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Convincing Others / Influencing Others
4

Convincing Others / Influencing Others

Convincing Others / Influencing Others

(OP)
Dear all,

For a year I joined a new project team. With all kind of different (engineering) backgrounds. Nice people. But ...
Every time a make a proposal or have an idea in my own area of skills it takes me months to convince the others. They just won't accept my "authority" (in other words I have no authority at all).

This is new for me in 10 years of different and succesful projects in control engineering. Most of the time my work was accepted without "any" discussion.

Altough the athmosphere in the team is exellent I'm losing time and it frustates me.

Any suggestions?

MVD

P.S. I have an MSc. Control Systems Engineering

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

There may not be anything you can do.

Are the others not knowledgeable in your field?  You could perhaps set up one or more seminars to explain various aspects of your field.  This would make them more knowledgeable as well as demonstrate your mastery of the subject, since you really need to know your subject to adequately teach someone else.

Is it unique to your material?  Perhaps there's just a lack of real leadership, so no one wants to make decisions.

TTFN

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

Must be nice to work on a project where months can go by with no apparent progress and nobody seems to care.

Once you do manage to convince the rest of the team have your ideas actually been implemented?  And if so, have they worked?  Success breeds success.

Is the nature of the team such that you could just do it, rather than discuss it?  If so you could build yourself a reputation as a "take charge" guy.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

(OP)
Thanks. You are helping me,

1) Seminars? Good idea. I'll try to convince through presenting former succeses.
2) Indeed there no real project leader. The team is "self-steering". I proposed to be project leader for the control systems, but again I could not convince.

It not that worse, we make progess and we do care. I'm the "take charge" guy. However it could all be handled faster and more professionally. With project leader, planning and clear responsibilities.

More feedback is appreciated, Happy Holidays to all,
MVD


RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

Take a another look at how you come across, how you are presenting your thoughts and ideas... It is easy to "turn-off" a group of very capable people by any number of reasons... and if done several times, you've lost your "authority" -- although this is suppose to be a team, there may be "politics" involved...

because you seem to have the experience and the success behind you, have you conveyed a "superior" attitude to them somehow?  do your ideas provide opportunities for others to have ownership?

try picking out one or two of the "natural" leaders and ask them how to improve your ability to market your ideas to the group, asking for pointers or suggestions about making the presentation to the group more appealing, or other improvements...

don't try to go it alone, you need to foster a co-sponsor or a good friend who has faith in your ideas and abilities and will support you both in the group and in the background -- once you have gained more respect, then you should have others supporting you... remeber, this is a team, not individuals efforts (but be vary wary of the politics)

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

Interesting, that your group has no leader.  "Self-steering" usually results in "no direction".

"Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings."--C. D. Jackson

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

(OP)
Thanks for thinking with me,

So far I think the three main proplems are:

1) No leadership = no direction We might end up somwhere where we did not intend (which could be a nice place as well ; ). Of course it IS a serious problem.

2) Politics. Yes there are politics. I feel some people (outside the team) do not want this project / are reluctant to have the project.

3) Convincing. I guess it's all about marketing my ideas.
Guess I have to forget winning on the facts or the science. They don't understand it anyway. It's all about the story. The question is how to sell my ideas? When I try to persuade that bunch of Cinical Cedrics they come up with all sorts of objections and questions with very low engineering / scientific value.

Any good marketeers around?


RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

MVD,

"Every time a make a proposal or have an idea in my own area of skills it takes me months to convince the others"

Hey, I used to work with that crowd.

Seriously, you're "problem" isn't unusual. You're colleagues might be all engineers, but that doesn't mean they always think and act objectively. Someone's mentioned "politics". That's always present, along with hidden motivations.

Perceptions are very important. There's your perception of yourself. There's others' perceptions of you. There's your perception of others. There's your perception of others' perceptions of you. Complicated? Yep.

To get to some practical help - be very sure that the topic in question is within your area of expertise. If you're sure of yourself, then BE confident and ACT confident.

Always express your expert opinion. Always, always, always. I think  that is extremly important. Speak your mind. Don't subdue it because someone louder is dominating the floor.

