In August, as a part of the certification process as a John C. Maxwell coach, speaker, teacher and trainer, I had the opportunity to make a brief presentation. For those of you who may not be familiar with John C. Maxwell, let me point out that in 2014 he was named by the American Management Association as the #1 leader who influenced business. He has been voted the #1 leadership and management expert by and designated the # 1 New York Times bestselling author, coach and speaker.

After making my presentation, it occurred to me that the ideas I presented at the event might be of interest to the readers of The MBA Dispatch. The remaining paragraphs are the content of that presentation.

If you have followed John Maxwell very long, you know that he says, “Leadership is Influence.” While I agree with that definition I think of it as only the second best definition of leadership I have ever heard.

I think the best definition was provided by President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he said, “Leadership is the art of getting people to do what you want done because they want to do it.”

Now, that sounds great, but how do we do that? How do we get people to want to do what we ask of them?

The first step is to realize “people do things for their reasons, not ours.” The second step is to observe people to discover their beliefs and values. The third step is to paint the picture of what we want done in terms of how it will benefit them, not in terms of how it will benefit us.

Let me give you an illustration of how to do that. Prior to my current position, I was Executive Director of The Montgomery County Department of Community Supervision and Corrections. I reported to a Board of Judges.

Texas prisons had become so crowded that the state legislature created what are called community corrections facilities in order to divert some of the nonviolent offenders from prisons. The state would contract with local jurisdictions to build and operate these facilities.

I wanted one of those facilities for my jurisdiction. The state required that the application for these funds be approved by the local Board of Judges prior to submission. I knew each of the judges on my board. I knew their values and their judicial philosophies. I went to each judge individually to try to persuade him or her to support the application when it came to the entire Board for official approval. What I said in my presentation to each of the judges was based upon his or her philosophy.

While there were 9 judges on the board, I am going to share with you the approach I took with the two who were on each end of the continuum of judicial philosophies. On one end was a judge who had been the elected prosecutor for 12 years before ascending to the bench. His philosophy of probation was something like “trail ‘em, nail ‘em and jail ‘em.”

The other judge was what I refer to as a stereotypical “frustrated social worker” judge. His approach to community supervision was therapeutic. He wanted to “save the world,” but he continued to give offenders chance after chance long after their behavior demonstrated they had no desire to change.

I went to the prosecutor judge and said, “Judge, because the prison system is getting crowded, the state is going to limit the number of prisoners they will accept and some of the offenders you are sentencing to prison do not need to be out walking the streets. The state is making funding available to local jurisdictions to build and operate a new kind of facility called a ‘community corrections facility.’ If we could secure some of those funds and build a facility here, then you could sentence nonviolent offenders — say substance abusers – to the facility and that would leave space in the prison for you to sentence the more violent offenders. Since the offenders you would divert from prison would be in our facility, we would still have control over them and while we have them in our facility we could provide substance abuse treatment.”

When I went to the social worker judge, I said, “Judge, you are putting substance abusers on probation and ordering them to go to counseling and some of them do not go. Do you know what we ought to do? The state is making money available to local jurisdictions to build and operate a new kind of facility called a ‘community corrections facility.’ We ought to get some of those funds and open up a substance abuse treatment facility and when probationers do not go to counseling, you could amend their probation and put them in the facility. That way we could make sure they get the treatment they need because we will provide the treatment there in the facility.”

There are two things I want you to note from this story.

  1. I did not lie to them, but the picture I painted for each of them was different.
  2. The picture I painted for each judge was in terms of how he or she would benefit from having the facility.

I might point out that the decision to support my application for the funds was approved by the board unanimously. They did what I wanted done and they did it because they wanted to do it.

I’m sure Maxwell would agree, “That’s influence.”

How to Get People to Want to do What You Want Done!
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