Sell your vision, not your soul. How leaders can use the power of attraction at work
For clients who want or need to really improve their leadership game, I sometimes work with the approach of two main groups of leadership styles. This is a great way of introducing people to the idea that there is actually more than one way of doing things. You’ll want to have this flexibility in the way that you lead people because it offers so much possibility.
Think of it this way – which of these approaches describes your typical way of leading others?
- Are you typically behind people, exhorting, encouraging or even pushing them to do stuff? Or
- Are you typically in front of people, enticing, attracting or even pulling them to where they need to be?
Both of these approaches are useful at times. The kind of positional authority that comes with being the boss might tend to make some leaders adopt the first way – the ‘push’ approach to leadership – slightly too much. I want to balance that by exploring one aspect of the other style – the pull style of leadership. In particular, I want to look at the ways you can entice and attract people forwards.
This is the important question to consider about your own leadership – can you attract and entice people into putting their efforts towards a common goal?
When you can do this, as well as ‘push’ people towards things, it just seems to make your working life a little bit sweeter and a little bit easier. The pull approach to leadership can be a welcome change from the ‘selling your soul’ effort of feeling that you always need to be pushing things along!
I’ve just sketched out a few notes here; things to explore and experiment with yourself if you want to try broadening your range of leadership styles in this way.
You want to get a sense that you’re drawing people into a brighter future of some kind. Somewhere either where the current problems that you’re working on together have been solved, or where you’ve created something important together.
You can learn a lot about the ‘pull’ method from great salespeople. The ones who do this well, are the opposite to what you’d describe as a ‘pushy’ salesperson. Here are some of the things to explore that you can learn from really good salespeople:
First, they’ve got the credibility – a track record of doing what they said they would do, of keeping their promises. Leaders might refer to this as walking their talk.
Second, they’ve got a picture of the future – a description of how things will be once that problem has been solved or that achievement has been created. Leaders might call this a vision. Great leaders are really clear about what the core of their vision is, the part that absolutely must happen. Everything else, including the part about exactly how you will get there, is secondary.
Third, they’ve got a way of letting people hear their message. For a salesperson, this is about how they do their promotion, and there are lots of possible channels. For leaders, just what that method is doesn’t really matter, so long as there is a way for people to find out about your vision. Write about it, vlog about it, tour your business, chat about it over coffee whenever possible, put it on a t-shirt, have it tattooed on your forehead – just get the message out.
Those three areas are good places to start your exploration if you’d like to do more enticing and attracting – to be more like a great salesperson in your leadership. And they are really a start; if you were a salesperson, you could think of those three as being like the stuff that would get you in the door. Once you’re in the door, then the real work can start…
Go back to that ‘push’ approach of leadership for a second, just because the contrast will help us to understand the ‘pull’ approach more. A really good push approach to leading others is about making it uncomfortable not to do what is needed. In my jargon, you’ve trying to:
‘Deepen the pain of staying unchanged’
so that other people find it easier to do what you need than to not do it.
And this ‘deepen the pain’ approach is also something that good salespeople do. It’s often the thing that closes a deal, where they’ll ask something like “What will happen if you don’t do something about Problem X?”
In contrast, when you’re doing a ‘pull’ leadership approach, you’re trying to:
‘Feed the desire to reach even higher’
so that other people will be drawn to do what you need them to do, because they want to.
There are three more interesting areas to consider then, if you’d like to get into this pull approach. They’re about using your Vision of the future to appeal to some of the unconscious ways that people respond to their experiences: Logically, Emotionally via their Senses and through Relationships with others.
Can you set out the Logic of how your Vision makes sense as something that people would naturally want to do? Does it have diagrams and pictures to appeal to people who process logic visually? Can you tell the story of it, so that people who think in words can get on board? Can you do the numbers – do the figures really stack-up, so that people who think in abstract terms will be attracted by it?
Emotionally and Sensually
As my teenager might put it, can you share the ‘feels’?
My coaching friend Andy Denne describes this approach as selling a peach. You can talk about the great smell of a ripe peach, or its sweet juicy taste, or its lovely bright colour. You can even hand out samples, so people can experience for themselves what it’s like to eat a peach. I’m trying to sell you the idea of using metaphor to entice people into your vision. What will it be like for people to put their efforts towards your common goal – what will the sights, sounds and experiences be like?
Can you ‘sell’ your vision by building Relationship with the people around you? How well do you know them and what’s important to them? What keeps them awake at night? What do they long for? Can you listen more than you talk, so that you learn and understand people better? Relationships are the platform from which you can adapt, improvise and overcome on the way towards achieving your vision.
“If you want people to build a ship, don’t just drum up people to collect wood, and don’t just assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the sea.”
Antoine de St Exupery