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Blog Ralph

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in neutral



Had some past memories come up today and I think that is where my self destructive thoughts are coming from. I still feel really good about my new job and getting up to speed there, even though there seem to be a lot of process inefficiencies. This is actually an opportunity for me as I have training and experience in process improvement. So far I don't see any low hanging fruit though do to heavy organizational inertia, which means I'll get some practice on persuasion/influence skills that have always been outside of my comfort zone.

Speaking of which I think the classical approach to persuasion, which is to shape a request so as to appeal to what motivates the person you want to influence, is flawed. It's theoretically sound but basically boils down to manipulating a target for tactical reasons.

At the other extreme, the fashion in the customer service field is to be all about building relationships, which is also flawed, IMHO. I don't want to have a deep and enduring bond with any company that doesn't need to know my embarrassing secrets. So I do expect a degree of compassion and personal interest from people like doctors, financial advisors, or lawyers, but when my cell phone company sends me a Christmas card I get creeped out. It's too damn much.

Conclusion: the "relationship" needs to be appropriate to the product/service. So how does this work with getting someone to change their behavior when "we've always done it this way"? I think it's about collaborating with the person(s) whose behavior needs to change to identify their frustrations/dissatisfactions, and treat them like an internal consulting client. Find out what are the main hurdles and how to remove or work around them. Once this team mate is satisfied you have a positive reference to work with the next and then anyone who trusts that person now trusts you so you can expand a circle of influence from there.

This is only a hypothesis I haven't tested yet. However I've read the literature on influence and it basically focuses on tactics, which implies that other people are putty to be molded to your preconceived notions provided you are good enough at persuasion. Seems like that is a sure route to coming off like a car salesman. I have one friend who does this and although he is quite charming nobody quite trusts him because we know his game.

Anyway the experiment is to test this hypothesis. Can we improve process by starting with a questioning attitude rather than an attitude of trying to sell a solution?


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