How To Sabotage Your Ideas and Influence (Part Two)
You have a great idea which you know will be successful. Now you need to get buy-in from others to bring it to reality. While everyone possesses the ability to influence others to some degree, if you aren’t careful, you just may sabotage your own idea before it even gets off the ground.
We started this list of influence sabotage traps in part one of this article. Here is a quick review of those traps:
- Demand Bureaucratic Obedience
- Keep “Selling” Endlessly
- Run Everything Through a Committee
- Haggling and Bottlenecking Inspections
Let’s continue our list and see other tactical traps we fall into when we are seeking to influence others:
Reopen “Decided” Decisions
The sabotage | Refer back to matters decided at the last meeting and question the advisability of that decision.
Let’s continue using Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense, as our primary case study example. Something that drove Gates mad was that the NSC would make a decision, for example, a surge in Afghanistan, and the Defense Department would set about mobilizing and gaining the massive momentum needed for the action to happen. According to Gates’s book Duty, Biden and other council members would then proceed with reopening a decision that had been confirmed. Troop numbers in the surge, which had been approved, would then be re-debated, slowing the entire process down to a trickle. Gates contended that the surge was already approved, and continually going back to question the exact number of troops was only gumming up the works.
The alternative | Make a thoughtful and wise decision and move on. Only reassess after something new has emerged, which clearly calls for you to revisit the decision’s wisdom. Hypotheticals don’t count as “something new.” It is fine to state, “We have made this decision already as a team, and right now there is no new information that warrants us reconsidering it. Let’s move on to the next decision.”
Sabotage by Extreme Caution
The sabotage | Advocate “caution” and slow decision-making down to a crawl while you urge your team to brainstorm every minor problem with the idea. Or point out every possible negative event that could occur with the idea, even though its implication is minor, in an attempt to show you have thoroughly “covered all of the bases.” Urge your fellow conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste, which might result in embarrassment or difficulties later on.
In 2004, the EU made a recommendation based upon unwarranted caution affecting MRI use and patient care. The New Scientist report reveals more details. It is one of the safest ways for doctors to peer inside the human body, and invaluable for discovering what is wrong with patients. Yet the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners could become restricted in Europe as part of a well-meaning but misguided attempt to improve the welfare of hospital workers. So say MRI’s inventors, who asked the European Commission on Tuesday to change its Physical Agents Directive, which is intended to limit the doses of electromagnetic radiation doctors and nurses can be exposed to.
The problem is that the safety limits have been set far too low, say 12 leading pioneers of MRI, including its Nobel prize-winning inventor Peter Mansfield of the University of Nottingham, UK. In fact, the EU recognized it was overly cautious and understood the implication of many patients being put at high risk when they cannot be imaged via MRI. They are now working to reverse this overly-cautious decision.
The alternative | Show you considered the big ticket items that are a worst case scenario if the idea collapses or “goes bad.” When you raise every minor worst case situation with small potential implications (should they even occur) and situations which warrant little objection, you merely create tiny roadblocks to your influence and adoption of the idea. This causes those you seek to influence to begin to think of a million more possible bad outcomes that are tiny in scope, yet can become deal breakers. This creates a stack of hypothetical problems upon problems. Stay in the realm of the major issues.
To help get over your cautionary fears, consider doing a third person exercise where you think of yourself as an acquaintance (and your team as the team you are consulting). What would you advise this person (you) or the team to do? We’re willing to tolerate sub-par situations because we want to hold on to the meager benefits those situations provide.
When something is decided in favor of your idea, don’t be tempted to reopen that decision, move forward.
Defer the Decision to Others
The sabotage | Constantly asking, “Is this really our call?” Letting fear take over as you worry about raising the question whether any action lies within the jurisdiction of the group, or whether it might conflict with some policy of a higher echelon. Hedge your bets by watering down your recommendation to be more palpable to the other groups involved before they even voice objection (even though you know you are also watering down the effectiveness of the solution).
The alternative | The “is-it-really-our-call?” question is a huge obstacle to progress. Make a decision even if you aren’t sure you have full jurisdiction, and deal with the “turf wars” if they arise. You can always recommend your idea or solution to the party that does have jurisdiction if they trump you. If your solution is really feasible and effective, you will still have provided the best solution if they adopt it.
Grow Your Influence and Quit Sabotaging Your Own Success
I firmly believe influence is not static and can be developed. The Keller Influence Indicator® was developed over 27 years of research on how influence works, and during that time, it has been repeatedly shown that influence is dynamic. As you develop your influence, don’t sabotage your ideas.