What’s In It for Them?
If you’ve been in the professional world, corporate or otherwise, for any length of time, you’ve heard about the importance of communicating benefits. You may have taken a class in it – or maybe even taught the class, for that matter. Communicating Benefits is one of those basic block and tackling skills that rarely get taught in high school, or even college for that matter (like balancing a checkbook – what’s with that?), but something every professional needs to master.
The problem is that most of us understand the benefits-thing on a cerebral level. We understand that we should communicate them. We understand what to do. But like every skill, there’s a vast difference between logically understanding something and really “getting” on a deep internal level, why it matters and how to authentically, mindfully, and effectively do it.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been shopping for a new sofa sectional. A sectional can be a pretty big ticket item, so you tend to get a lot of love from the furniture sales people. They, like many other professionals, have clearly taken something akin to Communicating Benefits 101. I was the recipient of a number of sectional-benefit- monologues that hit all the highlights – comfort, design, durability (I’ve got a 6 year old, so that one’s a big deal). And even though they said the right things – they used the skill – it didn’t have the impact that they were hoping for. I didn’t buy.
It’s not unusual for all of us, especially leaders, to fall into the furniture-sales-people-trap. We tend to get very focused on achieving the short-term goals in front of us and take what we perceive to be the fastest route to making stuff happen. We often say the right things but it’s not having the impact we’re hoping to have. People aren’t “buying”.
I was doing some work not long ago with an organization that was quickly transforming from being a small company to a big company due to some major acquisitions. Change was happening at the speed of light. New processes and systems were being implemented left and right. Tensions were high. People were being told what to do. Leaders weren’t taking the time to communicate the benefits around why things were being done and why it matters to, not just the company, but to the people involved in the changes themselves. In other words, people didn’t know why they should care. So they didn’t. Care, that is. They did the opposite. They did what they were told but were emotionally fighting it at every step – ensuring that it would take longer, be less effective, and much more costly.
Earlier this month I was wrapping up one of those dream projects, during which I had a chance to work with the same 22 people every month for six months – reviewing and building on what they’ve learned. At the end of the six months, as we were sharing around the room “biggest take-aways” and “what (they’ll) do differently” a young leader said, “My biggest take-away was the benefits thing. In the past, I didn’t really care why something was important to my team; I just wanted them to do their job. But now I realize that if I don’t care why should they?”
When it comes to communicating benefits, we can say the right things. We can do the right things. We can check it off the list. But understanding how to use the skill won’t get us there. We have to find a way to shift from logically understanding to really “getting” that if we as leaders don’t genuinely care, neither will they. Maybe authentically caring about what is truly most important to the people you want to have “buy (in)” is what it takes to really close the deal.
©OnStage Leadership, 2011
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