Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

The power of influence

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Last night I had the pleasure of attending the UPMA meeting; the keynote speaker was my former professor and mentor Eric Denna who gave a presentation titled “The Influencer: An Executive Look at Product Management.” The presentation was great and I want to share a few of the key discussion points (in my own words and subject to my personal biases).

At the heart of most problems that occur in business settings you find the following:

  • Lack of influence
  • Poor teamwork
  • Mediocre productivity.

At the core of the problem lies a lack of effective communication, which tends to show up in one of two ways: silence or violence. Silence means you turn quiet and stop communicating; you shut the other person(s) out and withdraw your efforts to solve the problem. In this context, ‘violence’ usually means you verbally attack the other person(s) and say things with the intent of deflecting blame. Neither of these reactions solves the problem at hand.

When you find yourself in a situation where the reaction is either silence or violence, you may face what Eric calls the succor’s choice – “I can be honest or I can be nice.” Those who tend towards being honest often say things that come across as mean or otherwise hurtful — violence. Those who favor being nice end up lying to the person to avoid hurting his or her feelings — silence. Either response leads to problems.

How do you avoid the silence/violence dilemma? Talk openly and candidly with the person about the problem. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings and views about the issue at hand. Take the time to clearly state how you feel about the behaviors the other person is exhibiting; be honest and do it in a nice way. Have the conversation and do it in a way that invites the other person to solve the problem with you. Use positive influence to drive to a mutually beneficial result.

Any time you are stuck, if you look closely at your situation you will find a crucial conversation keeping you there. Don’t let silence or violence trap you; take control of the situation by making the other person feel safe talking with you. There is not a conversation you cannot have. There is not a disagreement you cannot overcome.

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