We see people around us – some of them get their stuff done while some struggle. Organizations, sales in particular, love people who are pushy, have a fire in the belly and are focused on the outcomes. They assert to find their way internally as well as externally. Assertiveness is an asset in all situations. One might have ideas but it’s important that one has to influence others to believe in them, get them to rally around the ideas and bring them in flesh and blood into something real. That’s assertiveness, an art of getting the desired outcomes see the light of the day!
Assertiveness if stretched a bit, borders on arrogance, selfishness, insensitivity and intolerance. That’s when such a great capability turns negative; effectiveness of such people gets compromised. The people who believed in the person and his actions start moving away; some pretend to be with the leader but actually do not turn the wheel. The speed at which the stuff used to get done drops and many obstacles start springing up along the way. Execution suffers. That’s the zone of ineffectiveness that one has to guard against and save oneself from.
One wonders how much of assertiveness is the right level! Of course, there is no silver bullet that can answer this. This is highly dependent upon the context.
Firstly, one has to be comfortable with the idea of assertiveness. The idea is to focus on outcomes and work towards those by planning alternatives well in advance rather than thinking on one’s feet and hoping for the best. This is not about the power or authority that one weilds. In the current times, authority-led assertion doesn’t yield the best outcomes. What works is rational approach, logical talk and inter-personal dynamics that tells the other person the benefits of the ideas. So, assertiveness is a lot about selling one’s ideas. The buy-in becomes possible only when the stakeholders see a win for them. This helps in reaching the goals that one is pursuing. That’s the idea of assertiveness one has to accept first!
Secondly, it is about presenting the ideas impactfully. What is spoken and how it is spoken makes a huge difference. It is not only the choice of words and the content, it is about the tone and the body language which determines the way it lands on the recipients. In spite of the best intentions, one’s lack of skills and negative emotions could turn off the recipients. Naturally, the intended outcome doesn’t take place! So, the early signs of such situations need to be recognized and one has to stay away from potential failures. The early signs are lack of warmth and focus in discussions, lack of intensity and involvement of the stakeholders. Empathy is very important here. Many salespeople show empathy in a very selective manner hoping that the prospect or the client are the only stakeholders for their success. So, they tend to lose out on the support of many other stakeholders. Their assertiveness on all such stakeholders gets interpreted as arrogance and insensitivity. Thus, assertiveness is about empathy and sensitivity towards others!
Last but not the least, it is about working in a team. Many roles and situations in our world involve a team. Even an athelete works with his or her team to win in an individual competition! One has to be a team-person while selling one’s ideas to the rest of the team. Only then, one is heard and there is a possibility that the ideas will be fleshed out.
Assertiveness is a great strength when manifested the right way – it’s about selling one’s ideas, empathising with the others and being with the others in a team!