When others don’t want to cooperate or are working against you, “conflicting agendas” are often cited as the cause. This seems to signal a barrier to success, an explanation of why you can’t get the things done – or is it an excuse?
A more helpful thought is that it is simply a question of different priorities. This helps us to realise that it could be negotiated to achieve a win-win. You are not in conflict with others – you’ve just got different priorities at the moment (well, you may be in actual conflict, but often it’s a figment of your imagination).
Most of the difficulties arise because of lack of awareness of what the other person has on their list of priorities. Unless you know what they want, how can you negotiate? Until you know what they are trying to “win” you cannot come up with an innovative idea which can enable you both to “win”. Instead, you are just guessing – or more likely, just pitching your ideas and hoping they’ll be accepted.
Agendas come in two main types, professional and personal. The professional agenda is all the work-related priorities, job descriptions, project plans, etc. Some are often visible or easily revealed with a question or two, so easy to work with. More difficult to spot are the subtle influences on the professional agenda. A profit warning can put unseen pressures on key people in the organisation which may not be openly talked about. Sometimes the way of teasing this out is to look for the drivers behind the public or professional agenda. We need to dig deeper and look around more corners to see what is really making things happen.
Personal agendas are much more difficult to work out. Items here include career goals, bonus aspirations, or even settling old scores and getting revenge! Without a good relationship with the individual concerned, a high degree of intelligent guessing is required. It may mean you have to seek intelligence from people in your network and consider recent history and behaviour patterns. However, any attention you put towards uncovering the personal agenda will yield big results, because for many people the personal agenda is their key driver. Of course, they will never admit to being driven by personal gain or greed, but there is a bit of that in all of us, isn’t there?
To get really good at influencing others, you need to turn on your radar and start to figure out more accurately what others are aiming for. Once you’ve done that, you can begin the work of merging your agendas and creating win-win outcomes.