Give Power to the Other Person

When I'm getting ready to persuade a person, I spend one-third of the time thinking about myself, what I'm going to say, and two-thirds of the time thinking about him and what he is going to say.
- Abraham Lincoln

When I'm in a leadership position, there's always a hidden fear inside the person I'm leading and about to talk to.

If I don't understand that fear, I'm going to have a very hard time creating agreements with that person. And motivation is all about creating agreements.

My goal is to get my people to agree to work with me. I may want them to agree with me to perform at a higher level, or to get some work done that I think needs to be done, or to communicate with me differently, or to treat the customer differently. In all these cases, it's an agreement that I need.

But there's a reason (you know what it is by's a hint: it's fear) why the person on the other side will push back at me and try not to agree with me. And once we understand that reason, we have the ability to create agreements much faster.

The focus of my understanding must always be: How do I remove the fear?

Top hypnotists will tell you that they can't even begin to work with a subject whom they can't relax. When a person is not relaxed, they are not open to suggestion, hypnotic or otherwise.

Most managers who try to create agreements with other people actually cause the fear in the other person to get worse as the conversation goes on.

So how do you create an agreement in such a way that the employee's fear buttons are not being pushed, and they're not pushing back in self-defense?

By asking questions. Because questions honor the employee's thoughts and feelings.

When people fear losing power and balance and push back (with objections, defensiveness, etc.), it looks like strength! It looks like, "Well, there's a feisty person! There's a person who knows their own mind. There's a person who's not going to get pushed around."

Not true. That's a scared person!

People don't want you to sell them on your idea, they want to sell themselves. They want it to be their idea to do the thing, not yours. That's the secret to motivation, right there.

Lets say you want one of your employees to get forms turned back to you in a more timely manner. If you talk to that employee in an assertive way and say, "You know what, I need to talk to you. I didn't get those forms from you on time." You know what happens?

Defensiveness and fear: "There's no way I could get them back to you on time because our computer system was down for two days. Actually, our people did pretty well given what was going on here at this office. We did very well, as a matter of fact, and we're doing better than can be expected down here."

Your employee is defending what went on, because your employee is afraid that he will be judged poorly, that he might even be asked to leave the company because he can't get his forms in on time. And all you've done -- the only mistake you have made -- is you've put something aggressively out there that pushed his button, so you've awakened the fear, and caused him to push back.

And if you are clueless about fear and don't know what is going on, you are liable to push even more buttons in response to the fear. You might say, "Well you know, that computer system was down at another division across town and they got theirs in on time."

And now your employee is more frightened, even more anxious.

"Yeah, but they've got a bigger staff than we do. We're understaffed here. Always have been."

The more you push, the more he pushes back. The more defensive you are, the more defensive he is. And, the more defensive he is, the less likely he is to turn those forms in on time next week, which is all you wanted in the first place. It was all you wanted, but it was what you your self made impossible.

This very human push-push back dynamic challenges marriages, it slows down careers and it makes a manager's life a misery.

What a manager can do is ask gentle questions and let the people they lead think and speak and make their own fresh commitments. That's how motivation happens.

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