Have you ever gone into a meeting and known exactly what you were going to say? Whether you realize it or not, your ears and mind are closed before you even open the door. Business psychiatrist Dr. Mark Goulston and executive coach John Ullmen offer an alternative approach to create a more
positive environment for influence. "Try to leave your personal agenda at the door and become a PAL. PAL stands for purposeful agenda-less listening," says Goulston. By removing your agenda when you listen you become more connected and create genuine engagement in leading your colleagues and
clients. In this interview with Soundview, the authors of Real Influence, discuss how to prevent making assumptions, what makes a great outcome, and why being "influenceable" beats winning and losing.
Soundview: Is there is a good practice for leaders to prevent themselves from making assumptions and thereby making damaging accusations to someone?
Mark Goulston: When one grows in leadership responsibility and has more people you are dealing with, you are really susceptible to this error blindness. And why this one is so insidious is that being wrong often feels like being right. It is hard to realize that you might be
wrong when you really do think you are right. You haven't found out yet, so it feels the same way. [You have] more responsibility, more distance from a lot of what is happening in the organization, lack of direct contact and interaction and information and communication with folks. Things start
to get filtered out through layers of the hierarchy where people are a little, maybe a little intimidated or scared about dealing with levels of authority and challenging power or giving bad news. When we recognize that we are in one of those patterns, the main thing is two words "get help."
Soundview: What defines a great outcome and how do you go about making that inspiring to someone else?
Goulston: Great outcome is not just where people want to be. It is where they could be and it is often far beyond where they want to get to. A lot of people have trouble thinking into the future. They don't think with a forward cognitive bias. That is why when you say the word
"goals" people look like deer in the headlights of a car. Most people have a reverse cognitive bias which means that after something happens, they react. So one of the ways to get to a great outcome is to say to someone, I would like you to imagine it is a year from now, a month from now, a week
from now, and when you get there and you look back, you look back at your career, you look back at your job, you look back at whatever you are talking about, and you say it's amazing what happened.
Soundview: Can you explain why the truth is that being "influenceable" beats winning and losing when it comes to making a difference?
John Ullmen: You know that drive to win can carry us a long way, but as leaders, if we apply it against the people around us, it can backfire big time and a lot of times we don't even realize we are doing it. As a leader why do we want to put our people in a situation to lose to
us. We might win some arguments, but we are going to make some adversaries. If people pick up on this mindset that we are going to just prevail or win over them, that means that they lose, and they tend to get resistant to that. Instead of finding yourself surrounded with a team of motivated
collaborators we create a team of motivated opponents. Being "influenceable" is about being open-minded and open-hearted. Open up your mind and your heart and emotions. What happens is when you really do that you really take an interest in thinking and the feelings of the others around you and
account for that. They will tend to open up their minds more to people who have opened up their minds in response. They open their hearts more to people who permit themselves to be touched and be moved and empathized with. If you want to influence others who see things differently from you, being
vulnerable paradoxically is a much more potent strategy than being impervious or trying to prevail.