The Guru is never a Guru in his hometown

 Jan 22, 2014

Last year I wrote a couple of blogs around the area of influence (Influence – after nineteen years I finally get to blend my two great loves!Influence – Baring it all!). Yesterday, I came across a quote from a reasonably ‘influential’ guy in the internet marketing circles, author of the book the Millionaire Messenger, Brendon Burchard. He said, in a seminar on persuasion:
“People are influenced by people who they trust, admire and believe care about them.”
This is interesting in light of the heading of this blog, which is a bastardised version of the biblical quote:
“No prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt is a reasonable paraphrase. This is why sometimes a manager can talk until he or she is blue in the face and still not get the message across. Yet, an external trainer can come into the organisation and get results where the manager has failed simply by being new, different or fresh…and a bit of understanding on adult learning techniques doesn’t go astray either. If we are to take what Burchard says, however, it can dismantle the “Guru” idea. In fact, it can favour the more proximate manager, giving the stranger a disadvantage because they have to get the trust, care and admiration factors built quickly…and sometimes with a hostile audience. But why, then do some managers get it so wrong? One participant on our New Manager course, Jerry, could not get any traction with his team at all, yet he did care about them and was actually a nice guy. He was at his wits end and always working back to pick up the loose ends of his team’s under-performance. Let’s have a look at Burchard’s statement and see what we can take away. In our Effective Coaching for Managers course, we examine trust and how we can build it, particularly with our direct reports. From a particular exercise that we do, the participants distill that trust is an attitude we have toward others, based on their ethical character, authenticity, reliability and consistency. In other words, they are morally sound, are real (not an act), do what they say they will and do all these things consistently. As we human beings have feet of clay, being around people a lot and having the inevitable slip-ups we do, this can impact on the consistency of the first three. In other words, the prophet is known too well close by. So what of admiration? Admiration happens on two levels; what we have done and who we are. Russell Crowe may be admired for his acting talent (what he’s done), but when he threw a phone at a hotel staff member in frustration, people questioned his character (who he is). Again, this is easier to manage when people are at a distance to you. The final thing is that you may care about your staff, but if they don’t believe it and find you disingenuous then they will probably not trust or admire you. So let’s go back to Jerry and see what happened. Jerry, so much wanted to do the right thing by everyone. He did care about his team members, but his behaviour said he cared more about his managers above him and their outcomes. Now, of course they are important but the people below you are meant to help you reach these outcomes and keep the senior managers happy. Without them coming with you, you will get into a vicious circle as Jerry had. He made appointments with his staff and didn’t keep them because he was ‘putting out a fire’ or called to a senior staff member’s office. As a result, his staff did not get the training they needed nor did he hear their concerns and then when he’d push to achieve outcomes, there was resentful compliance (but ‘slow’ and perhaps sabotaged) and absenteeism was climbing. He was not trusted, admired or believed in his care for staff. It is hard when you are time poor to turn this around, but what Jerry did was he started making coaching appointments with his staff and keeping them. He admitted his error and asked what each team member needed to trust him again (that in itself works wonders). To do all this, he needed to set better boundaries with his superiors and keep them informed in other ways. There were other things he did as well, but with these simple steps, Jerry soon turned his relationships with his team around and also his team’s performance. He’s not a guru, but he does have influence.

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About the Author:

Tim Higgs  

Tim has been involved in the corporate training industry for over 15 years; seven of these have been as the Portfolio Manager and Senior Facilitator at New Horizons. Tim holds a Graduate Diploma (Psych/Couns), a masters’ degree in Cultural Psychology and a bachelor’s degree in Business, giving him a unique theoretical backdrop for understanding human performance in the workplace. This complements his actual experience of working within the corporate sector in sales and management positions and owning and running a small business. Having worked with individuals and groups in both clinical and business settings, Tim has a fantastic insight into human behaviour, motivation and the issue of human change.

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