As I was listening to the song “Sowing the Seeds of Love” by Tears for Fears the other day, I was first reminded that I truly am a child of the ’80s (non-big hair movement mind you. It also reminded me that I need to keep sowing seeds. Sowing seeds (or as I usually call it “planting”) is the concept that what you sow, you will reap; something that I think often gets forgotten. In this particular instance, it is more like what you sow, you will hopefully reap with the idea that if you plant a seed, what you want will eventually grow. It takes work, but it does not have to be hard. More about that when I get to the potato part of this article. So why should you sow/plant seeds? What does it mean to sow/plant seeds?
Let’s say for example that you are working on a project and you have this great idea. You know it is a great idea, but no one is really listening to you. You also know that is the right thing to do for the project, the organization and everyone involved, but still folks won’t listen and you are getting quite frustrated. I get it. So what did you do to get your idea heard? Did you try to persuade people? The way of persuasion sounds like a used car salesman to most folks. Instant turn-off. Add to the equation that people already have their preconceived notions about what they want, so getting your idea heard, understood and bought off on is no easy task. What you need to do is to influence them, but how when you have no authority? This can take time. There is a lot to the art of influence, but one small piece to your success could be the technique of sowing/planting seeds.
The concept behind planting a seed is simple. This is where the potato comes into play. Planting a potato is about the easiest thing you can plant. You literally just take an old potato, cut it into pieces making sure each piece has one to two eyestalks on it and throw it into the ground. 2-4 months later… you have potatoes! When you plant a seed you provide a simple message of an idea with no expectation of a response until a much later time. Planting seeds is about planting ideas – not selling them or persuading them. You plant the concept/idea and you let that seed slowly take hold. Remember, slowly… seeds take time to grow. So have an idea (the eye stalk), give them just a little information (the cut up potato) and tell someone (the planting), then walk away and see if it grows. Let’s look at a real example of planting seeds.
So let’s say you want to go to the big Building Business Capability conference in Ft. Lauderdale at the end of October. It is a great education, an opportunity to network, catch up with colleagues and see BobtheBA present – so very many reasons to go. The conference is a month away. Given how close this year’s date is, there are very few options for you to get this idea out there and bought in on given that budgets are likely spent and bureaucracy can so easily get in the way of needing a quick decision. I hope that you can get there, but more likely what you need to do is plant the seed for next year. “[Insert your boss’ name here], just wanted to let you know that there is this amazing conference that I should go to and because of the education I will receive, it will really help me to grow my Business Analysis skills.” Seed planted. You do not need to say anything else. If your boss comes back and asks questions, be prepared to discuss in detail; cost, benefits to you, benefits to your organization, benefits to your coworkers (the information/education you bring back), and the promise that you will not be lying on a beach somewhere. If you are not prepared, it will kill your chances. If they do not come back and ask questions… plant another seed later, and another, and another.
I have planted orchards before a seed finally takes hold and becomes a reality. I was persistent, but not obnoxious. I was patient. I was dedicated to ensuring it happened. Planting seeds can be very powerful. I have planted seeds that I forgot about until someone came up to me and said, “Remember when you told me… I was thinking it is time to pursue that.” and then, I remembered that seed I had planted a couple of years before!
So how does trust fit into this equation? I will let Elizabeth and Rich Larson’s new book on influence explain the trust factor. The Influencing Formula: How to Become a Trusted Advisor and Influence Without Authority is available now.
As for sowing the seeds of love, I was researching my latest presentation on the parallels of hostage negotiation techniques and requirements elicitation (strangely and wonderfully similar) and I came across some startling facts; for example, over 313,000 people were victims of violence in the workplace in 2010 and that was in Great Britain alone!!! We need to sow more seeds of love. We need more trust. The more we plant, the more we reap. Just remember this one thing for me okay? You must do it for the right reasons. So do you have examples of where sowing/planting seeds were successful? Please share! And if you had already planted your seeds for the BBC conference, then I will see you at the end of October.