Let me ask you a question - have you ever vented to somebody (or to yourself) any of the following thoughts?
- "Getting people to cooperate with me is like pulling teeth!"
- "Nobody reads any of the training material I make."
- "I need help, but nobody is offering (or willing)."
- "I'm trying to improve things around here, but I can't get any support - nobody listens!"
At one point or another, I have said all of those to either my wife, my co-workers, or my friends during lunch.
And at different times, I would have different reasons for why I just couldn't get through to folks:
- People are dumb
- Nobody wants to improve
- People are lazy
Or some variety of those 3 things (nobody wants to change, extra work is hard, etc.). But it wasn't until recently that I realized - "It's not them, it's me!"
People find the leader, and then the dream
Notice that in the list of of reasons people didn't listen to me, I didn't include myself? It was always everybody else's fault. People didn't listen to me because they didn't see my vision, or they didn't want to be better. I never considered that maybe, just maybe, people didn't believe in me!
Was there something about me that caused my message to be ignored?
I've been reading a great book recently called The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, and I came across this quote that was difficult to swallow:
[People] believe that if the cause is good enough, people will automatically buy into it and follow. But that's not how leadership really works. People don't at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in. People buy into the leader first, then the leader's vision.
I never really considered myself a leader in the past because I wasn't ever very good at managing my scout troop, and because I never held the title of Senior Manager. But leadership isn't management. John Maxwell (the author) says that, "Leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less."
If you influence people, you are a leader - the greater the influence, the greater your leadership. If you speak and people listen, you are a leader. When you make a suggestion and people respect it, you are a leader.
If you speak and nobody listens, you are not a leader. When you make a suggestion and people don't respect it, you are not a leader. If you can't influence anybody, you are not a leader.
Increase your influence and improve your training
What I'm getting at is if we want people to follow our vision and listen to our ideas, we need them to first buy into us. If nobody buys into us, we're done - we won't influence anybody. And chances are we won't be able to initiate change, get anybody to listen to us, or read the training material we just created.
That's not an easy thing to hear (or to say out loud), but in order to get better, we need an accurate diagnosis.