How we think influences how we process and use information we receive, and how we then accept/respond to that information.
As a finance leader, you need to be able to translate numbers into insights, and insights into sound commercial decisions. At the same time, it’s important to be able to develop and manage diverse and complex stakeholder relationships – both internally and externally.
This is where your influence skills as a finance leader will come in handy and how effective you are at getting buy-in from your teams and business partners.
We know that, as human beings, we are more likely to listen to others if we feel the message is relevant and delivered well. We are also more likely to have strong and productive relationships if we demonstrate good listening and observation skills and are flexible in our approach.
What is Whole Brain Thinking®?
Whole Brain Thinking® is a tried and tested approach that can give you greater insight into how your teammates think, feel and act, which will then in turn shape how you communicate with them, solve problems and make decisions.
We don’t all think the same, so knowing how to best present information and build relationships with people who may have opposite preferences to us, can create opportunity and growth. It can mean a business case progresses; financial risks of a project are mitigated; or help to build a partnership where both parties may have previously had conflicting agendas.
The Whole Brain Model™ works on the basis, that there are four main quadrants of the brain from which we work from, and we will all have a strong thinking preference towards one quadrant over others. Knowing how each of these works, will help you to have greater influence as a finance leader.
What are the four thinking preferences?
People will generally fall into one or all four of these thinking preferences: analytical, structural, experimental or relational. So, how can you best work with people who are dominant in those thinking preferences in order to have greater influence as a finance leader? Here are some tips:
Analytic Thinkers (Blue Quadrant)
Analytical thinkers take a rational, logical approach to problem solving. They require a high standard of financial and technical accuracy in the information they receive in order for it to be relevant and potentially influence them.
When working with analytic thinkers, consider the following approach:
- Present facts and a good level of data – charts work well
- Provide critical analysis and show your working
- Ensure technical accuracy – triple check your information
- Develop clear goals, objectives and outcomes
- Be brief, clear and precise in your communication
Structural Thinkers (Green Quadrant)
Structural thinkers have a preference towards organisation and detail. They categorise and segment information into stages and respond well to reliable information that reflects this way of thinking.
Consider the following when communicating with structural thinkers:
- Being thorough and providing reference material
- Preparing a detailed and time-framed action plan
- Being concise and remaining focused on the stages and plan
- Delivering communication in writing and in advance
- Demonstrating alignment with rules, policies and procedures
- Showing an understanding of risks and their management
Experimental Thinkers (Yellow Quadrant)
Vision and creativity are key elements in how an experimental thinker prefers to think. There is a need to understand the outcome and foster creativity in thoughts and ideas. Providing meaning, a sense of challenge and change in information will add impact to your message. CEOs tend to lean towards the more yellow, “visionary thinking” quadrant.
Consider the following when working with an experimental thinker:
- Start with an overview and outline the big picture
- Show how this is new, and aligns with vision and strategy
- Offer only necessary, minimal details – don’t overload them with information
- Describe metaphors for concepts and use visuals and infographics
- Allow time and freedom to explore and discuss ideas
Relational Thinkers (Red Quadrant)
Relational thinkers process information and view situations initially from an emotional perspective. They have a need to build relationships and act on things with consideration to the impact on others. Time spent building a connection and the human element is an important key to influence them.
Relational thinkers benefit from the following approach:
- Foster an open, informal discussion and spend time building rapport
- Bring energy and be expressive in your body language and your voice
- Be open and clear in your agenda – no hidden agendas
- Demonstrate awareness of how people feel and the impact on others
- Show good intention and be active in your listening
It is also important to remember that we all have some level of preference across the different areas and so your approach to influence needs to be flexible and holistic – it is in understanding the best mix of these strategies that will ultimately make you a more successful communicator and have greater influence as a finance leader.