Many of us face situations where, having been given a job title inferring a certain level of responsibility, we don’t enjoy the kind of influence we would like. Here, occupational psychologist Helen Frewin shares some tips on achieving our goals when taking on a new job role and influencing the people who count.
Helen believes many people working in veterinary practices are not getting the management training or the support they need when taking on a new role. She also believes these training failures can leave newly promoted staff disillusioned by their inability to make as much progress as they’d hoped when trying to push through changes they felt were needed.
“It’s a great thing when we move into a new role to get excited about the things we can change,” she says.
“Think through the benefits and challenges of the changes you’re interested in. And choose your battles – you can’t change everything.
“If there are three things you want to change and one of them is never going to happen, ask yourself: do I want to fight and fight until I’m so exhausted I just give up? Or do I change some of the ways I’m thinking about things to make my life easier?
“Then list the changes you want to make, because there is a massive difference between knowing what something is and writing it down.”
Once the list is written, prioritise the things on it, and don’t become distracted by the minutiae.
“Prioritise your list according to the size of benefit you could see coming as a result of the change, and the speed at which that could be achieved,” says Helen, who works as a talent director with Totem Consulting.
Helen’s advice is to start with a change that would bring a high amount of benefit and could be achieved quickly. Once you know what you want to change it is important to think about how that shift can be effected.
Push and pull
She says there are two approaches to influencing people – push and pull – and effective managers use both.
“The main difference between push and pull is that with push, it’s me telling you what’s wrong and what you need to do to change; pull is about asking questions, what do you think, how do you think things could be done.
“When you get ideas from other people, when you pull them in, you really get movement. People might say they’re sick of change, but if they come up with the idea, they don’t see it as change, they think, great, someone’s listening to my good idea.”
“What we can change is ourselves, and very often our greatest opportunity is to change the way we think, change what we can do that can influence other people.”
She believes it is important to look at oneself when considering making changes.
“If you want something changing, it probably means somebody else will have to change,” she says. “And how do you change other people? You can’t.
Helen quotes American writer Maya Angelou who said: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
However, people often say they are in an impossible situation and there is nothing they can do about it.
“I have two responses to that,” she says. “The first is: What if you’re wrong? What if there is a way round this? What might is be? Much of the time we get to the stage where we say it’s impossible without thinking it through. When someone challenges us to think about what might be a way round it, we remove the assumption it’s impossible, we find there might be something we could do.
“And secondly, if it is impossible for you to do anything about the situation, how can you think differently about it?”
Maya Angelou image: source unknown