Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Persuade people, not positions

Steve Roesler has a great post about talking about people as people and not just as their position.  I agree with his assessment completely, especially because he acknowledges that position is still a factor in working with people but not the dominant one.  My friend has had an experience that highlights the importance of this.

My friend works on an ergonomics safety program for his employer.  They are working on reducing repetitive motion injuries, which can cost over $100,000 each and have been on the rise in recent years.  While a normal workplace problem this expense represents two important things: people getting hurt and people being made less effective at their jobs.  My friend knows that if he can change this he can get a win for himself on his appraisal, a win for his coworkers in the form of fewer injuries and a win for his company as reduced injury costs.

The problem is that the simple and inexpensive plan he wanted to implement wasn't chosen.  Instead the plan that was spoken a bit more loudly in a meeting has been adopted.  Looking at his options for getting his idea implemented he realized that he needs a champion in the company.  One willing to take the hit on budget (minor overall but they're in a tight cost control mentality).  One of his first ideas for people to appeal to wasn't actually a good choice because while the position makes a lot of sense, the person is under particularly heavy scrutiny and would be hesitant to commit to a new project.

On the other hand, he identified another person who has budget access, isn't under especially tight scrutiny and is new enough to her position that she would benefit significantly from a 'win' in earning credibility.  The position is probably third or fourth down on the list but the person's need to earn reputation combined with her personal focus of helping employees makes her a good ally for the project.  Now he just has some homework to do to make sure what he thinks her positions and values are is correct.  But by reviewing the person inside the position and thinking about his problem in human terms, his plan of attack came together almost effortlessly and his chances of success probably doubled.

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