When you work in a creative field, you traffic in ideas. For a creative person in advertising, ideas are currency and like cash, fluid and hard to capture. Ideas are also something that people in advertising fight for, steal, glorify, and covet.
The thing to know about ideas is they do not accrue value when they are out of circulation. Ideas are only valuable when they are brought to life, and for ideas to be brought to life the holder of ideas must convince someone—the producer or the client—of the idea’s power to change the arc of the company or movement.
Make Time and Room To Genuinely Hear People
When it comes to selling ideas, it pays to seek assistance. Nilofer Merchant has helped to launch 100 products amounting for $18 billion in revenue. When she drops pearls of wisdom on Harvard Business Review, I am there to gather them and string them together.
This is what she says about moving people to act on an idea:
The best way to sway others is not to tell them your answer, but to arrive at an answer — together. Listening is the key pathway to go from your idea to our idea. To reshape the idea as needed, and to ultimately create the kind of shared ownership that is needed for any idea to become a new reality.
In other words, make your idea the client’s idea, at least in part, and the chance of it getting produced goes up exponentially.
To Listen Well, Empty Your Mind of Thoughts
People who do not listen well may think that they are, in fact, a decent listener.
How many of us truly know what active listening requires of us? Merchant knows.
Listening means stepping outside one’s own interests, to actually want to know more, and to care what others’ interests are. To not just hear words, but to pay attention to the underlying needs and frames of reference.
Which gets to why we aren’t already great listeners. We’re afraid that if we’re listening, we’re not advocating for our own ideas and why those ideas matter. We’re afraid we’re giving up on our convictions.
But we can all have more faith in ourselves. And each other.
What Ms. Merchant is saying is we need to be courageous and patient, if we want to become good listeners and get people to trust us with their time and their stories.
It’s normal to want to appear to be the expert and to sound smart in front of the client. The question is HOW? My answer is don’t be afraid of empty spaces in the slide deck or in conversations with clients. There’s so much noise already, in every direction. Breathe, and make room in the room for the client’s POV at all times.
No Really, It’s Not About You
According to Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting, another way to become more influential is to build strong relationships with your people based on communication and empathy.
By prioritizing the well-being of their people, exceptional organizations motivate their workers to give everything they’ve got to advance the organization. Peter Drucker once described it as “lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”
Salesforce, for one, is on Drucker’s page. Founder Marc Benioff told The Times that:
I want a company where people are excited to come to work every day, where they feel good when they get here, where it doesn’t take from them, but it’s giving to them, it’s giving to others. Why do people want to be here? It’s not that we have more amenities than everybody else. We have less. We don’t have a cafeteria. But we have a stronger purpose and a stronger mission.
Did you know that Salesforce employees spend half of their first day on the job volunteering at a homeless shelter, hospital or public school? At Salesforce, service is more than a mindset and more than something to sell.
As the saying goes, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”