It doesn't matter too much if your view is not acted on. Whoever makes the decisions might have a whole range of views to consider. Matters you might not be aware of.

One day the issue in question will be an important one. So important that your expert view really ought to be acted on. That's the moment when you must stand your ground and force the issue. You won't manage that unless you've practised it.

You will feel lousy if things go wrong and you did not forcefully push your view. Don't let that happen.

Don't be arrogant. Take the attitude that you are 80% correct. Accept corrections gracefully.

Respect others' opinions. And I mean GENUINE respect, not token. Listen to them.

Soemone else suggested "take charge". Sometimes that's all that's required. If you know the right course of action, you can "JUST DO IT" and all critics fall aside.

They don't teach this in Engineering School, do they?

Hope that doesn't come across as patronising. It's a problem I've had to deal with. The above is nothing more than my own advice to myself.

Cheers,
John.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

I guess I'm of the old school where a team was a team -- where the formal leadership was understood, but the natural leadership flowed with the project and the one who was assigned ownership to the project by the team... it's developed by those who have worked together for a long period of time and know and respect the capabilities of the others... and everyone carried their load

New comers who tried to exert themselves were quickly relegated to the side lines because it wasn't about who's in charge, or who gets the glory (sorry, I'm reading into the original posting things that aren't written)

although, today's world isn't about teamwork -- if you want promoted, keep pushing...

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

(OP)
Dear all,

Of course I have to look in the mirror and have a moment of self reflection on my character / behaviour in the team (and in general). No they don't teach this on Engineering school. Thanks for the book-link.

Early next year I have to give a presentation to the team and (part) of the stakeholders. Any suggestions?

NB1. The atmosphere in the group and the team spirit is good.
NB2. Forgive my bad English, my Dutch is better,

Thanks,
MVD
Holland

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

"Team Play" has been a catch phrase in the company i used to work for. The emphasis was on team play as opposed to the old top down management.
To my mind every team has to have a captain. It has to have a decision taker. It has to have someone who has responsibility. Otherwise its no better than a focus group. Team work isn't about democracy, it is about the sensible sharing of ideas and the use of the skills. Team players must have defined skills to contribute but they shouldn't be able to make decisions outsie their own competance unless they understand the issues. If they understand the issues fully in your area of cpompetance they don't need you.
The captain is the guy that lets everyone jam and then he makes the decisions. No captain, no decisions. Not good ones, anyway. Usually, worng decisions and poor results.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

MVD.

Your English is just fine. I don't even know how to say "hello" in Dutch. I didn't detect you are not a native English speaker. What about our replies - are they difficult to understand?

For your presentation, if the topic is something you care about and know well, and the others really want to learn something from you, then it will work out well.

I like to think that the people listening will go away with two or three new facts in their minds they didn't have at the start. Facts that will be of use to them. If you achieve that, then it's a success.

What do you think of Powerpoint presentations? I find they are often "overdone" and become a disttraction. The real presentation comes from the speaker, not from the screen.

Cheers,
John.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

MVD:

Some good advice that has helped me many times is: "Choose your battles carefully".

What that means to me is that though you may many good ideas for many facets of your project, there are some ideas that are clearly better than others or that will provide greater benefit if implemented.  So when one of those stellar solutions becomes evident to you; insist that it be considered fully.  In this case you may want to have an 'outside' expert such as a University Prof. confirm in writing or presentation that your solution will be greatly advantageous if implemented.

Once your team sees that you do indeed have some GREAT ideas, your input will carry much more weight in the decision making.

Good Luck.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

re "They don't teach this in Engineering School"; they're starting to. The Institution of Engineers (Australia) is apparently now insisting that Universities teach at least four semesters of 'team based' units or else loose their certification. How successful it will be remains to be seen, but in large multidisciplinary teams some agreed-on meeting procedures can save a few headaches.
   There have been studies done that found quite clearly that teams with even a poor leader will perform better than teams with none. (I can't find the reference, but 'Karl Smith' rings a bell. "Project Management and Team Leadership" maybe?)
  

