Volume 11, Number 12
Others the People-Smart Way
Silberman is Professor of Adult and Organizational Development at
Temple University and President of Active Training (www.activetraining.com).
He is author of 101 Ways to Make Training Active, Active Training, and 101 Ways
to Make Meetings Active (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1995,
1998, 1999). His latest book is PeopleSmart:
Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence (Berrett-Koehler,
San Francisco, 2000).
company can be successful if its people don’t invest in each
other and in their customers FOR THE LONG HAUL. We need employees who work “people smart” and one way to
do that is to be skillful at influencing others.
others has to do with getting them to be receptive to your views,
advice and recommendations. It is not about getting them to admit
you are right nor controlling their behavior.
Those intentions suggest that you want to change the other
person. Attempting to change others is a fruitless endeavor and is
usually resisted Ultimately,
you cannot change other people but you can be a positive influence
by opening their minds to constructive attitudes and effective
courses of action. In the process, you may win them over.
many people are too intent on changing others and getting nowhere.
a vice-president of a financial services company, is one of the brightest people I’ve ever met.
And one of the best read and best informed as well.
She can be interesting to listen to …until the point when
she wants you to agree with her.
If you see things differently, she barrels ahead, stating
with complete certainty how right she is.
She does provide facts and figures to support what she’s
saying, but if you still have misgivings, her posture is that
“you simply don’t understand.”
Maureen also has little patience when others express views
that she disagrees with. You
seldom get the impression that she considers what you think or
feel. The net result is that she rarely influences the views of
others. She may be
admired for her brilliance but people keep at arm’s length from
her. Sensing the
rejection of others, Maureen retreats until the next moment she is
intent on changing people’s minds.
Her efforts are always short-lived and unsuccessful.
Compare Maureen to Andrea.
Andrea is the training manager in the same financial
services company. She
recently convinced her company to increase their commitment to
training by $2 million dollars annually.
This was accomplished by a painstaking personal campaign
that lasted two years. When
Andrea first suggested to senior management that a greater
investment in training its workforce was essential, she was
soundly rebuffed with the explanation:
“In our experience, training is usually a waste of time
and money. People
will learn what they really need to on their own or by getting
help from their coworkers and supervisors.”
Although disappointed by this response, Andrea was
determined to do whatever it took to influence a change in
The first thing she did was to talk with senior management
about their personal experiences with training when they were
first entering the company. She
probed into many areas and listened with interest and
understanding to the answers she obtained.
It was not difficult for her to identify with the negative
training experiences people had because she, too, had similar
ones. She also asked
senior management to share with her the business results they were
seeking for the coming two years.
Armed with this information, she put together a powerful
presentation that featured newer, more effective training
strategies. She also
suggested how they could be utilized to impact the company’s
bottom line. Andrea
was careful to benchmark the best training practices of other
similar companies and establish their “return on investment.”
This time, Andrea received a better response.
Although no commitments were made, she did receive a
promise to review her proposal after the next quarter’s results.
To make a long
story short, the proposal was kicked about for several months
before given serious consideration.
During that time, Andrea occupied herself with other
projects, but also made a point of periodically checking in with
her supervisor on the status of her proposal.
After a year went by, senior management was becoming
convinced of the merits of Andrea’s views but still did not
commit as much money as she had been seeking.
Andrea graciously accepted the small “foot in the door”
and, with the budget she had to work with, conducted some pilot
programs that were well received and backed up by data to support
their results. Now, finally convinced of training’s
effectiveness, senior management gave Andrea the total backing she
had long been seeking.
individuals like Andrea are adept at influencing others by being
patient and persistent. Their success is a function of three key
sub-skills. By connecting
with others, influential people establish a genuine rapport
with those they are trying to influence.
Influential people take time to assess
needs by finding out the viewpoints, needs, concerns and
problems others have. Finally, they use this knowledge to make a persuasive presentation that appeals to the needs of others
so that they see the benefits for themselves.
Do your people attempt to motivate others by using these skills? Or are they people who plow ahead and merely argue their points and try to pressure others into agreeing with them? Or worse, do they try to win over others with deception? A few do. You don’t want them on your team.