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LET'S REVISIT THE SCENARIOS from the beginning of the book. In the following few pages, we'll imagine a better (though not necessarily ideal - that's life!) outcome for each scenario through the conscious use of influence. As you read the scenarios, notice which behavioral skills are being used and how some of the principles discussed in the book are being implemented. These are not intended as "school solutions" to these problems. Rather, they represent one productive way to approach the situation. How might you handle the situations now that you have had a chance to think about the process of influence?
- It's five o'clock. You have been at your desk since six this morning, and you're nowhere near ready to go home. You have a meeting with your manager tomorrow morning, and you're supposed to have a report finished. You would have, too, if the other people involved had done their parts. First, the data was late from your counterpart in the other group. The people on your team had other priorities and couldn't help you with the analysis. Then the "admin" was too busy to help you print and collate the report. You might have asked your manager for an extension, but you didn't want to look unprepared, so you decided to do it all yourself. It looks like an all-nighter.
It's two weeks before your report is due. You notice that some of the data you are waiting for is overdue from your counterpart in the other group. You call and arrange to meet him briefly in the cafeteria. Your goal is to obtain a commitment from him to give you the information that you need. Over coffee, you have the following conversation:
Your teenage daughter, a bright and successful student, has announced that she will be turning down a scholarship to a prestigious university in favor of taking a year off to travel and "find herself." You have had several heated arguments about this. Recently, you told her that you could not guarantee that you would pay her college tuition when she returned. Her response was that she was perfectly capable of earning her own money and attending a less expensive school. You feel that you have painted yourself into a corner and have not made any progress in convincing her of the importance to her future of making the right college choice. You are also concerned about her safety as a solo traveler in certain parts of the world.
- You: Kumar, I'm aware that you haven't given the data to me this week, as you had agreed. What's holding it up?
- Kumar: Yes, I know. I thought I could, but I have run into a problem.
- You: Tell me about the problem.
- Kumar: Well, the analyst who started it broke his leg skiing and is out for a few weeks. I don't really have anyone else who can do this kind of work. He won't be back for at least a week.
- You: How far did he get before he left for the ski trip?
- Kumar: He had worked out the major conclusions, but had just started the detailed report.
- You: That helps. If you can give me the work he did, I will use the "headlines" in my report. If my manager wants the detail, we'll have time to work it out. In a pinch, could you work on it? I'd be willing to cover you for your team meetings if you can put in enough time to give my boss something she can live with - only if she asks for it, of course.
- Kumar: That gives me some breathing room. I appreciate the offer, I was uncomfortable that I was letting you down.
- You: Thanks. I'd like the report, as it is, later today. I'll let you know if and when we need the supportive data.
You suspect that the approach you have been taking with your daughter has polarized both of you on the issue. You decide to take a fresh approach. You invite her out to lunch and begin a conversation with her. Your goal is to get her to agree to reconsider her plans.
You are a senior executive who is charged with the responsibility for implementing the final steps in merging two companies. Executives of the other firm, who see this as an acquisition by your company, rather than a merger, are dragging their feet in regard to aligning their systems with yours. They give you excuses that sound rational, but the net effect is to delay the implementation. You are under a lot of pressure to complete this. The new, merged systems should have been up and running by now, and you are feeling very frustrated and angry.
- You: I believe I have been pretty unproductive in the way I have talked with you about your plans. I was thinking that, if I were in your shoes, I'd probably be more convinced than ever that I needed to make an independent decision about it.
- Daughter: I'm not trying to go against what you say. I just believe that I need to take time out from going to school right now. It's been a pretty intense year and I need a break.
- You: Help me understand what this trip would mean for you.
- Daughter: I just want some time to figure out what I want to do. I feel as if I've been meeting everyone else's expectations for a long time and I'm not sure any more that I want to do the things that other people want for me.
- You: So you want a little time and space to get to know yourself away from parents and teachers . . .
- Daughter: Exactly.
