I coined the phrase “pause to go faster” while running workshops several years ago for a particularly fast-paced organisation. There seemed to be no stopping them. They pick up an idea and they’re off the starting blocks before you know what has happened. The culture is one which admires those who get to action fast. However, at times, there is also a desperate need to pause and reflect. Then, in all probability, you will move even faster than before.
This is definitely the case when it comes to influence. Unless you pause to think about how you are approaching an influence attempt, you’ll probably just do what you’ve always done. That may work; but then again, it might not.
For me, this idea originated in a piece of research I did many years ago, which used Systems Dynamics to understand and inform how to optimise performance among highly talented senior managers. In a nutshell, SD is a branch of systems thinking which uses causal loops to understand how complex systems behave — or put another way, what factors influence other factors (see Wikipedia). I wanted to understand the factors which influenced greater performance in a leadership development program.
Essentially, there were two loops — the Results Loop and the Learning Loop. The main realisation for me was that you can dramatically increase the pressure for results if you have firmly established the individual’s commitment to learning. Applying pressure before that point will see them doing more of what they already do (work harder) rather than pausing to think about what they need to do differently (work smarter). With the Learning Loop firmly in place, you can exert transformational pressure for greater results from talented individuals (get in touch if you’re interested in learning more about this research).
So, back to your work as an influencer. Find a way to install an interrupt into your automatic working harder behaviour — a trigger to pause. Then fill it with your own set of standard questions along the lines of…
- What do you want to influence right now?
- How will you know you have achieved the influence you want?
- What opposition might you face? By whom and why?
- How can your agenda be reworded to work with their agenda? What’s in it for them?
- How will the opposition respond?
- Whom else should you be influencing?
- What is the best approach right now?
The skill here is developing the trigger and filling it with an automatic response or question. It needs to become habitual through repetition. Keep the trigger simple, like every time you start a meeting or call — the pause doesn’t need to take long. Or, it could be when you feel tense ahead of a meeting. Finding ways to support the development of this new habit in the early days is time well spent. Here’s a great article on habit formation which may be useful.
This new habit is your opportunity to bring the Learning Loop into operation so that you can transform your results — the trigger to pause so you can influence faster.