#010 - Adapt to your audience or fail
Welcome to Issue #010 of The Forcing Function - your guide to delivering the right outcomes for your projects and your users.
✍️ Insights: Advice is useless unless acted upon so adapt to your audience.
🤔 Made me think: We see only a fraction of other people's reality.
👨💻 Worth checking out: Definition of infinity on a video call + learning more about your immune system.
Advice is useless unless acted upon so adapt to your audience.
As a lifelong consultant, both when I was with Accenture and now as an independent, I see my role as leaving the client in a better place than I found them in. And that means persuading them to action my advice.
But where the client wants to go isn't where I know they need to go. Often, they don't want to go anywhere.
So, to succeed with these stakeholders, I need to apply the art of cat herding. This advert is 20+ years old and for a consulting firm that no longer exists. Yet this still resonates (aka hits a bit too close to home) with consultants today.
A beginner mistake is to find what worked for a stakeholder and tightly latch onto that - applying it to everyone and to every project.
But whilst your stakeholders might be similar, they aren't identical to each other nor are they the same across projects.
You're not the same day to day or even hour to hour. Think about how you feel and act on a Monday morning versus Friday afternoon. Or how you are in the run up to a critical steering committee meeting and how you feel afterwards when things went well ... or not.
By not adapting to your stakeholders and their idiosyncrasies, you won't earn their trust. They'll have you running from pillar to post, and you'll be going nowhere fast.
"If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail."
Abraham Maslow | Psychologist
As a consultant, I have to succeed at cat herding if I want to deliver the project. That means being observant, adaptable, and flexible in my approach with stakeholders.
Fail to do that and you risk being a "bull in a china shop" - wreaking havoc to your client, to your team, and to your project.
The art of cat herding to adapt to my audience
Early on in my career, I realised that behavioural self-assessments were useful not just to understand myself better but also my stakeholders.
Starting with Marston's DISC framework. Then, Merrill & Reid's Social Styles framework. Over time, I've remixed them to create my own take - one that's easier for me to recall and apply daily.
Each quadrant denotes an archetypical style - each with a common set of motivators and stressors.
By mapping each stakeholder to their primary quadrant, I can adapt my approach so that my message and my advice is more likely to resonate with them. Or, at least, avoid an approach that's likely to antagonise them.
Here's a quick summary of each quadrant.
Driving: Think John McEnroe.
Motivated by results, power, and winning.
Fears loss of control and being vulnerable.
Prioritise your message on what X delivers for them (and their team) today.
Influencing: Think Ryan Reynolds.
Motivated by social recognition, team-working, and relationship building.
Fears loss of influence and being socially rejected.
Prioritise your message on how delivering X improves their social standing.
Amiable: Think Marge Simpson.
Motivated by putting team cohesion first, being co-operative, and feeling safe.
Fears loss of stability and team harmony.
Prioritise your message on how we'll collaboratively work together to deliver X.
Analytical: Think Spock.
Motivated by applying their expertise, being right, and being accurate.
Fears being wrong and being criticised.
Prioritise your message on the facts and the details of the why and how of doing X.
Let's take a practical example: I'm guiding a stakeholder to replace their eSignature app to one that better suits their requirements.
All other things being equal, what I might say to the stakeholder varies to the quadrant I've mapped them to.
Driving: By switching, you will get these three specific benefits in 3 months. By staying with your current app, you will continue to face these specific issues and here's how it'll directly impact you.
Influencing: We've found a better eSignature app. With your advocacy and enthusiasm, we can switch over seamlessly and you'll make life far easier for your team and your customers.
Amiable: From working with your colleagues, we've found a few gaps with the current eSignature app. With your help and support, we can get this replaced with a better solution that makes life better and easier for everyone.
Analytical: Here are the 5 showstoppers why your current eSignature solution doesn't meet the requirements of the business. And here's the detailed comparison of the options with rationale for the proposed solution for your consideration.
By being adaptable, you can influence most of your stakeholders, most of the time to take your advice and action it.
“The right word at the right time will unlock the door to treasures - the wrong one will close it forever.”
Rasheed Ogunlaru | Author
Use this blindly at your peril
Remember: this framework is merely a starting point.
People are a unique blend of all 4 and that mix changes constantly. Each quadrant is just an archetype which, by definition, means it's not unique to each person. So, avoid lazily typecasting your stakeholders - as easy as it is to do.
Just as I've shown you that you need to adapt to your stakeholders, you also need to adapt how you use this framework.
🤔 Made me think
We see only a fraction of other people's reality.
Adapting requires us to have a better appreciation and understanding of each stakeholder's viewpoint. However, even with that it's important to remember that we'll only ever see a fraction of their reality.
You can only see what they let you see. And you can only see them through your reality - not theirs. So understand and extrapolate with care.
Everyone hears only what he understands.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | Novelist
🧑💻Worth checking out
😂 As my client is 100% remote, this is amusingly too true.
📚 Immune (Philipp Dettmer): If you want to find more about your immune system, this is an excellent read with clear explanations without needing a biology degree to understand the concepts.
🖖Until next Thursday ...
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For now, thank you so much for reading this week's issue of The Forcing Function and I hope that you have a great day.
PS: Thanks to P for reading drafts for me.