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10 Quick fixes for effective influence behaviour when time is short

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

– MARCUS AURELIUS

Time pressure rules at the best of times and dominates at the worst. If you’re in a rush, if your day is a blur of half-completed projects and harassed, unfocused meetings, scrawled to-do lists and endless notifications, you can miss things. You can make mistakes and damage relationships. It can raise issues of lack of trust, it can make employees feel unappreciated, or make bosses think you can’t handle the pressure. It can take a great deal of time to build up trust and credibility. Yet it can be lost in seconds. And the very worst thing you can do is the very thing you might feel tempted to do – to make promises you can’t keep. Before you know it, you’re in a negative cycle of missed deadlines and damaged relationships.

The Positive Power and Influence® Programme is focused on helping delegates meet objectives and at the same time maintain or build productive working relationships. This is known as the ‘balance beam’ model, and it sits at the heart of the programme.

Balancing objectives and relationships requires influence. And effective influence often takes time and planning – especially if emotions are running high. So here are some quick-fix ideas to help you manage and influence both your tasks and relationships when time is short.

1. Picture your impact

If you’re so busy that you only have the time for one tip today, let it be this: always try to picture your impact. How people react to you is impossible to predict, but finding time to consider how your words and actions appear to others is a vital tool for self development.

2. Keep your promise

As Carl Gustav Jung said: ‘You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.’ If you agreed to deliver a task at a certain time, move mountains to keep your promise. If despite all efforts you’re going to miss the deadline, communicate this fact as soon as possible. They need to know that it’s not going to happen. Taking the time to be up front and let them know will engender good will – and hopefully win you more time.

3. Make brief proposals

Keep it clear, keep it short. If you have an idea, don’t water it down with twenty back-up arguments. Just state the idea, with the two strongest arguments for doing it.

4. If you’re in a rush don’t force the issue

When you’re short of time, you’re at your most vulnerable – you’re at a stage where you are most likely to resort to forcing behaviours. If someone continually disagrees to a plan of action, don’t try to force things through – this could further entrench their position. Take the lead with a decisive postponement. This may seem a laughable suggestion in an article about saving time, but it might be just what the situation needs and end up saving you time in the long run.

5. Take focus away from the point of conflict

If there’s a bone of contention, don’t dwell on the issue. If you’re negotiating towards a common goal, focus on the goal, rather than the barriers that currently lie in its way. This can be as simple as just reminding people why they’re all there.

6. If someone is pushing you hard, move into a pull style

You need to be open to hearing what the other person wants and needs. Listen to what they say, check your understanding and invite them to clarify their views. Everyone thinks they’re good listeners, but not everyone is and it’s a hugely underrated skill.

7. Direct questions lead to direct answers

Ask people what they need. If you want something done, and there seems to be hesitation, be direct and ask what incentive or input they need to carry out the work. Similarly, if you’re persuading and it’s not working, ask them what evidence they need to be convinced.

8. Do your homework

There’s nothing more frustrating than an aimless meeting when you’re short of time. If there’s an unwanted meeting on your agenda, don’t go in blind and frustrated. Find out exactly why you are expected to be there and what the objectives are. It may turn out that you’re not required after all. But if you are, at least you can make sure it’s productive.

9. Head off objections before they take form

Go into every meeting knowing what you wish to get out of it. You need to know who’s going to be there. If you’re there to make a proposal, anticipating what questions and objections they are likely to raise, will help save you time in the long run.

10. If the team is flagging, enthuse about the future

Workplace demotivation may stem from unsustainable workloads, boredom or feelings of not receiving recognition. You can’t solve every problem right now, but leadership is often about simply generating and maintaining an atmosphere. If energy levels are dipping, maybe it’s time you shared some visions. You need to sell the future, to talk about where ‘we’ could be in six months time.

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