Monday, November 19, 2012

Influence Begins with Knowing All of What You Want

It's crazy hard to know exactly what you want. That may be part of the reason that the people who take the time to figure it out have so much power.  In a room where most people are a little fuzzy about what they want, the person who really knows is much more likely to move effectively.

Have you ever wished for more patience?

The true answer is no. People don't want patience: they want results. Patience is a sort of consolation prize at best.  When someone says they want patience, what they really mean is they want something they can't see unless they open their eyes to a bigger picture. What they want is most likely a combination of certainty within themselves and a positive relationship with someone around them. Patience indicates that the frame is too tight for them to see a possibility of moving forward together.

That tight frame makes patience much less likely. That tight frame makes it hard to see beyond a moment of irritability or conflict. That tight frame means they are stuck with someone who is blocking what they want, probably for no good reason.

In a wider frame, they could consider the experience of the people around them and open up the possibility that everyone could have something they need and everyone could move forward together. They could see the strategies and triggers and leverage points that can transform a good day into a frustrating day or turn a stand-off into a chance for something better.

If you want or need more influence, then what you want is the will power to consider the bigger frame, secure in knowing that frame will show you how to get where you want to go.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Can Influence and Leadership be Trained?

Of all the training available, there's a tremendous interest in buying training on influence and leadership.  This means two things. The first is that our conventional education system doesn't cover influence and leadership effectively.  The second is that both individuals and corporations recognize that the ability to influence effectively needs to be developed. It's not just an inborn talent available to a lucky few. It's a skillset that requires the same ongoing development as technical skills.

The problem is finding a model that works.  Sales training is well-developed and widespread. It teaches people to have more predictable influence in predictable situations. It works well when people can know their products and their markets. It works less well when markets and products are in transition.

Leadership training is supposed to train people to exert influence in situations where both outcomes and contexts are less predictable.  Our education system is designed to communicate extremely predictable, reliable information or theoretical information. The classroom is not a place to learn how to handle people. Yet since it is the whole of educational experience for many people, it is the model that comes to mind for training leaders.

The other model available seems to be experience.  Leaders are made and not born, goes this model, but they are made by their experiences, not by intention.  There are two things wrong with this model. The first is that experience without attention produces random results.  We end up believing we did the right things when we get the right results.  This is not true much of the time (we can get the right results because of many other forces in the situation). The other problem with this model is that it only works on a "close enough" basis.  What we learn from one situation will never fit another situation exactly. It will always be an approximation.

When people say that influence cannot be trained, they mean it cannot be trained by conventional classroom methods and it cannot be trained by experience.  That's far from an understanding of how people learn and far from the full range of possibilities.  The better question is not can this be trained but how can it be trained?  And the answer must begin with finding out how people get better at influence. What changes in themselves, their behaviours, and the world around them as people develop deeper, wider, more sustainable influences?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

What are you buying?

I am continually befuddled by the long-winded defence of a magic number of hours in NLP training.  I suspect that it is an easy out for organizations that can more easily show how long their training lasts than how competent their graduates are.  After many years (eek- it's almost 30 now) in and out of post-secondary teaching, I am well aware of the difference between putting in hours and putting out skilled graduates.

If you're looking for training in neurolinguistic programming (NLP), there are just two questions that you need to ask.

1) How do I know you graduate people with increased skills in building relationships, managing states, modeling excellence, and getting tangible results?

2) What support do you provide post-graduation to your clients (at no extra charge)?

Anyone who believes you can reliably build all the skills you need in 120 hours does not believe the research (10,000 hours to mastery of anything).  The point is not to be brilliant during the course: it's to be brilliant in the days and months and years after you complete your training.  I've met many graduates of 120 hour programs who are in search of a community.  Their hours of training were supposed to be the beginning of something, but their trainers did not provide ongoing support or practice opportunities. The 120 hours were not a minimum: they were all of what was possible.

