Whenever we encounter resistance as we seek to lead (with or without title), influence, or sell, it’s probably because we are doing it wrong. We are going against a natural flow we all prefer to follow when asked to agree upon anything. Going against this flow is forcing things and it feels bad: tense, slimy, frustrated, or embattled. Forcing is how leaders, influencers, and salespeople can get a bad name.
This natural flow has four steps or phases:
- Foundation: The foundation is your relationship with the other person. The goal of this phase is to “add enough bricks” to the foundation/your relationship so that you both trust that you can move to the next phase. When you first meet someone, the activities in this phase are common courtesies like a warm, firm handshake, a smile, and being on time. (Advanced level tip: say quietly to yourself a small acknowledgement honoring the other person.) As you get to know the other person, you still add bricks to the foundation by being trustworthy. Sometimes, all you are doing is adding bricks to the foundation.
- What-squared, Why In this phase, you are having a conversation to explore the situation. Exploration means you navigate by curiosity rather than pushing to agreement. You ask questions and listen well. Your goal is to understand what the other person’s current (business) situation is, what they would like it to be, and why. You can then share your what-squared-why. You and the other person will naturally proceed to the next phase as you both come to understand the situation.
- Who-how-when The dialogue now shifts to the details. We continue to explore rather than dictate, close, or manoeuvre. You consider who will do what and by when. This phase includes any details about budgets and costs.
- Agree Having built trust, understood their situation and desires, and explored how it would all work, your goal at this level is to agree. It includes any formalities such as contracts, purchase orders, letters of intent, etc. If you’ve covered the prior phases well, this phase is very simple.
In each phase, our goal is simply to work that phase and look for the opportunity to step into the next phase. Delay and resistance mean we are either trying to start with “Agree” or rushing through the stages. If you ever find yourself wondering where you are, fall back to the prior phase or schedule a follow-up meeting. You may fly quickly through these phases in one conversation (high-trust and/or low-risk situations) or take a long time over several conversations (low-trust and/or high-risk situations).
Oh, and following the natural flow of these phases should feel good, not tense, slimy, frustrated, or embattled.
In your corner,
PS: This is another example of “slowing down to speed up.” If this approach seems like it would take too long, consider how long you’ll be fighting with the resistance if you go against the flow.
Today’s photo credit: miuenski via photopin cc