The Golden Rule of Influencing Peers in a Small Business Setting

In May, we took a look at the leadership development from the middle of an organization, with keynote speaker and best-selling author Scott Mautz. His book, Leading From the Middle: A Playbook for Managers to Influence Up, Down, and Across the Organization, has been widely successful since its release. Mautz joins us today to share his perspective on influencing those who you have no authority over.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Welcome back, Scott, and thanks for joining us today.

Scott Mautz:
Thanks so much, Jim. Great to be here once again on your fantastic show.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So before we get to how to influence peers over whom you have no formal authority, we should first discuss how to deal with difficult peers, ones you don’t necessarily get along with. Talk to us about that.

Scott Mautz:
The ones that give us the gray hairs, oh, yeah, okay.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
We all have them.

Scott Mautz:
Couple of key .. And wait, we all have them. Gray, well, I don’t know about gray hairs, we all have difficult coworkers, that I know.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Scott Mautz:
Couple of things, Jim, I think the most important thing is to first of all, thinking about that coworker, stop wishing that they were different, and ask yourself, “Are you really subbing in the word difficult for different?” Is it really just that they’re a different personality that may not mesh with yours? Then you have to just, it’s so important to take the initiative and start to create small bridges. What our research shows us is that one of the biggest reasons that a difficult worker remains to be in a difficult relationship with you is because both of you are kind of avoiding the relationship. You’re not taking the initiative. You’re letting it simmer. Things never get better when you let them simmer, Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
In fact, they get worse.

Scott Mautz:
Never, when it comes … They get much worse. You start to create assumptions, and especially assumptions on intention, where you start to assume with the coworker is thinking, why they’re doing what they’re doing. And when you start doing that, when you start making assumptions about intention, that leads to labeling. Once you start to label someone, now you’re in real trouble because you have this mental process. You’ve convinced yourself they’re this certain thing. And it makes it so difficult to step back and try to improve that relationship at that point.

Scott Mautz:
So stop wishing they were different. Don’t substitute difficult for different. Take the initiative. Create small bridges. Stop assuming their intent on anything. And then maybe most importantly in the end, Jim, we’ve all had those coworkers where I can give advice all day, and in the end, it’s just oil and water, and you’re not going to get along with them. And it’s at that point that you have to choose how much power you’re going to let a difficult coworker have over you, if you’re going to let them continue to drag you down and see the world in a negative light. That’s on you. You have to know when it’s time to draw the line and say, “I’m just not going to let this person bother me anymore.” That can help a relationship too.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So how do you influence a peer in general?

Scott Mautz:
Yeah, in general, the first and most important thing is to practice, Jim, what I call the golden rule of influence. And we’re going to practice it with you right now. I’m going to do a little test. So Jim, I want you to think right now of a person in your life, maybe professional, it can also be personal. I want you to picture a person in your life who’s had tremendous influence of you, however, they didn’t report to you in any formal working relationship. Let me know what you got that person in your mind. I’ll wait.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, I got them.

Scott Mautz:
Okay. I’ll bet the odds are that, that person you’re picturing, they did one of four things, if not all four things. They cared about you. They listened. They gave you something. They taught you something.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Scott Mautz:
True in all four I bet.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yes, true in all four.

Scott Mautz:
That, my friend, is the golden rule of influence.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Scott Mautz:
If you can care, listen, give, and teach to those even over whom you have no formal authority, I can promise you’re going to disproportionately have influence over them, even though you don’t have the job title that directs that. That bleeds into the next tip as well, make unexpected investments. Sometimes we’ll experience this with a coworker who will … You’re not expecting it, so we don’t expect a lot from our coworkers. We assume they’re all busy. They have their own hierarchy to worry about. And when one of them stops and pulls you aside and says, “Hey, Jim, I want to give you some feedback on how you’ve been doing as an anchor. Here’s the things I really like. Here’s the one thing I think you could do better,” you don’t always expect that.

