In the brilliant British TV Show, Ten Percent (based on the equally brilliant French one, Call my Agent), Chelsey Crisp is sent over from America to manage a newly acquired British talent agency. She and her assistant communicate poorly at every turn and, in turn, make the transition more difficult.
Chelsey's failure comes from not knowing how to influence her audience to achieve the desired outcomes. To succeed in a legal career, you must also master this skill. Here are three of my tips to do it.
Tip 1: Understand Your Audience
You must understand what is essential to your audience and their values and belief systems, to a certain extent. Chelsey fails at this miserably.
The US purchaser had promised the British agency a good deal of autonomy and was expecting to operate on their own. When Chelsey arrives, she believes she is in charge and that every member will accept every idea of hers as gold. When others raise objections, she says she hears what they are saying but basically tells them to move forward with her ideas. Not only does Chelsea do this with her words, but her body language totally dismisses others' words and thoughts.
Not taking the time to understand the opposition, peers, team, or individuals—leads to failures, miscommunications, and a lack of engagement. You cannot communicate well or influence people without knowing where they are and what they want.
Tip 2: Know What You Want to Accomplish
When trying to communicate or influence individuals, you must have clarity on your end goals and what is essential to make it happen. Often, we are so focused on winning each battle, even unimportant ones—that we undermine the bigger picture.
Chelsey's real goal is to make the British agency successful and profitable. However, she becomes distracted by each home office message and focuses on fulfilling whatever is mentioned—no matter how it impacts the office and her real goal. She starts to undermine the efforts to make the agency successful by unknowingly decreasing its engagement and effectiveness.
When thinking of what you are trying to accomplish, whether it is galvanizing a team, influencing a decision, or negotiating key points to a transaction, know what is critical to achieving it. You also need to understand what communication style and approach would most impact those you are trying to influence.
Tip 3: Understand Your Default Communication Style and Pivot It
All of us have a default communication style, and while we may have enhanced it over time—it can still come out—especially if we are under pressure. It is critical to know that style and its impact on what you are trying to accomplish if that is the style you use.
For example, like my default style, Chelsey's style is very directive. A directive style can be very effective in certain situations— like when a house is on fire, and you need to get everyone out.
However, that same style is ineffective for creative solutions. Being directive to a team when trying to be innovative—just does not work. It also can hurt engagement.
Body language comes with a directive style that can be impactful in the boardroom but less so in the team room.
You need to understand how you must flex your communication style to further your goals, and then you need to do it. Modifying a communications approach is often easier said than done. I recommend obtaining feedback on your communication styles when trying to pivot for specific situations.
While not there yet, Chelsey is starting to realize her communication style's impact and is beginning to slowly modify it and see better results. You can do the same, improve your effectiveness, and change others' perceptions of you.
Want to learn more about how to become the in-house leader you are meant to be?
Check out Sheila's 10 Tips for In-House Counsel Struggling to Advance.
In this guide, Sheila shares her time-tested tips for in-house counsel to release fear, jump-start your career, and propel towards promotion.