Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

A week or so ago Scott Stratten (unmarketing) posted the following on Twitter:

“If you believe business is built on relationships, make building them your business”

BAM – How to sum up everything I think about business in one 140 char sentence – Thanks Scott :)

This was also timely as I’ve recently been reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (aff link) and one of the habits has really struck a cord with me – Habit 5. ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’. I want to break down Stephen’s points and tell you why this is so important in business. In fact, it’s not important, it’s essential and when you understand this concept you’ll notice this trait in all the most successful people, even the hardest nosed business women and men.

Why should this be so important to you? Because most people do completely the opposite. Ask yourself now, honestly, what you do when talking to a colleague, or client, or someone at a networking event? Do you listen with the intent to reply or the intent to understand? Do you wait for others to finish speaking, just so you can get your point in, or do you listen to and try to understand the other person, from their point of view?

Most people live in their own world, they don’t want to understand other people’s world.

How does this relate back to Scott’s point at the beginning of this article? Well if relationships are the key then this skill is key to building them. If you barge in thinking you know best, without giving thought to the other person, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll need to brush up on your relationship building skills. Perhaps you should question this now?

Just remember as Covey says, that when you seek to understand other people first, you show them that you care. Everyone wants to be loved right? Everyone wants to be understood. If you don’t develop this skill guess what happens – the person you’re conversing with will always be thinking, ‘nothing else matters as this person talking to me doesn’t understand me’ – they will never take your point on board.

I’ll leave you with one more thought from the same chapter in Covey’s book. The key to influence is to be influenced by others (i.e. being open to others influencing you) – for some people I’d expect this to be difficult concept to deal with. The truth is that you need to be totally comfortable with yourself in order to adopt and hone this skill.

Carl Rogers a famous psychologist said this:
“Lay aside your own views to enter another’s world without prejudice – this is only possible by people who are  so secure in themselves that they will not get lost in the other persons world”

Remember that understanding someone else doesn’t mean you agree with them but that you accept they are people of worth, you value them or you wouldn’t have spent time listening to them. You accept that they see their world differently and that their world has legitimacy. You’re saying; I accept you, I understand you – you matter to me

If relationship building is important to you and your business how do you take to this concept? Do you evaluate things from the other person’s context or do you always look from your own frame of reference? Something perhaps to ponder on over the coming festive season. Oh and go and buy 7 Habit’s (aff link) – It’s really changed my life this year.

Now Your Thoughts

  • Is this skill of listening with the intent to understand something you do yourself? Does it work for you if so?
  • Can you think of times where people have not listened to you – just talked at you or even worse, pretended to listen only to steam roller in afterwards – how did that make you feel?

Who are your influencers?

Who are your influencers?

In my last blog post I talked about the influence project. This week I want to focus on finding your influencers.

How do you spread the message about your business? Do you try and do it yourself? Do you employ sales people to go out and do it on your behalf? These are valid tactics but I want to let you into a secret today – it’s far easier and more effective to spread the message about your company if you let others do it for you. Sounds obvious right but how do you do it? Here’s how:

1). Work out who your ‘sneezers’ are. Seth Godin came up with the concept of the sneezer in a book entitled ‘Unleashing The Idea Virus’ (aff link) a few years ago. The idea being that your sneezers will help you push out a message to far more people and far quicker than you could hope to do on your own. A sneezer is the type of person that loves to talk, they love to tell other people about other peoples business. I’m sure if you think hard enough about it you will work out a few of your sneezers right now. More often than not they are the people that attend every networking event and seem to know everyone. Their personalities just lend themselves to ‘sneezing’ :)

2). Give them the tools to pass your message on. If you’re hoping they will pass your message on in real life, the message better be good. You better have a fantastic new product or a purple cow (another great book by Seth, also an aff link). These days we have social media which allows us to push a message on quickly by sharing, retweeting or forwarding on a message – it can literally be at the click of a button.

3). Find these people online. I keep a list of my sneezers on my computer at all times. I started with a list of everyone that’s ever passed my name or my company name onto a contact as a recommendation. That’s the holy grail by the way (someone putting their neck on the line for you). Treat these people very carefully and concentrate on them when you need to get a message out there. Influencers online are usually quite easy to find. They are normally well liked, well followed people. If they run blogs then look for signs like numbers of rss subscribers, number of comments, number of times they get retweeted. If these people push your message on you’re going to get traction. Spend time building relationships with them, engage with them and help them wherever you can.

4). Hang out in places where influencers are. I’m a member of two or three online communities. These cost money but boy are they worth it. The quality of member I’ll meet here will be worth their weight in gold. There are two that I’d recommend joining today, one here in the UK and one in the states.

Entrepreneurs Circle – If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur then join up today. I believe at the time of writing you get two months free so what have you got to lose? This group has both online content, which is worth the joining fee alone and offline meetups where you can network with successful individuals.

Join Entrepreneurs Circle (aff link)

Third Tribe – Chris Brogan et al started Third Tribe with the vision of scaling their knowledge and bringing like minded online marketers together. There is an excellent forum and the podcasts (which you can download to your mp3 player) are second to none. If you want to mix with the best online marketing people in the world then this is the place to be.

Join Third Tribe Marketing (aff link)

I make no bones about the fact that I am an affiliate for both these groups. I never promote things I’m not a fan of or have not benefitted from myself. These two groups have had a profound effect on my business life so I heartly recommend you joining today if you can.

Now Your Thoughts

Do you know who your influencers are? Have you got processes in place to look after them and help them to help you?

How Influential Are You?

How Influential Are You?

I’m writing today about a project that the Fast Company is running called the Influence project.

The concept of the project is to find the most influential people online. They measure this by giving each person taking part a unique link and asking them to promote it as much as possible. A click on that link is effectively a vote for you. My link is, it would be awesome if you could click it and support me. You should signup yourself and take part, what have you got to lose? :)

My interest in the project is seeing how social media can, influence, your influence and how we can pull together in tribes to support each other. Go back a few years and think how hard it was to convince others to support you? An email, possibly a link on your website is about as far as you could go. Lets face it, you couldn’t really tell people about a project and hope that they’d remember a link :) Now we have social media platforms and we are busy building relationships on them but how strong are these connections? Are these people willing to support you or are they meaningless numbers, there to flatter our egos? This project allows us to find out.  So here are a few ways that I’ve asked people to help me:

  • I’ve sent the message out on twitter
  • I’ve added it to my facebook
  • I’ve added it to my LinkedIn
  • I’ve commented on other peoples blogs and helped them
  • I’ve just written this blog post to help raise awareness of the project :)

There is a discussion about the project going on over at the Social Media Devon group in LinkedIn so if you’re interested in finding out more then that’s a great place to start. I first found out about the project via a local friend of mine, James Barisic who has written about the project on his blog – socialholic. You can vote for James by the way on this link:

The Purpose of this Post

Social Media is fantastic for building relationships but people get carried away by the numbers – the number of followers, the number of fans, the number of connections. In my opinion it’s all irrelevant because we’re looking for meaningful relationships, the type that rally around you when you need them, the type that answer your questions when you have them and the type that pass your name onto others when they think you can be of help – this is the true value of social media.

When you’re building your networks, my advice is to build meaningful connections, don’t just follow everyone, don’t get caught up with tools that allow you to build your numbers unnaturally. Concentrate your efforts on engaging with other influencers in your industry, find local people to share experiences with and stick with it. Social media is not an event, it’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Why not signup for the influence project yourself and see how you get on and if you like my blog and tweets it would be awesome if you could take 10 seconds to vote for me by clicking the following link. :)

What’s your take on building numbers on social networks? What makes a person influential in your eyes?