The value of positive manipulation!

Or “how to effectively build relationships with your team & main stakeholders”.

Ida Beerhalter - guest host on Make A Wave @Ogunte Growth Readiness Programme, shared with participants some guidance on building relationships with team and main stakeholders, and how to manage influence. Here’s a sample of the questions Ida answered and some of her communications insights:

The value of “positive manipulation!”

[Manipulate: to negotiate, control, or influence (something or someone) cleverly, skillfully… ]
Ida Beerhalter: The minute you are in a room, you start to communicate. You do it with words, you do it in silence, your body speaks volumes, you continuously give signals. Manipulation is a way to influence. It’s not necessarily bad. It starts with you. It’s important to reflect on how you say something, and when you say it. Manipulating is about setting up the scene where your message is most likely to be understood, where you are most likely to get results. For instance, if you feel there is a conflict in a team, it’s certainly not the best time to start a strategic discussion. (In another context, for instance: when you want something from your life partner, don’t assume they will go along, especially if they just came back from a 3 days conference, a 15 hours flight and a jet lag.)
Handle your professional relationships the same way you would handle personal relationships. When you build a team, don’t just ask what the person can do, but ask why she/he would like to do it. What are their drivers? Find the foundations to establish trust.

What about disruptive advisors on my board? Some advisors have been imposed to you and might show a bit more ego than necessary. Look at the power shift on the advisory board. Who is backing you up on your board? If you have evidence and back up, the power play stops. The disruptive advisors either stop or they contribute positively. 

Same eye level It’s not because you are the entrepreneur in need of money, and the investors have the money (and are in need of entrepreneurs), that relationships should be unequal. It’s about having equal value, respecting each other’s contribution and input. At the same time, you need to trust the value you put on your business. If you don’t, why should investors value it at all?

Leave your communication channels open! When you meet potential supporters, don’t just overflow them with information about yourself. Invest in the relationship, ask questions, listen, they might be opening doors for you. And quickly close them if you are only self-centred.  
If it’s all about a monologue, don’t even bother pursuing the relationship.

Common sense! Ida notices that mainstream businesses somehow miss the “soft factor”” and that lots of social ventures still ignore the most basic principles. “Force yourself to look very deep into the areas you always try to ignore or postpone, whether it’s about the relationships or the basic mathematics. If you think your business is sustainable, bring the evidence it is.”
Find someone who could play your worst customer, that extremely critical friend (in fact, don’t even ask a friend..) and ask them to “grill you”, and really go through the questions you would have never thought of, or never dared to imagine. If you don’t have any answer to outsiders’ basic questions, people will lose trust.

When conversations can go wrong. Men and women don’t talk the same way. People communicate differently, never assume they understand what you are talking about! In fact, like in most relationships, it’s as much important to look at the way a question is asked as the way people answer it.

So, when things go wrong, who is to blame? The one who receives the message? The one who sends the message?
If you want people to buy cheese, tell them. You can’t blame people for not getting you the right information if you have used a cryptic question! Be straight, be clear: go for close questions and numbers. You always know the quality of your questions when you get the answers.

How to move a supporter from an advisor position to an investing position? Ask direct questions: How much and when they will invest, and what questions you need to be able to answer and by when. And very importantly, ask them in person.

“What tactics can be used to identify those people who offer help and can be helpful, as opposed to those people who offer help because they want to be associated with our brand?”
I would say go with your gut feeling. Most of the time, your gut feeling is right. If the language and the body language don’t match, just walk away (although don’t ask Italian people to talk without their hands, you wouldn’t get the right impression!) Ask them why they would like to associate with your brand. Match what they say with the way they behave. Avoid doing this on the phone, as you would miss the body language! Do a background check. Remember, YOU should be the one selecting the supporters – (when they are about to join your company more formally) - not the other way around. Slowly build relationships, and ask for advice, see how it moves forward.

Top Tips from Ida to participants on Make a Wave:

1) Do not add complexity, look at networks and supporters that are in front of you. (Going far away also adds up to your costs!)
2) Think out of the box, read the newspapers with an open mind, look at information about people, companies, resources that are related to your service/product, see how all this fits. Keep it simple and use it to establish relationships.
3) Think about relationships and communication: Observe yourself. Look at how or why people react to you negatively sometimes. When they do, it’s tough but you should stand the heat and learn from the experience.

Read more about Idea Beerhalter’s background here.

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