- You: What are some options for making that happen in addition to the solo trip you are thinking about?
- Daughter: I might be able to talk Sarah into going with me . . .
- You: What else might work?
- Daughter: I'm not sure . . .
- You: I know that the community college offers some small group tours for young people. Would that be an option?
- Daughter: It would depend. I'm not interested in "if it's Tuesday, it must be Paris" kind of tours.
- You: Another possibility might be to opt for the "Sophomore Year Abroad" program at the school that wants you . . .
- Daughter: I did like the sound of that.
- You: Would you consider trying the school for a year, preparing for that year abroad? If you would do that, I'd be willing to pay for a summer trip with a group this year, as long as you and I can agree on one that is reputable and affordable.
- Daughter: I will think it over. It sounds pretty good, but I need to make my own decision about it.
- You: I trust you to do that. It's hard for me to let go, but you really are an adult now. Let's talk about it later in the week.
You have decided to meet with your counterpart from the other company to see whether you can enlist her help in merging the systems. You set a time and meet her at her office.
You have volunteered to help plan and host the yearly fundraiser for your child's preschool. You were reluctant to take this on for fear that you might end up, as has happened before, doing it all yourself. The first few meetings of your committee were very positive; several people volunteered to take responsibility for specific tasks. Now it is two weeks before the event, and several important things have not happened. Everyone has an excuse for not delivering on his or her commitments. You feel that the staff and board are depending on you, and you don't want to let them down. This experience has convinced you, however, that you are not cut out for community leadership. You feel burned out and disappointed.
- You: Thanks for meeting with me, Heather. I'd like to talk about some issues regarding merging our HR and information systems.
- Heather: Well, I am really quite busy, so I can't take more than a few minutes today.
- You: Heather, I really need your help on this. I'm really puzzled about how to proceed. I don't seem to be getting very far. What do you think is holding the process up?
- Heather: Well, everyone is so busy, with the merger and all . . .
- You: Heather, I know how busy all of you are. Frankly, I'm concerned that we won't be ready by the time the merger is set to be final. I will personally have to go to the CEO next week and tell him that we are not on track, and I am not looking forward to that. I expect him to be pretty upset, and I would imagine that we will all feel the brunt of that. At least I know I will. So that is why I would like your help. I'm thinking that people may be concerned about learning the new systems. Could that be the issue?
- Heather: I don't really think that's it. Everyone on the leadership team is committed to making this work. The problem is, we got everyone in the company involved in designing and implementing our current system. It took a lot of time. They were really committed to it. And now they see this new one as being imposed on them. We are having a lot of resistance from some of our best people. They see it as a sign that this is an acquisition, not a merger. They are putting their resumes out on the street. It's all we can do to get through the day without a crisis. You know, people really put their hearts and souls into growing this company.
- You: So you are concerned about losing good people if they see that their commitment and loyalty may not be repaid.
- Heather: Yes. They are pretty demoralized.
- You: Do you have any ideas about what might help?
- Heather: I think it might help if they knew that nobody would be downsized. Your company has committed to that, but they don't trust the words.
- You: What if we put together a committee from both companies to start the process of merging the info system? You could include the informal leaders of the company and it would be a way for them to get to know their counterparts.
- Heather: That might be good, although they may not be very enthusiastic about volunteering.
- You: Are you thinking that they might worry about appearing to be "co-opted" by the big guys?
- Heather: You've got it.
- You: Here's my suggestion. Let's put together an "all-hands" meeting for both companies. We can lead it together and invite questions and concerns from the audience. I think that our attitude might well help resolve some of their concerns. We could then ask for volunteers to serve on the committee.
- Heather: That sounds like a reasonable way to go . . .
You are determined to get some help to bring this event off. You decide to call one of the committee members and see what you can do to get him or her to recommit.