Scott Mautz:
That’s an unexpected investment. So is something, I used to do this all the time, Jim, when I was in the corporate world. I would find out what a coworker, let’s say somebody in R and D, I’d find out what their boss really valued in the function. What was important for them to progress up the food chain in their function? What did their boss really care about? Then I would look for opportunities where that person was showing that attribute, and I would brag about my peer to their boss. They don’t expect that. And word gets back to them when you’re doing things like that, especially when you’re basically bragging on them, and you’re spreading positive gossip. That ultimately gets back to that person.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Absolutely.

Scott Mautz:
I have a couple other tips, I want to make sure. Does that make sense? Does that make sense?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That makes total sense. I love it, yeah.

Scott Mautz:
Yeah. Here’s another important one, Jim. Think about it. You have a lot of people that you can choose to work with. If you’re going to work with a peer you don’t report to, they better be darn good at what they do because we all want to associate ourselves with winners, not losers.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Scott Mautz:
So we know from our research, it’s so important to exude expertise in your area of responsibility, not arrogance. Exude expertise. Show up always being prepared, knowledgeable about the topic, the one that’s ready to jump in on the meeting and add the most value. That attracts peers to want to work with you because they see success and they want to be part of success. That is an indirect form of influence and really, really powerful.

Scott Mautz:
Think of the opposite for a minute. You’re working with a coworker who is in control of their meetings. They don’t seem to know what they’re talking about. They don’t know their subject matter. What do you want to do? You want to distance yourself from them. That’s the opposite of having influence over them. Right? I assume that also makes sense. Right? Yeah. Just a couple other tips, you also want to make sure that you always, always, always have your peers’ back, spreading again positive gossip whenever you possibly can because we know that while, yes, negative gossip travels on average in an office three times faster than positive gossip. We know that when positive gossip is heard, it is four times more powerful than when they hear negative gossip.

Scott Mautz:
So choosing to spread the positive word, even though it may not always get back to the person you’re bragging about, when they do find out, that is a form of influence because they know you have their back. By the way, isn’t it just so much more fun, Jim, and productive around the water cooler?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
There’s no question about it.

Scott Mautz:
To talk that way, rather than the opposite.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. And you don’t want to be known in the organization as that person that’s always just pushing out negative information about others because everyone that walks away from you says, “I wonder what they’re saying about me.”

Scott Mautz:
That’s exactly right. And it gets to the last tip I was going to give you, kind of talking about the rule of reciprocity, we can work in the opposite. One of the most powerful ways we know that we can influence other people is to do things for them, they feel compelled to do things for you. So how do you do that in an office setting? One of the simplest ways to do it, Jim, is to follow the process of always giving your peers 10% more, 10% more effort, 10% more energy.

Scott Mautz:
Think about it. If you’ve ever been in Starbucks, and you’re getting your coffee, or your latte, or your triple espresso, whatever it is you get, Jim, and the barista just seems that morning to be on. They’re pleasant. They’re quick. You weren’t expecting that because you’re in your morning fog and your haze. You feel compelled to give that person a compliment. If it’s a waiter or a waitress, you feel compelled to give them an extra 10% in their tip. It’s no different in the workplace. When you exude that 10% extra energy to your coworkers, they feel they want to give you that right back because it seems odd not to. You seem like the duck out of the picture, that’s a form of powerful influence as well, Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. It seems so simple. The way that you just put those tips is like, this totally makes sense.

Scott Mautz:
And yet, so few of us do it. We know that on average, 70% of executives that we poll say they feel like they have no idea and no actual influence over people whom they don’t control.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Scott Mautz:
And that’s a problem because a lot of what entrepreneurs do, small business managers, big business managers, a lot of how you get your job done is influencing people who don’t report to you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yep, that’s exactly right. Scott Mautz, bestselling author and incredible speaker, I want to thank you so much for joining us on the show. It is always a pleasure. Love to have you back because I’ve got a whole list of other questions here for you, so thank you so much.

Scott Mautz:
You can count on it. Thanks, Jim, I really appreciate it. Remember to lead from the middle.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
We’re doing it. Thanks.


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