If you want to buy training hours, buy online.  You probably won't get the range or depth of interpersonal skills necessary, but you will get the best price per hour of training.

If you want to buy something more, then decide what that is before you decide on a training company. Many people take NLP training when they become curious about how to adapt to a transition or make a decision about the direction of their life.  They know they've succeeded when they find themselves on the other side of the transition, satisfied with their work or lives.  Other people want to "practice" NLP either with internal clients (if they are managers, social workers, etc) or with external clients (if they are coaches or therapists).  They will find, as professionals in virtually every field find, that there is no substitute for ongoing professional development.  They will know they've succeeded when they are part of a community or network that allows them to fine-tune their practice and evolve into new applications or models.

In Canada, if you want a meaningful credential at a good price, then you probably want to invest in a certificate program at a publicly funded post-secondary institution.  If, on the other hand, you want accelerated learning and tangible change in your life and work, you may want NLP training. Take it from someone who delivers in the training room and provides ongoing support as you work through the change you start in your training hours.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Changing Your Own Attitude

Have you ever known that you were absolutely in the wrong mood for what you had to do next?

You know that your attitude changes your effectiveness.  The question becomes how you can change your own attitude. Your current attitude colours all your perceptions. That makes it very hard to perceive the differences that would allow you to build a different attitude.  Many people don't even try. They just wait it out, hoping that the next mood that hits will be more useful. Or they pretend that attitude is something that only happens to other people.

A more useful approach has three steps:

1) Move your body.
2) Connect with a new rhythm.
3) Borrow the best available attitude.

It's hard to change your own mind. It's easier to change your body.  If you want to signal yourself to get moving, try moving.  A walk, a run, a climb up stairs: any of them will get the blood flowing, adjust your breathing and rhythms, and suggest to your whole brain that it look for ways of moving forward. If you can't make it to a gym, then make an extra trip down the hall or take the stairs when you go for coffee.  Moving creates change in your body that begins to change the energy and thoughts available to you.

Notice your natural rhythm. It will show up in your gestures, your walk, your breathing, your voice. "Natural" means the rhythm that accompanies your current attitude.  If you would prefer a different attitude, then begin to find a different rhythm. Listen to music that is a little slower or faster (not a lot, just a little) than your own rhythm. Notice someone who is walking faster or slower and let them set your pace. Listen to the voices around you and let yourself get in sync with one that suits the attitude you would rather have now.

And finally, notice that there are people available to you who have some of the energy, focus, or optimism that would be useful to you.  Borrow some of that. The great thing about allowing yourself to be drawn into someone else's useful attitude is that they are reinforced, not drained.  So when you allow yourself to connect and move into the flow of someone whose attitude would make you more effective, you do something good for yourself without cost to anyone else.  You also find that you are looking at the people around you as potential resources.

I wonder how your day will change when you realize that you are surrounded by the resources you need to change your own attitude. You can have energy or focus, be driven or relaxed, see into the future or pay attention to the details.  Sometimes it's a good thing to change the world and sometimes you can use the world to change you.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Instead: A powerful word for moving conversations

It is the way our brains are made. We fixate on problems and danger and obstacles. Ask anyone about their pet peeves and you will unleash a flood of words. Ask someone what they want, and you are liable to hear about all the reasons that what they want doesn't matter. It is easy for a conversation to grind to a halt when it is carrying the weight of so much that is wrong.

If you want to move forward, you need the word instead.

Repeat some of the troubles you hear (to show that you are listening) and then ask: what would you like instead? Instead means in the place now occupied by the trouble. To answer the question, the speaker has to imagine a world where the trouble no longer exists. It has been replaced by something else.

The something else may, of course, be accompanied by new troubles.  Once again, repeat what you are hearing and then ask: what would you like instead? After two or three repetitions, the speaker will pick up the pattern and begin to automatically replace the objections with a desired future. You will have something defined towards which you can move.

In the place of a flood of troubles, you will have a tangible goal. Instead of an obstacle, you will have a path forward.