You have been nurturing an idea for a couple of years now. It would be an application of your current technology that you believe would have a tremendous impact on the market. It would require a moderate commitment of resources, but the payoff could be spectacular. The problem is that such a project is outside of your current area of responsibility and, in fact, might be seen as competitive with another group's current project. Your manager has already told you that you would have to have it approved and funded elsewhere; you suspect it is a political "hot potato." You are still hoping that someone will recognize the potential and support it, but you are discouraged.
- You: Hello, Chris. I'm glad I reached you. I need to talk with you about the fundraiser.
- Chris: I am so sorry that I haven't been able to come through on that. I have been completely swamped at work. I just didn't anticipate that, and I feel bad about it. In fact, I'm embarrassed.
- You: I know that you really want to help. You have been a real supporter of the school, and I believe that you are completely committed to making this a success.
- Chris: Yes, but I just can't do what I originally promised.
- You: Here's what's going on for me. The catering decisions and the follow-up calls to the presenters are really overdue. I am afraid that we will get to the day and find that we have no food and no speakers. There are several other things that I'm trying to do after work, but frankly, if I don't have help, some things won't be done, and we'll all be really disappointed. And I'm going to have a lot of egg on my face as the chair. . . . Chris, what would it take for you to take on one of those tasks?
- Chris: If you can give me the speakers' phone numbers or e-mail addresses, I'll take on the task of preparing them. I didn't realize that we were so far behind.
- You: Thanks, that will help a lot.
You decide to go, with your manager's approval, to the senior manager who is accountable for both groups. Your goal is to influence her to agree to sponsor the idea and provide funding. You have asked your manager to set up the meeting and you are well prepared. You have just finished explaining the proposal to her.
You were recently offered an exciting new position with your company. It would involve spending three years abroad and would probably lead to a significant role for you in the company's future. When you told your spouse about it, you expected enthusiastic support. Instead, you received a flat and resistant response. This surprised you, as you have always agreed that whichever one of you was offered the best opportunity would have the other's support, regardless of any inconvenience and disruption that might occur.
- You: What questions do you have about my proposal?
- Barbara: How do you propose to fund the project? We don't have any budget for something like this.
- You: In my proposal, I talked about some ways to minimize costs by sharing facilities with another project. I believe that the project will more than pay for itself within two years. Given the need we've been hearing for diversifying our product line, this could look good to the board. What could I do that would convince you to take this on?
- Barbara: I do like the idea. I might be willing to bring it up at the next executive committee meeting to see whether we might find some special funding for it. That would be very difficult, though. Can you create a ten-minute presentation that summarizes benefits and costs? I would be willing to bring it up if I have something to show them.
- You: I'll get it to you by the end of the week. Let me know if I can help you prepare.
You have just learned that your spouse is highly resistant to moving abroad, which will be required if you are to accept the new position. You expressed a lot of surprise and anger. Now you think that you had better pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and begin to explore the issues. Your goal is to influence your spouse to agree to consider the matter and give it a fair hearing, rather than refuse right away.
You are the leader for an important project for your company. The project is not going as well as you had hoped. There is a lot of conflict, and milestones are not being achieved. You were selected for this role because of your technical skills, but what is dragging you down is just the day-to-day hassle of dealing with people's egos and working out the turf issues that seem to get in the way of every cross-functional team you have worked with.
- You: I really overreacted just then. I was truly surprised by your refusal, and I didn't respond very well. I need to listen to your concerns. What kind of problems would this create for you?
- Spouse: Well, in the first place, I'm at a really critical place in my project right now, and it would be career-limiting to leave in the middle of it. And I don't like the idea of moving the kids out of their school. It's been very hard to find a school that works well for both of them.
- You: So there are two main issues: what would happen to your career and how the kids would cope with another new school?
- Spouse: Yes. I know we agreed to trade off on this, but that was before we were really settled and had a family. The situation is different now.
- You: And specifically, that is mainly because we have kids, as you see it . . .
- Spouse: And because we both are pretty committed to our current jobs.
- You: What do you see as the options we have now?
- Spouse: One possibility might be to see whether you could start by working from here and going over once a month or so. That would be the least disruptive.
