In Dale Carnegie’s best-seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he introduces a story told by William Lyon Phelps, professor of Literature at Yale:
“When I was eight years old and was spending a weekend visiting my Aunt Libby Linsley at her home in Stratford on the Housatonic, a middle-aged man called one evening and after a polite skirmish with my aunt, he devoted his attention to me. At that time, I happened to be excited about boats, and the visitor discussed the subject in a way that seemed to me particularly interesting. After he left, I spoke of him with enthusiasm. What a man! My aunt informed me that he was a New York lawyer, that he cared nothing whatever about boats—that he took not the slightest interest in the subject. “But why then did he talk all the time about boats?
“Because he is a gentleman. He saw you were interested in boats and he talked about the things he knew would interest and please you. He made himself agreeable.”
William Lyon Phelps added, “I never forgot my aunt’s remark.”
Today’s tip is simple to learn, but difficult to apply: Become interested in others.
If you want to achieve buy-in for your energy management project, consider who it will affect. Study those people until you can confidently answer the question, “What’s in it for them?”
There’s a tendency in business to emphasize the project at the expense of the person. People are viewed as expendable, and the emphasis is placed nearly exclusively on the perceived value of the project or product. This attitude may be summed up by the statement: Manage People, Value Projects.
But anecdotal evidence and social science suggest exactly the opposite. Our greatest personal and professional successes will happen if we learn to value people and manage projects. Our challenge at work and in life is to let people become a major focus.
In my opinion, this principle is particularly helpful in the energy management field since so much of what energy managers do is increasingly integrated with other departments and interests. In addition to more “traditional” energy management tasks, today’s energy manager is also a communicator and promoter. Interpersonal relationships play an important role in getting things done.
In this new working environment, the new challenge is to relate to others in such a way that they become evangelists for the work you’re doing.
A darker alternative to becoming interested in others is to adopt a self-absorbed and uncaring attitude.
Carnegie rejects this alternative with a somber quotation from the Viennese psychologist Alfred Adler: “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.”
How much more desirable would it be to find common ground and allies for your cause in the interests and passions of other people?
To achieve buy-in for your current project, become interested in others, and what benefits they might derive from it. As you listen to others and discover their interests, you’ll begin to understand how your priorities complement theirs. Opportunities will begin to present themselves in unexpected ways. And you will find allies, perhaps in the most unexpected places.
[Did you miss Energy Manager Tip #1? Read about it here.]
Need help honing your promotional skills for that next project (or the last one)?