Sometimes you are just out of ideas on how to work through the pushback.
It’s not a matter of being proactive. You have created good working relationships with the person you are trying to influence. But now it feels like you have hit a brick wall. You’ve tried everything and your colleague is not budging.
This happens to the best of us – even highly influential senior executives have off days.
Yet they continue to figure out ways to influence.
They may grumble about how hard it is to work with the CFO to help him buy into the vision, but they always find a way. Again, and again, and again.
They aren’t super-human, and they don’t have magical influencing powers.
So what is the secret?
They do it by pulling out the well-worn toolbox of strategies for creating influence.
Listen to your colleague
Forget about your side of the situation for just a moment. Take a step back and think about the other person’s side. What issues are they dealing with? What are their concerns? Does anything you are asking them to do go against how they see themselves? What’s really behind the pushback?
If you don’t have answers to these questions, your next step is to have a listening conversation where you try to find out exactly where they are coming from. They will appreciate the conversation and feel heard by you and that may be enough right there to turn things around.
Take a pulse on the relationship
What is your working relationship like with your colleague? Is it strained or tense? Or is it close and positive? The more positive and healthy a relationship is, the more open it is for influence.
If you don’t know your colleague that well, ask them to coffee or lunch or go grab a beer with them. Then talk about personal things and get to know them. These kinds of conversations will give you a whole new perspective on working with them and will help to build the relationship.
If you already know your colleague well and the relationship has grown tense. Sit them down and say “I’ve noticed that things have gotten a little tense lately. I want to make sure I have a great working relationship with you. Could you tell me what is going on in your world so that I can work with you better?”
When their pushback has nothing to do with you
If they are completely stressed from deadlines that are a higher priority than your request, the best thing you can do is lend an ear. Ask them about what is stressing them, show your empathy and ask them questions to help them sort things out in their minds. Chances are they are in overwhelm and having someone to talk to will help them reprioritize things and put them into action again.
We all need someone to bounce things off of every once in a while. This helps us see things we couldn’t see before and start moving forward again. They will appreciate you taking the time to listen and it will build the relationship. They will also start making your request a higher priority.
Create a better handoff
Sometimes the pushback comes from a lack of ownership of the task you are asking them to do. You can help your colleague feel a greater sense of ownership by changing how you hand the task over to them.
You can do this by telling them what the specific results are that you would like to see by saying something like “The result I want you to produce is…”. Once they understand what you need, then ask them to tell it back to you in their own words. Ask: “Could you tell me back what you think I need? I want to make sure I communicate it clearly”.
Then work through any concerns they have right then and there. Ask them “What would you need to make that work?” And once you have addressed their concerns, ask them to tell you how they plan to make it happen. If they come up with the plan, they will take ownership of the plan.
Finally, you can ask them to keep you informed on how things are going and let them know that you are there to help them work through any barriers.
Bring out the best in them
We spend a lot of time in the corporate world trying to prove our worth and when we feel the need to pushback, we spend a lot of time and energy doing it in a way that will prevent the other person from thinking negatively about us. The problem is that doing this wastes a lot of time and energy and does not address the issue at all.
When you feel pushback from a colleague, one of the best things you can do is show them how highly you think of them as a person. Tell them how much you appreciate their strengths and their values. This will let them know that you are on their side and they don’t have to prove themselves to you.
Once you have that trust built, then they will feel more comfortable telling you what is really going on so that both of you can work through the pushback together.
Attack the problem, not the person
In alignment with bringing out the best in them, make sure they understand that you are here to help them solve the problem that is causing pushback. Two heads are better than one.
Try to make them feel like you are side-by-side with them attacking the problem, not head-to-head, pressuring them to get their act together. To do this, you can literally sit down next to them in a conference room or a café or some other neutral place and talk about working through the issue together.
Go to the heart of the problem
Not all problems are easy to solve. And sometimes we try to solve the symptoms of a problem instead of getting to the root of the problem.
Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
If you have a positive working relationship with your colleague, one of the best things you can do is dive into the situation they are facing and problem solve together. But try to refrain from jumping to solutions too quickly. Keep digging until both of you agree on what the real problem is. Then, most likely, your colleague will be able to come up with a solution right away.
If you spend time focusing on the relationship first, then moving to the problem itself, you can generally work through any pushback and create influence. If you would like more tips on how to influence others, then download my free Magnetic Influence Litmus Test where I share 4 simple questions you can ask yourself to predict your ability to influence, and how to gain that influence.