The Problem Solving Universe – Persuading & Influencing

Solve a complex enough problem!

Within the Problem-Solving Universe lie the twinkling lode stars of our learning and development.

Meera was a qualified, very intelligent, very capable professional; and also a very dissatisfied professional. Yet she had moved from job to job for many years, feeling she is incapable of working in a team. And the fundamental reason for this, according to her, was the lack of shared agendas on standards of work.

And here she was, highly ambitious, yet frustrated at not knowing what she can pursue without having to work with other people.

In this backdrop, she faced the mother-of-all problems we privileged upper middle class Indians invariably face – getting our apartment (that we have paid through our nose for and will continue paying for the next 15-20 years) finished by the builder.

Numerous talks, pleas, “emotional blackmails” had been walled very nicely by the Project Manager (PM), with little progress towards completing the last mile.

But this problem made her discover the first lodestar in her PSU – an insight into herself! Meera realised she had little ability to Persuade & Influence people around, be at work or outside; and if she did not do something about it, whatever job/ career she took up would continue to frustrate and dissatisfy her! (She is also “Power” motivated).

She had to develop these competencies needed to influence the people she worked with on a shared agenda and standards!

Then she embraced the second lodestar – she made herself vulnerable and took help to understand and develop this.

With the expert help, she worked on her entire view of and approach to the problem.

a. She first thought about what is the outcome she wanted from her encounters with the PM.
b. She thought about what may hopefully persuade the PM to understand her PoV (hopefully as builders in India are a different breed altogether!)

Meera prepared:

1. She took the builder’s contract and noted down all their deliverables; then she got her contractor to measure every inch of floor and wall that was completed and not completed. She took pics of the state of the flat.
2. She got her contractor to give an estimate for the number of days it would need to complete the pending work.
3. She tabulated the data on the money she has been losing, due to the delay, by having to pay rent at her current residence.
4. Instead of casually encountering him at site and sharing her peeves, she called the PM, told him she had something important and serious to discuss and took and appointment.
5. She followed that up with an email to him with her agenda for the meeting.

Meera in the meeting:

1. She greeted the PM and thanked him for all his understanding and support so far.!
2. The she presented the data on the current state and the desired state of of completion of deliverables and the impact on her.
3. Then she completely took him by surprise with her question “I know you have always been helpful; So instead of making assumptions, I want to understand from you why you are not paying attention to my apartment?’
4. His response also left her thoughtful; most of the labour had gone on leave and he just did not have any one skilled enough. It was not that he has forgotten her apartment.
5. Meera could not but help empathise with him and asked him to give a best possible date; after all, there were many other flats which were also incomplete!

She left the meeting feeling very different from the usual encounters; not a position of weakness and helplessness, but from a position of evidence based strength. She knew that whatever the outcome of the meeting may be, she felt in charge.

Let us debrief Meera’s approach:

1. Gather data on current state
2. Get clarity on the desired state
3. Listen for feelings, constraints,
4. Create a win-win goal/ outcome to gain commitment

And that is the crux of Persuasion and Influence! “Seek to understand before being understood!”

By acknowledging his challenges, and empathising, she has moved the PM from an antagonistic, long-suffering vendor to a partner who has become vested in solving this nice client’s problem.

And what of the much-maligned, and justifiably so, response from the builder?

The moment the conditions came back in his control, the PM put her project on a priority and put all his resources to it, and delivered ahead of his agreed upon time!

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