Time and again we meet clients who are stuck. One recently was experiencing the micro-management of a stakeholder who should have had better things to do. This attention to minutiae and constant interference was leaving my client feeling frustrated, undermined and even at times as if her competency was being called into question. While aware of her need to stay in control of the situation and appear not to be reacting, she also wanted to assert influence in her relationship with her stakeholder — but, to be blunt, she couldn’t afford to alienate him!
This episode reminded me of the importance of thinking about what is driving people to do what they do. Behind every behaviour we adopt there is a pay-off factor for us. I asked my client — “What is the pay-off to your stakeholder in behaving this way?” She quickly realised that it was probably that he needed to fill his time and appear to be busy at a time when staff cutbacks in his organisation were in full swing. In effect, his attention had moved from his strategic role into something highly operational — possibly back into his comfort zone.
With this insight, my client soon came up with a range of influencing options to start getting her relationship back onto the right footing again, without needing to be critical or expose the motivations behind her stakeholder’s behaviour.
Stepping into someone else’s shoes and experiencing life from their perspective can be very powerful in helping us to understand the issues and know how to respond in a more influential manner.