do when we're trying to speak to someone who doesn't understand us or our language...we just TALK LOUDER! (Yeah, that might work.) This is usually followed by trying to bury the person in facts and proof that you're so smart and they just don't get it. Perhaps there's someone else in the conversation who doesn't get it.
The key here is to stop doing what isn't obviously working. Press pause. Ego? Check it at the door. Ask yourself "Where do I have to be with this person?" "What am I not understanding or hearing?" "How does my approach need to shift?" "What does this person care about concerning this issue?" "Am I clear about how they're seeing it?"
If you focus on only one thing going forward, consider this to be it. You will amp your value, success rate and influence significantly. (and lessen your stress level and the need to talk loudly.) Don't just take it from me.... listen to the old man and the sea.