Edification. When you tell the person you are speaking with about someone else, can they look forward to meeting them because you have “talked them up”?
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How well do you edify others around you? When you tell the person you are speaking with about someone else, would they be looking forward to meeting them with anticipation? Are you known to be the “good finder” or are you better known as the “nit-picker?” It’s another one of those attitude choices, isn’t it?
Edification is defined as: to build up, establish, or strengthen a person, institution; to uplift. Great leaders are known to always find an opportunity to build up others. Our English word “edify” comes from the same root as edifice. An edifice is a building. An edifice has been built up. When you edify a person you build them up.
Given we are usually trying to influence an outcome, putting a positive spin on something is just part of the game. The use of third-party credibility is an age old technique: “I was talking to John last week, and he was saying that…..” adds a lot more credibility to what we are about to say, even if the person we are talking to doesn’t know John.
Edification is the reason why testimonial letters are so valuable. People are much more influenced by what others have to say about us than if we say it ourselves. It is about honouring others and raising their strengths to leverage for their own benefit, for your benefit and for that that of the person you are talking to: win-win-win.
I learned all about edification in multilevel marketing where we learned to edify our “up-line”, that is the person that “sponsored” or invited us into the organization, as well as edifying everyone “up the line” to them. And so when we worked on helping prospects to see the value of the opportunity for them, and convincing them to join “our” organization we learned quickly to use the credibility of our “up-line” until we ourselves had a credible track success record that we could leverage. So before introducing them to our “up-line” we would “build up” our associates before they met them. Simple but very powerful technique.
Today it has become a skill that I use naturally without thinking about it. It has become an unconscious competence. And because of its power I wanted to share it with you today.
The good finder
I have used this term in a number of my blog articles. I remember teaching my kids: “if you can’t say anything good about someone, then rather not say anything at all”. In my diplomacy training I highlight how we honour people, and edification is a powerful part of that.
When we spoke about Recognition and the place for Criticism and Praise I suggested that for praise to be effective and accepted it has to be genuine and never contrived. I firmly believe in this, because I have learned that the leaders we deal with are usually intellectually clever and also skilled people that would quickly look through praise or good finding for the sake of good finding. However, it really isn’t that hard to find something good about anybody and everybody, is it? If we are really actively listening, that is.
Think about two different scenarios where you ask an associate what they know or think about a third person you want to meet:
a) They roll their eyes before speaking of the other. How does that affect your anticipation of meeting this person? It influences you, doesn’t it? (By the way, what does that say to you about the person you are speaking to?)
b) You hear a positive, strong and objective edification of the third party you are about to meet, even if it outlines a perceived weakness within the “good”. Don’t you feel a completely different anticipation of meeting that person?
Provided they have a track record of being true to their word and delivering what they promised over a period of time (as per The Trust Triangle) I have found it is easy to edify someone towards others.
I believe that edification is a fundamental leadership skill in motivating and growing your subordinates, and am appalled how often this simple but powerful opportunity is missed. Have a quick think about how your leadership style is perceived – are you known as one who builds people up or tears people down? Please make the positive power of this edification work for you. Look for what they are doing well and acknowledge them for that . Praise that. Edify them by acknowledging in front of others for having done what you or the organization are emphasizing behaviorally.
Edification works just as well for organizations as it does for individuals, right? Just as good sales people will avoid “bagging” their competition, we can use edification of organizations for our benefit, for that of the person you are talking to and for the other organizations benefit,
I have learned for both organizations and individuals that this attitude works for everyone. If you become known and seen as someone always to edify when possible, it becomes part of your “track record” and your image. It becomes part of a label that says: “you can trust him, he’s a great chap”. You become labelled as one of those “uplifting people”.
And so I also teach my clients to edify their management. I know that isn’t always easy in a lot of corporate situations. There is still a lot of poor leadership in place, isn’t there? (That’s good for my business). However, I believe it is your responsibility to further your own, your boss’ and your organizations position by “making your boss look good”. I believe nobody wins when you make him or her look bad within your organization and it is certainly “verboten” to make him or her “look bad” outside the organization.
This is unfortunately very prevalent in organizations that are “fraught with politics”. Negative propaganda about other people or other departments or other agenda’s is alive and well, isn’t it? Some people are so good at that. Sniping. Looking for opportunities to put someone down. Badmouthing. Nit-picking. Bagging. Subverting agenda’s. Even towards outsiders of the organization.
Whilst my blog on Drip Feeding talks about driving an initiative through all sorts of barriers and techniques to get an outcome, and I teach clients how to protect their “turf” from negative politics, I always coach my clients to avoid in engaging in negative politics yourselves.
I have learned that if your staff doesn’t know how to edify you and your organization properly, they’re compromising your credibility and weakening relationships with your prospective and existing customers as well as the media, your vendors, the business community, your shareholders and any other stakeholders with whom you seek a beneficial relationship.
There are also some very subtle forms of edification I have enjoyed. If at the end of a presentation, instead of waiting for applause for yourself, why not edify for example the person who organized everything or edify the audience for their great attention and ask them to give themselves a round of applause?
I believe edification is part of a winner’s attitude and behaviour. Being able to find the good and highlighting it for others by building people, leaders and organizations up in front of others is not hard to do. I believe it is a choice. I also believe it is a good choice. Why not try it on this week and see what a difference it can make for you, for those you are speaking to and for those you are speaking about? What if it could?
GSSP-Java Braindump says
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I have been searching for some good info on edification for several hours now and voila! In a time of so much emphasis on texting, email, etc anyone in business needs to be comfortable with the language of edifying. Thank you.
prue dawson says
Edification! A great concept for business Heiner! I see it as related to that component of transformational leadership ‘individualised consideration’ that involves recognising and the particular needs and strengths of followers. However here you are giving it a wider application in relationship building and taking the angle that being positive about others can ‘only be a good thing’.
By the way, edifying or rather unedifying was a term my mother used extensively when I was a child (in Oxford). Behaviours that were ‘unedifying’ were viewed with disgust!!….