The Lana Turner Approach to Leading Change
Lana Turner, the popular actress from the 1940s and 50s, has something to teach us about influence. the story goes, that at age sixteen, she was discovered drinking a Coke at a drugstore in Beverly Hills. She was whisked away to Hollywood (which was conveniently only two blocks away) and the rest, they say, is history.
Too many people think that if they just sit around looking beautiful – or thinking great thoughts, or toiling away in their cubicle – that the world will notice. I call it the Lana Turner Syndrome. Of course, dreams do come true just by sipping a Coke and looking beautiful. After all, it was only a mere 71 years ago that Lana Turner was discovered. So, take care of yourself and hang around for another 70 years and someone is bound to notice.
I think too many of us (me included at times in my life) suffer from the Lana Turner Syndrome. In addition, it is an easy myth to buy into. In the United States, there is a belief that if you put your nose the grindstone, work hard, do your job, good things will follow. Of course, working hard and doing good work isn't a bad thing, but it just doesn't get you noticed very often.
So how does this relate to influencing others? When we want to get people's attention and get them to make a commitment to our ideas – a good idea alone isn't enough. People need to trust us. And in order to trust us, they need to know us. they need to know that we can deliver and that we are worthy of their trust. And they need to remember who we are. People are busy and they forget. I used to send out a one-page newsletter. Invariably, the phone would ring more often in the days that followed the delivery of that single sheet of paper.
My first job was teaching kids labeled as emotionally disturbed in public schools. Within a few months, I saw why these kids were acting in a disturbing fashion. It had less to do the young people themselves and far more to do with the way the school was run. as I looked around, I saw that the entire school system seem to suffer from this problem. if the school administrators and teachers would change a few fundamental things, all would be right with the world. So, I wrote a proposal for an alternative school that I would run. (Youth couple with arrogance can be a powerful intoxicant.)
I couldn't get anyone to listen to my so-called brilliant idea. With only a few months experience I lacked credibility. And worse, no one knew who I was. Even the leaders of my own school knew little about me.
Imagine a different scenario. Let's say that I had started volunteering to serve on committees. I would find ways to assist people in power. And imagine if I waited a couple of years until I had established a good track record as a teacher and perhaps tried out some of these ideas in my own classroom. then I might have had a chance of getting my idea taken seriously. no guarantee that it would be accepted, but it certainly would have increased the odds in my favor.
I think Woody Allen's approach has a greater chance of succeeding than Lana Turner's. Allen said that 80 percent of success is showing up. I continue to be amazed at the offers I get to do work (or to influence people) simply because I show up.
The people I know who are most successful getting things accomplished in organizations live by Woody Allen's advice. they show up – not to look beautiful – but to roll-up-their-sleeves and work. they prove they can do the job and are worthy of our trust. then when they have an idea, we are far more inclined to take them seriously. we give them the benefit of the doubt.