- You: What else might work?
- Spouse: Well, I can see that I'll have more flexibility in about six months. I could think about a short-term move. But only if we could make it work for the kids.
- You: So your suggestion is that I see whether I can get them to agree to a start-up period where I'd be based here. If I do that, you'd be willing to consider a later move.
- Spouse: Yes. I really need to have some time to get used to the idea, of course. And to do some research on schools and possible jobs for me. I do want to keep our agreement, but I'm just not ready to make a complete commitment.
- You: I really appreciate you working this through with me. I'm pretty optimistic that we can work something out, if I can get my manager to be flexible.
You decide to meet with a key member of your team. Your goal is to influence him to agree to help you with the "people issues" on the team.
You are chairing a standards task force for your association that could make a major impact on the conduct of your profession. Some members of the group are very resistant to the idea of mandatory compliance with the standards. You and several others believe that it is an exercise in futility to develop and present standards and then let people choose whether to adopt them or not. The differences have divided the group, which has now reached an impasse. If you do not come to an agreement, the entire exercise will be seen as a waste of time, and you feel that you will lose the respect of your colleagues, both within the task force and outside of it; they have been counting on you to resolve this issue.
- You: Thanks for taking the time to meet with me. I'll get right to the point and tell you that I need some advice from you. You seem to me to have a lot of success in getting your group to work together. Your people skills have always impressed me. I'd like to see our whole team operating as well together as your part of the team does. I could really use your help in getting past the "turf issues" that are getting in our way.
- Terry: I do have a group that works well together. I'm not sure that has much to do with me . . .
- You: Terry, I see you as a real catalyst for that. You seem to know how to keep people aligned toward a common goal. I can imagine how effective we could be as a team if everyone were focused on the overall goal, and I can see you as key to making that happen.
- Terry: Well, I'm willing to work with you, but as a peer, I'm pretty limited in what I can say or do. I think it will require a change in process as well as a change in attitude.
- You: You sound concerned that people will think you are taking on too broad a role. Is that it?
- Terry: Yes, I don't want to limit my effectiveness by looking like I'm angling for a bigger role.
- You: What if you were to help me plan a team meeting? My meetings are usually pretty technical. I'm not experienced in looking at team process. They don't teach you how to do that in engineering school. Would you be willing to do that?
- Terry: Sure. I'll help you plan a meeting as long as you are clearly in charge of it.
- You: I'll be very clear that it is my meeting. In exchange, would you be willing to facilitate it?
- Terry: Sure, I can do that.
You decide to begin the next meeting by confronting the issue in a way that you hope will be productive. Your goal is to influence a key colleague to reconsider his or her opposition.
- You: I want to acknowledge the good news about what we have done so far. I think I have not been appreciative enough that we've been able to reach agreement on professional standards. That is really quite an accomplishment, and everyone has worked hard to make it happen. I'm hoping that by the end of the meeting today, we'll be a lot closer to agreement about how to implement those standards. I'd like to start by asking those of you who have been supporting the idea of voluntary compliance to say what your major concern is about making them mandatory.
- Colleague: We've been through all that. Mainly, the issue is that our professional values are really opposed to coercion, and mandatory standards would seem very bureaucratic to the members. Also, I think that there are some very good people in the profession whose training would not come up to the standards we are recommending.
- You: So you're concerned that some key people would not meet the standards.
- Colleague: Yes, but the coercion issue is also important.
- You: What could we do that would make it possible for you to support a stricter implementation of the standard? How could we modify it so you could live with it?
- Colleague: Clearly, we'd have to have a "grandfather and grandmother" rule: anyone who has been in the society for more than a few years would not have to meet the standards.
- You: What else could we do that would make it possible for you to support enforcing the standards?
- Colleague: I'm not sure . . .
- You: What if we were to open up the process - to have the standards approved by most of the membership and to agree to a review after two years?
- Colleague: That would begin to meet some of my concerns. . . .