What people need and want – influencing through values

Influencing others to make a buying (or buy-in) decision has been part of my working life for almost three decades. Learning about the different ways people prefer to interact and communicate and therefore figuring out what they need from me has helped me improve my influencing skills immensely.

But knowing what someone wants and what’s important to them = identifying their values has been a game changer.

I was facilitating a workshop teaching influencing skills with a group of senior leaders this week. When I asked, ‘What do you think is more important to find out: what people need or what people want?’ The collective answer was ‘what they need’.

Here is the thing, they are both important, but we often stop after we figure out what someone needs. Identifying what is truly important to a person – what their values are – takes your influencing skills a step further.

Humans are emotional creatures that happen to think

Neuroscience has shown that our emotional brain circuitry first screens all information coming to us before our thinking brain gets a look in. The way people feel about decisions impacts what they do. Values are what we think to be the right thing to do. They are qualities of purposeful action. Identifying what is important to someone helps influence their decision-making.

Let me explain this with the help of the Iceberg Model:


Humans can be described as icebergs. Above the waterline is what you can observe when interacting with someone – their behaviours. Underneath the waterline is what others can’t see, like our culture, upbringing, experience, fears, and also our emotions and values. What’s interesting is that everything at the bottom of our own personal iceberg drives our behaviour.

When we influence people, we often focus only on their behaviour, how they react and communicate. Flexing our own behaviour style to meet the other person where they are is a powerful way to help them to come to a decision. We help them to ‘fulfil their need’.

Don’t stop here. Shift your focus to the bottom of the iceberg and ask open questions about their values. This is particularly powerful when you disagree with someone or find it challenging to convince them. Shift from the issue to ‘why’.

More often than not, when people disagree with something, one or more of their values are compromised. And values are closely connected to our emotions because values are what we feel to be important and the right thing to do.

For example, I am working with an organisation who finds it challenging to get their employees to buy into the new workplace structure of coming back to the office on certain days.

After some fruitless meetings, the leadership team asked the staff how they feel (rather than what they think) about the new mandate. It turns out the value AUTONOMY was compromised.

It wasn’t about the fact that people should spend some time in the office, but they had a strong feeling to have flexibility by means of autonomy.

They want to choose which days of the week to work in the office. All they wanted was choice, aka autonomy.

What people want is important

In her book Emotional Agility Susan David talks about how identifying your values helps you live the life you want. She describes values as ‘serving as a kind of psychological keel to keep you steady.’

So, find out what people want. Most decisions are emotionally connected and helping people to meet their ‘values needs’ will move the needle in influencing them.

These skills are fundamental elements of our Leadership Programs as they are crucial to leading change, and leading the future. If you want to learn more about how we build these skills into our programs, click on the links below to get more information, or contact me on jessica@intactteams.com for a confidential conversation about what these skills can do for your leaders.

Jessica Schubert

Jessica Schubert is a Leadership Expert, Executive Coach, Facilitator, Author and Speaker. She is obsessed with helping people realise their potential and unlock their inner genius.

Born in Cologne, Germany, Jessica has travelled the world and has spent more than 20 years leading cross-cultural teams in competitive markets throughout Europe and the Asia Pacific. As she worked with and coached her own diverse, cross-cultural teams, she came to realise that learning about yourself and developing interpersonal skills is the most powerful tool to lead and influence people around you.

In 2013 she launched Intact Teams, where she and her team have worked with thousands of leaders in organisations worldwide, delivering custom-designed leadership programs and workshops. These interactive and engaging programs are offered both virtually and in-person, helping leaders and their teams succeed in a complex and ever-changing business environment.

If you would like to find out more about Jessica and Intact Teams:

  1. Subscribe to our newsletter to get Jessica’s insightful, practical leadership and self-improvement tips straight to your inbox every week.
  2. Pre-order Jessica’s book, Lead the Future, the 12 skills to lead in a fast changing, ambiguous world.
  3. Get our online program, Lead the Future, and learn the leadership skills you need to lead in a fast changing, ambiguous world.
  4. Contact Jessica to find out more about her tailored leadership programs.
Jessica Schubert