Every weekday morning at the unpleasant time of 7am I join an online group in South Africa (it’s 8am for them) for a brief discussion on various management/leadership topics. I find it a great way to start the day listening to the views of others and also reflecting on what I think and why. It only lasts for half an hour so does not eat into the day. Leigh the CEO of Wisdoms starts us off and then Ivan invites us in turn to speak; he decides when you will speak. You never know whether you will be first, last, or somewhere in between.
The topic we are going to discuss next is influence and I have all weekend to think about it. Now if I speak first I could set the tone for the morning, if I’m called to speak later I could find that what I was going to say has already been said or does not fit in with the direction that has been set by the others. This made me think about Brutus and Mark Anthony as well as a trick I play on children when I volunteer on activity breaks.
Children first; I say that being able to do sums in your head is a good life skill and tell them that I am going to set them a task to see how good they are at mental arithmetic. I say you are driving a bus which leave the bus station with 5 passengers, at the first stop 2 people get off and 3 get on, at the next stop 2 get off and 4 get on, nothing happens at the next stop and at the final stop before getting back to the bus station 3 people get off and 1 gets on. What is the name of the bus driver? No one gets the right answer even though everyone knows it. I have directed then to think about numbers, so they miss the non-numeric piece of information “You are driving a bus”.
If you are a manager, boss, leader, or expert you can quite easily stop your team seeing the answers if you give your opinion first, they will agree with you, you have directed them how to think. If you want to generate fresh ideas keep your opinions to yourself and speak last. You many need to interject if the discussion is clearly going awry.
Of course, if you want to dictate how things turn out express your opinions first, but beware of Brutus and Mark Anthony. I studied Julius Caesar for English ‘O’ Level and all I remember apart from ‘Et tu, Brute?’ is a discussion about the speeches made by Brutus and Mark Anthony. My ‘O’ levels were over 50 years ago, and I have not read or seen the play since. Brutus spoke to the crowd first after the killing of Caesar, he was eloquently and had things in the bag, then Mark Anthony spoke often saying “Brutus is an honourable man” To start with he builds on what Brutus said appearing to support him then gradually he turns the crowd against Brutus. So, the big question, do you speak first or last. I have never sorted that one out, both have worked for me. Generally, I speak later so that I can use what people have said before in whatever way suits my objectives.
So, what am I going to say about Influencing on the WISDOMS™ Chats? I have three options prepared so that I am ready for whenever I am called to contribute:
The bus example
Brutus and Mark Anthony
A tale of two runners
Both the runners have written a book, and both are public speakers. One wins races and sets records the other has come last in 25 marathons. If I use the tale of two runners it will be about which one is the more influential. Of course, things might go pear-shaped, then I will just wing it.
Before I speak, I always consider the mnemonic WAIT, which I came across during a sales training session I attended.
Why Am I Talking
That helps to decide whether I should say something, then if I am going to speak, I employed the rest of Rudyard Kipling’s honest serving men.
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.