In the previous posts Lesson 1 and Lesson 2, I talked about how you can exert influence on people around you and how you can push change that is needed to move your team in a direction that the business requires. Today I will talk about how you can influence people without even talking to them. Focus on the physical environment.
Shape the environment, shape the people
We are all getting influenced by the environment around us. DNA gave us the basics of who we are but since our births there were people and circumstances in our lives who shaped us into the people we are today. This means that if you manage to surround yourself by supporting environment you can grow faster and in the desired direction than if you stayed in environment that holds you back. And the same obviously applies to your team.
The impact of environment is often very subtle but still can influence our behavior quite significantly. If you sit in a room with ten other people who are totally focused on their work, chances are you will succumb to the pressure of environment and will also work. If you are eating alone from a big plate with no frame of reference you will gobble up significantly more unhealthy food than if you go to a restaurant with couple of vegetarian friends who eat very healthy. If you go to a local library with quiet atmosphere where people sit reading you will immediately tone down your voice. Simply put, the environment has huge impact on the way we behave and that means huge opportunity to use it in influencing others.
Take the choice away
In my previous post I talked about how important it is to give people a choice. Choice to act or not to act, choice to take the path they consider the best, choice to select the appropriate means and choice to shape their own future. However when it comes to environment you are creating around the people it is best to take the choice away. To influence vital behaviors you have higher chance of succeeding if you create physical environment where people don’t have a choice but to follow the desired behavior.
Having too many choices will generally work against you when pushing a change. To illustrate just think about this scenario. If you want your family to have a healthy lives you do best to remove from the house anything that goes against that goal and limit the choice of the hungry kids to pick between and apple and an orange, rather than apple, orange and chocolate bar.
The quality and number of relationships is directly tight to the physical distance of both parties and frequency of communication. The boss who sits in the middle of the team and interacts on daily basis is more likely to be able to influence the team much more than someone who sits remote and interacts once a week over the phone.
As I mentioned in Physical Distance In Management Matters it is nearly impossible to manage teams remotely and one of the main reasons is that you are giving up a great deal of influence if you remove yourself from the environment where your team lives and works. Your mere physical presence can help tremendously in shaping the team and the culture in a way that is desirable for the long-term success.
If you really need to inflict some change on remote team you want to consider a herald, or change agent, someone from the remote team who will buy into your premise and who has enough social capital and experience to help you locally to get the message across and to be your mini-me on the ground. Relying completely only on phone and remote access will most likely mean a failure in achieving any lasting change.
When you are building the team and want to push the company values to the heads of new employees do you consider the environment they will work in? Does it reinforce the message or goes against it?
Originally posted at LinkedIn.