Influencing Up: Working with your Internal Leadership

Barlow/McCarthy BlogBy: Allison McCarthy, MBA

As recruitment and relations professionals, we often consider selling in our interactions with physicians – getting them to say “yes” to a practice opportunity or to make a referral.  But we’re also continuously selling with our internal stakeholders – senior leaders, physicians, etc…  This really came to light for me as I was recently reading Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human:  The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

During my in-house days, I remember continuously feeling under-resourced.  There just didn’t seem like enough hours in the day to get it all done – particularly during those times when I was doing both recruitment and relations as a one person operation.  In meetings with my CEO, I would regularly share sentiments of being “overwhelmed” looking for his final resignation to some additional help.  It eventually came – but it felt like much blood, sweat and tears had been shed before that relief arrived.

In his book, Daniel Pink recognizes the plight of contending with repeated denials or delays.  He describes it as a strategy of staying afloat or “buoyancy” – offering these management tips.

  • Use Self-Talk:  Before undertaking an “influencing” conversation, work through the dialogue by yourself.  While not a new idea – lots of sales experts and training gurus make this recommendation – but he offers a twist.  Rather than using affirmation or “pumping up” kind of dialogue, Daniel recommends a questioning approach.  He shared the “science” behind what he describes as the “interrogative approach” – with these questions actually working to stimulate answers to be most prepared.  So rather than ruminating a statement like “I can successfully get the additional resources I need”, he recommends saying “Can I successfully get the additional resources I need?”  The brain then automatically works to answer the question – coming up with creative ideas and options that helps be prepared for any direction these conversations might take.
  • Reframe Disappointment: In instances when my CEO denied my request, rather than becoming discouraged, Daniel recommends asking three questions – and find the argument for a “no” answer.  Again, it helps the brain start to work on alternatives.
    • Is this permanent?  No, I will find an acceptable alternative.
    • Is this pervasive? No, I don’t get denied everything – just this one thing right now.
    • Is this personal? No, resources are tight throughout the organization.
  • Monitor Your Positivity Ratio: Science argues that by simply maintaining a higher positive to negative thinking pattern – at least 3 to 1 ratio of positive to negative – we will improve our ability to influence others.  Positive thoughts could be in the form of gratitude, interest, contentment or joy versus anger, guilt or fear.  It makes sense.  Negative thoughts narrows our vision and perspective.  Positive emotions do the opposite – they expand our thinking, open our awareness and make us more receptive and creative.
  • Embrace the Negative:  Finally, there are benefits to be regularly turned down.  It helps to train us to not “walk away” or “give up” on the request.    The more we are denied, the more we recognize that its temporary and we haven’t yet made a strong enough case to generate a “yes”.

In this health care environment with lots of negative thoughts and emotions swirling around, it’s up to us to do the internal work needed keep at it, try again and not give up.  Not easy but if mastered it has rich benefits for us individually and for the organizations we support.

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