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

MVD,

What you described is really typical in the NL. Everyone must agree even for the simplest decision. I personally took it on a way that the questions they ask are not offending. They are not questioning my authority or knowledge. It is just curiousity, and they want to make sure, that nobody makes stupid little mistakes. I agree that this kind of attitude is quite annoying at short deadlines, but if you don't want to have endless fights over power and authority, the best way is to accept the fact that every decision will take months. You can try to adjust your schedule including "decision making time" and be a bit more prepared to appropriately reply to the questions of you colleagues. Answers put on a way as they want to hear will make them to listen more carefully. ;) Yes, it is all politics, you have to watch what do they want and what does the company want, and your solution must fit into their nice little heaven.
Short, clear, simple presentations can also help. Don't make anybody sleep with too many details. For decision making the what to do part is enough. Details of how to do it comes later. Make them to understand that you know what you do and you will deliver what you promised, they don't have to worry about the details.

GSC

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

CARF,

Try reading "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie.  Although this book was written in the 1930's (and revised in the '80's, I believe), it is still very applicable today.  I think you will find it very helpful, in your professional life, and beyond.

The book has been translated into nearly every language, so you should have your pick between Dutch and English.

Haf

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

CARF:

If you have problems getting "your" proposals/ideas accepted, the simplest fix is to make it a "team" solution. The next time you are going to make a proposal or suggest a significant idea,

1) Think of 2 alternative proposals or solutions
2) Determine pros and cons of each potential solution

Then, present all 3 proposals to your team without endorsing any of them.  Discuss what you percieve to be the advantages and disadvantages of each.  Ask for input on other advantages/disadvantages that you may not have identified. Keep an open mind and don't get defensive regarding your proposal. Take a team vote and identify the best course of action.

If you have done your homework and your proposal is really the best one, it will get selected and you will have team buy-in.

Obviously you can't go through this process every time you have an idea.  However, once you have gone through this process a few times, your team's perception of you should be improved and you will have a better chance of getting acceptance of your ideas.

Good Luck

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

(OP)
Dear all,

Thanks for all the reply's. I gave a presentation today it went quit well, thanks to all your suggestions!

Still reading and learning,
CARF/MVD

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

CARF
Hi
I am very new to this site and just now testing out the forums.  I have some tips that may apply, but one team may have other needs than another team.  This will be true in the case where you may have common team members in several teams.  In teams you have three personalities formed, each person, yours, and one of the team as a group.

1. Have you shared your frustrations with your team that applies in your first post?
2. It is important to get timely decisions made; to quote George S. Patton “A good plan executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week”
3. If you do not want to share the above frustrations with your team directly, see if you can get this across covertly or confide in only one other team member you feel is on your side and will give the honest feedback.
4. I think management will want one person as the designated team leader, or have co-leaders defined for the team.  My opinion only: if all are leaders, nobody is the leader.  You may in truth not have a leader, yet management will fill in one for you as the default leader if you do not.  (My opinion formed from past experiences).
5. I get into some of the same like problem.  I had one project where I had one party that would not agree to my solution for a process, yet he was not the end user of the process.  He was not my immediate supervisor and I used my method of approval as the majority of the people and department most directly involved to “Sell” the process.  I also told my manager that I have heard the objecting party and considered his point of view, yet I feel the proposal is very sound and has a low risk of failure.  My manager then agreed with me and we implemented the proposal.  Even one year later we took the process one step further and improved the operation again utilizing the original proposal.
6. One co-worker and engineer of mine has one concept that if the idea is good enough, you should not need to add Flare in order to just sell the idea.  He claims that if this is not true, he will start submitting the proposals with good looking women models, flowers, wine, and power point presentations with rock music to better “Sell” the idea.  I do not agree with him 100% but value his input.  On the flip side if you scribble the idea or proposal on a used table napkin and only grunt out the benefits, you might not convince anyone.
7. One method of mine has worked well is the FAB approach.  Just presenting the correct order of information can help the person agree with you.  F stands for Features of the new (method, product, idea).  Then A stands for Advantages.  B stands for Benefits.  Just for Kicks try this with a small idea, or less important proposal if it works for you go on to bigger, more important proposals.
8. I have been told and also agree that some people will only hear you, some will only read your documents and you must adjust your methods so both get your information as you present the information.  I always leave handouts with meetings and include the agenda.
9. I also have some success with listing out the problem statement, the data, the measurement method of how the idea was selected, and keeping this all very short and asking for input or agree/disagree immediately.  Why this works may be due to the fact you state the points you want “one the table” and exclude all other points that are considered frivolous by yourself and get the party to focus on the points made and do not drift off in thought to other things.
10. To solve this same problem I could still use some suggestions and hints from others, so please give me feedback.
I have some examples I could send of both well sold and those where convincing is a problem for me.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

