Thoughts and ideas from The Physician Executive
Seven Influence Conversations Every Physician Leader Needs to Master
October 8, 2019 at 12:00 AM
by The Physician Executive
physician leaders, influence

Are you as influential as you'd like to be? Many physician leaders fall back on one single approach at the time of exerting their influence. They use the same approach over and over, in every situation. Of course, this uniform approach will work now and again.

But wouldn't you prefer to be maximally influential in just about all the situations you encounter as a physician leader? By uncovering ways to demonstrate greater flexibility and range, you have the potential to become even more effective.

Let's try this by associating different parts of the body with different influence styles. This way, you can quickly assess whether you currently have a full range of potential influence skills every leader can benefit from in order to influence people, such as your physician colleagues or C-suite team members, in almost every situation.

1. Left Brain.

The left brain is home to facts, data, information, knowledge, and logic.

As an "expert" with authority, or when you understand what data and information the other person cares about your left brain conversation is useful to convince someone that certain ideas make sense.

However, most physician leaders rely too heavily on the left brain persuasion, especially in logically-trained physicians. Facts and logic have their limits.

You already understand how challenging it is to appeal to someone’s heart with your data- and graph-heavy PowerPoint presentation!

2. Right Brain.

Our right brains are good at process stories, pictures, and even metaphors.

By incorporating stories and strong visual imagery in your language, as an impactful physician leader, you touch and influence your colleagues at a level that is very different than using the left brain alone.

3. Gut.

The gut, (the Japanese call it “hara”) is our grounded place. Whether we need to stand up for something, be appropriately assertive, establish boundaries, or even negotiate a contract, our gut is a great starting point.

By influencing "from the gut," you are clear about what you accept and don't accept about someone's performance, you establish your expectations, and you encourage compliance by offering incentives that work for them and also reward change in behavior or action appropriately.

4. Heart.

When we need more than just compliance, i.e., we desire authentic commitment and not just halfhearted obedience; we may need to do more than instruct or proclaim.

Perhaps this is the moment to demonstrate vulnerability. Not the squishy kind. Instead, you move intentionally towards sincerely soliciting the help and advice from the other person. Or you listen closely for their goals and aspirations. You’re working together to craft a solution, and you're demonstrating flexibility with your approach to problem-solving.

These conversations don't require you to be spineless about your desired outcome. Instead, they signal your openness to the other person's ideas about how to accomplish the goal or improve performance.

5. Spirit.

The Spirit refers to those core values and experiences you have in common with the other person. These conversations rely on what you share and what you acknowledge binds you together.

Successful, influential physician leaders adopt this conversational style when forming their teams and generating a sense of belonging and alignment.

6. Eyes.

Our eyes provide us with our vision. And to succeed at being influential, you will need at times to persuade with a Vision that inspires and compels. These conversations point towards an inviting future that encourages others to join in and even add to the desired Vision.

Sharing your Vision to encourage participation is useful when teams are "forming and norming", or when you must give a push to get people to move forward despite obstacles.

By combining your right brain, spirit, and eyes, you'll align a team powerfully and authentically by making your truly compelling case.

7. Legs.

Legs become useful when conversations start to stumble badly, such as when emotions start to rule or your strategy slips sideways. You aren't walking away.

Instead, you perhaps excuse yourself from the conversation by acknowledging what is not happening. You suggest taking time to revisit what might be your entrenched positions. And then you sit down together at the table one more time.

This tactic is called “Going to the Balcony” by The Harvard Negotiation Project and is useful when you sense that your conversation is spiraling out of control.

If you'd like a copy of my FREE influence planning tool, please contact me here with your name, email address, and request.