This is an exciting week for my family as we’re in the process of getting organised for my sister’s wedding this weekend. She’s marrying her lovely fiancé Ben. He’s a great partner-in-life for my sister and I’m really pleased to be part of their celebration. They work together in the AFP (Australian Federal Police) and they’re both in the Search and Rescue squad. Ben’s role is to negotiate hostage situations and trains others in how to do it. At a moment’s notice he can be on a plane anywhere and we don’t know where he is or what the situation is.
Now before meeting Ben I thought hostage-negotiators had to be a pretty hard-nosed kind of person. Maybe I’d watched too many Hollywood movies! It turns out I was wrong. He’s a pretty unassuming kind of guy; kind, warm and you wouldn’t really think he does the work he does. One of the reasons he’s so effective is because he uses something called “soft power”.
Soft power is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion. Nye says ”power is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcomes you want. There are several ways one can achieve this: you can coerce them with threats; you can induce them with payments; or you can attract and co-opt them to want what you want. This soft power – getting others to want the outcomes you want – co-opts people rather than coerces them”
So, some of the ways leaders can use soft power to influence, motivate and persuade others are:
1. Storytelling– I had the privilege of seeing Yamini Naidu speak at Thought Leaders Showcase this year. Yamani is a thought leader in story-telling and co-author of the book “Hooked: How Leaders Connect, Engage and Inspire with Story telling” with Gabrielle Dolan. She has worked with some of the most senior executives in the country. She spoke about how stories can be one of the most powerful way to use “soft power” and shift a person from one way of thinking to another. Stories need to have emotional anchors that match the emotions in the situation for the other person. It may mean you become more vulnerable and open but it means the person is far more likely to co-operate rather than you telling them what to do.
2. Coaching- To elicit responses from your team, means being able to ask great questions. Instead of asking “why do it that way?” asking “what options have you got to achieve the same outcome?” or “what’s the benefit in doing it that way?” Finding questions that reduce defensiveness and increase feelings of power in the other person will make them feel more in control, which may seem counter-intuitive. Ironically when you’re doing more listening and less telling, you’re more likely to get the person to do what you need them to do. Lindsay Tighe said it best in his work “Better Questions are the Answer”.
3. Diary Management- Being able to say no to people can be hard. In organisations we can feel like we’re not being a team player or being rude if we say no. The reality is we lose our influence if we keep saying yes to thing we shouldn’t be. Stephen Covey in his classic book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” says that we need to put the big rocks in the jar first in first before we can fit the little things in. Be known for being effective by having your own work in your calendar first. This makes it much easier to say no, as you simply can’t fit any more in your day. By default it will create more influence and “soft power” in your role.
4. Brand Management- Look at your touch points.What are your customer or team member experiences when they interact with you? How do you dress? Do you smile and say good morning? Do you look at your phone whilst in meetings and not give people your full attention? What does it say about you? How does that make people feel? These may seem like subtle things, but as Tom Peters says in his book “The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence” it’s always show time and you need to lead by example. Everyone is watching.
The best thing about “soft power” is that if you’re not a dominant or forceful kind of person, you get to be your most fulfilling and authentic self. On the other hand if you are, you’ll see more connection with your team even if it feels a bit different. You’ll enjoy your work more, being more energised, less drained and achieve results without being aggressive or rude to people.
Love to know your thoughts….
Jane Anderson is a Speaker and Author who works with Sales Managers, Marketing Managers, Thought Leaders, Experts and CEO’s to leverage the expertise of their talent through LinkedIn.
To inquire about Jane speaking at your next event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org