Breaking Free – November 2013 – Leadership Sells


Breaking Free

Welcome to Break Free Consulting


Vol 8, Issue 2

Symphonic Leadership (Selling)
November 2013

What percentage of your work involves persuading, influencing and convincing others to give up something they value for something you have? (Isn’t this what leadership is about?) Daniel Pink in his book, To Sell is Human, says that the average response to that question is 41%.On average, 41% of a person’s work involves persuading, influencing and convincing others.

Your ability to move others to exchange what they have (time, resources, talents, contributions, skills) for what you have (goals, plans, products) is crucial to your career, your happiness, and even your survival. Right? Guess what? This is “selling”.

Now in the good ol’ days, selling meant having information or a product that your buyer didn’t have. You then presented this information or product to them once you found their “pain” so that you could solve their problem. Then, they’d exchange what they had for the value that your solution brought to their life. It used to be that the guiding principle was caveat emptor— buyer beware. This is because as Daniel Pink writes:

“The two parties confront “an asymmetry in available information.” One side is fully informed; the other is at least partially in the dark.” In a world of information asymmetry, if the seller knows much more about the product than the buyer, the buyer understandably gets suspicious. “What’s the seller concealing? Am I being hoodwinked?”

This also holds true if you hire someone. As the manager/boss, you hold something of great value. Your subordinate will exchange their time and talents to perform the tasks that you ask of them so that they will continue to get paid and have a job. As a parent, you hold something of value for your children. You allow them to stay in your home, eat your food, etc. They, in exchange, may choose to do what you say in order to continue this arrangement because you hold the power in this asymmetric relationship.

However, in today’s world, a prospective purchaser can go online and find all kinds of product or service information including reviews from other purchasers. The buyer may actually know just as much or more about the product or service as the salesperson. This takes away the “knowledge” advantage that the salesperson used to have over the buyer. In a world of information parity, the new guiding principle is caveat venditor— seller beware.

The same is true in many of today’s flat organizations where cross-functional teams are necessary to accomplish the corporate goals. Today, many leaders don’t have direct authority over their team members. As a leader, you must give enough value to your team members so that from their perspective, they see how what you are giving is worth more than what they are giving up. From your perspective and that of the organization, your team member must actually produce more value than you are paying them to produce.

In this case, leaders must go back to the root of “selling“. The word sell comes from the Old English word sellen which means to give or give up; to cause to take. That’s really what leaders of the 21st century need to do better. You want to influence others to give their time, talents and resources by actually giving them more value.

Back in the ol’ days of selling, the mantra used to be ABC – Always Be Closing. Daniel Pink says that the effectiveness of this mantra is waning because the times have changed.

“I introduce the new ABCs of moving others: A— Attunement B— Buoyancy C— Clarity
Attunement, buoyancy, and clarity: These three qualities, which emerge from a rich trove of social science research, are the new requirements for effectively moving people on the remade landscape of the twenty-first century.”


In this newsletter, you are going to learn about the first of these new ABC’s: Attunement. Attunement is your ability to bring your actions and outlook into harmony with others and the context in which you are in. In October of 2007, I published a newsletter also entitled Symphonic Leadership. Many of the steps discussed in that edition apply to developing your ability to attune to others and bring the goals and objectives in harmony with them. You may want to read that newsletter after reading this one.

Attunement is about leading with your ears instead of your voice. It’s about asking questions and eliciting the dreams and goals of the people around you and then have the agility and flexibility to frame what they have said in the context around you. How do you do this? It’s about “perspective-taking.” It’s about really knowing those that you lead.

So often we are self-centric. We focus on the world from our perspectives. We spend time trying to convince people to see things our way. We’ve been trained that it’s important to be “right” and that it’s important for others to see just how right we are. Research has shown that it is ultimately MORE beneficial to get inside their heads than to have them come inside of ours. The successful leaders and movers of the 21st century aren’t those with all the right answers; they are those who ask the right questions. Perspective takers use this cognitive capacity to achieve congruence amongst team members and the highest level of cooperation and efficiency without sacrificing their own material gains. They don’t just look for win-win solutions (which, by default, means that somewhere there are 2 losers); they go for gain-gain solutions.

Attuning to Others

So, just how do you learn to attune yourself to others? The key is to understand how to exit your own perspectives and enter into theirs. This isn’t as difficult as you may think when you know where to start.

  1. Discover the perspectives that you might get STUCK in. The VQ Profile’s First Steps report will present 2 of these perspectives to you. These are “narrow” perspectives that might cause you to miss out on the other options that are being presented by others.
  2. Discover which perspectives are your STRENGTHS. Get the questions that you can ask yourself, based on YOUR strength, that will automatically transport you into a mindset that enhances your ability to become a better perspective-taker.
  3. Remember the 3 axiological dimensions of value and use them to look at different ANGLES and perspectives.
    1. Systemic: What might the others be thinking? What knowledge, training or education might they be drawing upon to come up with their thoughts, ideas, expectations, and assumptions?
    2. Extrinsic: What are the others experiencing? What have they experienced in the past? What tangible skills and contributions might they be able to use? What might they be willing to do?
    3. Intrinsic: How are the others feeling? What does it feel like to be in their shoes and see the world through their eyes? What value can you bring to their life?

You can increase your attuning skills if you make a conscious effort to deliberately practice these 3 steps. You won’t typically improve by accident. You will have to DO something to acquire this trait and skill. You will learn this skill and get to deliberately practice it in our workshops and coaching programs. Remember these aren’t just skills to use in selling and leadership, they are the skills that make your life more enjoyable and more successful.

Stay tuned to future newsletters for registration information. We will be opening registration for 2014 Group Coaching in December and 2014 workshops in January 2014. In order to give our clients the best experience possible, all of our upcoming coaching groups and workshops will have size limitations. No group will have more than 8 coaching participants and no workshop (sponsored by me) will have more that 30. So, be on the lookout for the registration announcements in this newsletter over the next couple of months.

If you’re interested… Here’s a link to order Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others


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 I would love to hear what you think about this edition of Breaking Free.  Please leave your comments below.