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Be Wise to Hidden Advocacy
When making decisions with others, the best leaders are acutely aware of the many people who influence the discussion but are not physically present. In many cases, those in the background or absent can have a tremendous influence on what others believe and advocate.
Here’s a decision-making fact: There is almost always someone at the table who is not literally at the table. The presence and influence of those in the background — friends, mentors, colleagues, customers — often have a bigger impact than many of those present. Translated, this means that making decisions with others requires us to consider the influence those around them have on what they believe.
In many cases, those not physically present have a larger impact on the discussion than we would like to admit or acknowledge. Considering who is influencing the discussion, but is not present in the room for the conversation, is essential for making quality decisions.
On controversial topics, good leaders often begin the discussion by asking team members to identify who may have influenced their views. Even when teammates are less candid about persuasion by others, this question makes it clear that the leader wants team members to think independently and not to be unduly influenced by advocacy not present.
In some instances, leaders would be wise to understand who is pulling the puppet strings and to seek their input directly. Offering the views of those not present before the discussion ensues allows participants to resist the temptation of letting others speak for or through them.
Reaching quality decisions is hard enough without engaging the extra voices who are behind the curtain. Ask yourself frequently, “Who is at — but not present — for this discussion?" This will allow you to better understand what advocacy is directly addressable and what persuasion remains hidden.