The purpose of meetings is not to get everyones agreement but to get everyones views properly expressed, to consider all and for the team leader to make a decision. It does not require that everyone agrees with the decision merely that they assent to it and co-operate in achieving the most successful outcome.
The old adage "there's a right way, a wrong way and the Navy way" (or My way or any other way!)is true. It would be nice to be perfect but it is better to get results that deliver.
Talk to anyone and you will find that many projecst only ever get 95% completed. The remaining 5% may not be achieved but they'd better not be critical.
George Patton mayn not have been in marketing but the marketing adage is "I don't want it right, i want it tommorow." Too many projects seek perfection first time out of the box and get nowhere.
Expecting everyone to agree is impossible, that is why decsisions are taken by the team leader. He carries the responsibility. No leader, no decisions.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

Team leaders are not always appointed or anointed.  The leaders are the people that will have the skills to bring concensus.  It isn't unusual for one member to the team to be apointed leader by management but another member actually lead.

Someone said management expects the team leader to make the final decision.  That may or may not be true.  If the appoiinted team leader is the decision maker and makes a decision that isn't the team concensus odds of a successful implimentation of the decision are reduced.  Those team members not in agreement will not give their whole hearted support.  You use teams for two reasons-to get a wider scope of knowledge and to get buy in of stake holders.  If you fail to take advantage of either then there is no use to forming a team.  Management that expects the leader to make the decision may not understand this.

It is possible for some team members to reject data and science if they fail to understand it or don't trust it.  Even though Detroit has spent billions trying to raise CAFE there are still people that think magnets on their fuel line will boost mileage 20% and the manufacturers don't use them because of a conspiracy.  I had a team that worked hard to deliver specific safety training and pointed with pride to the decrease in incidents in the target group but ignored the greater decrease in a group that didn'r receive training.  Can you say "Hawthorne."  

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

This is so critical for new engineers.

My verbal communication skills have always lagged my written communication skills by a mile. I used to get flustered in meetings and still get nervous meeting with the bosses.

This is the #1 thing that has held me back in my career progress.

My answer. We all need to reinvent ourselves from time to time.

It is almost more important to be assertive than correct in todays businesses.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

EngineerDave
To re-invent myself I still want to be careful not to toss out any good aspects.  I have been told I should check out one course that is from Dale Carnegie, or one like that style, did you have any input?  I do not know if you read my reply above or not.  The people with the suggestion about the Dale Carnegie course may not have had only "Good intentions" with the suggestion.

I have read some books about how to be better at being more assertive.  One I still own. (Do not have the title handy)  I think you need to keep some of the assertiveness in check because you could assert yourself right out of a job.  The book had pointers on just how to say the same thing, yet to be with better impact.  I use this sometimes, but with caution.

RE: Convincing Others / Influencing Others

Nervousness when meeting the bosses might just be a good survival instinct; they may like to see nervous people, it tells them they are powerful beings! Not being nervous tend s to mean you can inulge in familiarity and humour aand anyone can tell you management has no sense of humour. It also means you might believe they want to hear the truth. I have tried this and it doesn't work. (which is why i now have my own company). Being right is not a recipe for success.
Still, one thing that might help put you in control is to try public speaking.... or working on your presentation skills. A book i read and stole some good ideas from was "I can see you naked" by Ron Hoff.("Americas best book on making presentations" says the cover blurb). Borrow from the library and use the bits you like. Treat managment (i.e. all levels of management in positions superior to your own position in management) as simple minded spiteful children brought up in isolation from the real world and you can't go far wrong.... unless they demonstrate to you infallable evidence that they know what they are doing and are good at it... a very rare breed, I've met about one in 25 years.

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