Monday, April 14, 2014

Many Milestones and Reasons to Celebrate

This past year has held a lot of milestones for me and for my family and so does the coming month. In March 2013, Jane and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We followed that up in December with our daughter Abigail’s 18th birthday. I turned 50 a few weeks ago and Jane will reach that magical number in about four weeks. The month of May will conclude with Abigail graduating from high school. A very event-filled 14 months!

One more milestone in the midst of all of that is the 5th anniversary of Influence PEOPLE. On April 17, 2009, I wrote my first blog post Why Influence is All about PEOPLE. Over the past five years, more than 100,000 people from nearly 200 countries have taken time to read Influence PEOPLE. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that kind of response!

It’s been incredible to meet people all across the globe and in particular those who’ve participated in my Influencers from Around the World Series. Special thanks to Sean Patrick, Anthony McLean, Hoh Kim, Marco Germani, Yago De Marta and Cathrine Moestue for being so generous in sharing their thoughts and articles with all of us over the past five years.  It’s been fun to get to know each of them and to learn about their cultures. I feel like anywhere I go in the world I’ll have friends to meet with. 

I also need to thank several other people. First and foremost is Debbie Conkel, a coworker who generously proof reads all my blog posts. Another is Mike Figliuolo, who has been a mentor in many ways because he’s much farther down the road with his company and blog thoughtLEADERS. My boss at State Auto, John Petrucci, has also been unbelievably supportive in every way. He gets that happy, engaged employees are more productive and valuable, and encourages that in all his associates.

I also want to thank some people who’ve been so encouraging. First is Nancy Edwards, a former colleague. Someone else who comes to mind is George Black. Were it not for his encouragement I might never have started this blog.

Huge thanks also go to Jane and Abigail. They’ve been my biggest supporters and have been very gracious as I’ve occasionally shared stories about each of them. Jane was especially patient with me when I wrote a post I called Reverse Psychology and the Vacation Bathing Suit.

And I’ve save the best for last – you! Without you reading this every week I would not be as encouraged and inspired to write as I am. Some of my best days are seeing comments or getting emails from readers who tell me how my writing has helped them professionally or personally. That’s the goal with what I do – to help you learn to hear “Yes” because it’s so important for your professional success and personal happiness.

So from me to you, a sincere Thank You! I hope five years from now you’re still reading and I have the chance to say thanks again.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Cialdini “Influence” Series! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini "Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Influencers from Around the World - Hardwired Humans

This month our Influencers from Around the World guest post comes from Anthony McLean, Australia’s one and only Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT®). We owe Anthony special thanks for taking time to share with us because his busy schedule last month included a trip to the States to meet with Dr. Cialdini. I know you’ll enjoy what Anthony has to share.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Hardwired Humans

Why would a Global Healthcare company like Philips undertake a change management program in a zoo? The answer is they were following research revealed in Andrew O’Keefe’s book Hardwired Humans.

In Australia/New Zealand, Philips had undergone four change programs in as many years preceding the unexpected global change program announced in 2009. Managing director Harry van Dyk and HR director Jo Hilyard admitted the company was suffering from “change fatigue” and a vastly different approach was required to that used previously.

What happened next was a little unexpected for many. Philips took 30 of its leaders to Taronga Zoo in Sydney for a workshop that introduced them to the role basic human instincts play in the workplace. The workshop looked at nine hardwired instincts of humans and the leadership implications including the management of change. In one part of the program the leaders were addressed by The Jane Goodall Institute and its chimpanzee program to demonstrate the social and hierarchical structure off chimpanzees and the implications this has for modern business. Unexpectedly for the participants they discovered the comparisons between chimp and human social structures were numerous and provided a whole new perspective on resolving workplace challenges.

One of the key insights was that the conventional wisdom that claims people resist change is wrong. We learned that humans, rather than being resistant to change, are actually hardwired to avoid loss. Upon hearing about a change people instantly screen their environment for the risk of loss. If we detect loss, we resist the change. If we detect gain, we support the change. If we are unsure about the impact of the change (and this is the big swinger), then we assume loss. This means that for organizational change we often have people unnecessarily erring toward loss and resistance, merely because people were unable to make sense of the impact of the change for them at the moment they first learned of it. (HR Monthly, March 2011, p30)

The Persuasion Implications

The implications for persuaders are clear. Through scarcity, we know that loss framing is more persuasive than focusing on the benefits of a thing. The final part of the above quote is very important because it highlights that under conditions in which the risk cannot be assessed the subject will assume loss if they have no other means to assess the risk.

You may say great, scarcity is at play without you having to do anything to get people to take action. In reality the targets of influence, under this assumed loss, will employ coping mechanisms and strategies to protect themselves from that loss rather than take healthy proactive workplace behaviours.

For example, in a change management project if the targets of influence assume loss because they have no other basis to assess the risk, they will then react against the project, at times for no other reason than they associate loss (i.e., of position, status, pay, etc.) with the project itself.

Anyone who has managed a change project will tell you the reluctance at times seems unnecessary and ill informed; now you understand that it is a hardwired response to the subjects’ inability to assess risk, so they assume loss and react accordingly.

Steps to Counter Perceived Loss

If we know that people scan for loss in any situation before moving forward, it makes sense to manage this situation and brief the relevant staff fully on managing the default towards loss and reacting against the situation unnecessarily. By providing this briefing it is more likely to trigger reciprocity because you as the change agent have given them the information they require to assess the risk for themselves. Potentially it may even increase liking if you are then required to work together and you have already opened up the channel for cooperation. The warning however is, that left unattended to the development of a loss aversion mindset, this reaction may cause the audience to take a stand and trigger consistency, towards the negative and this could be all the momentum that is required to drive consensus in the wrong direction.

So ask yourself these questions: 
1. What risk is involved in your project, service or request? 
2. Is it real or perceived?

If the targets of influence are unable to assess the personal risk of loss for themselves (i.e., the risk is not clear or able to be easily understood), they will most likely assume loss and react against you and your project, service or request.

Brief the targets of influence appropriately so they can adequately assess the risk from an informed position and give yourself every chance of success rather than having to start the influence process on the back foot. It may also be prudent to lobby support from others who already understand the project and during the briefing ask them to discuss the implications for their business area and support for the change. This simple step uses consensus to show others are already moving in the direction of the project not away from it and as we know when we are unsure of what we should do we look to the behaviour of others like us to guide our decisions.

Anthony McLean, CMCT® 

From A to Zoo, HR Monthly March 2011 p28-30
O’Keefe, A (2011) Hardwired Humans Roundtable Press.

Monday, March 31, 2014

7 Personal Observations about Success

This week (April 1), I crossed the half-century mark of life. It doesn’t seem possible because some memories from long ago – growing up, high school, college, dating Jane – are so vivid. And that includes being at my dad’s 50th birthday party! As I pause and reflect, I’m thankful and hopeful. I’m thankful for the life I’ve led and that I’ve made it this far. Many wonderful people don’t get this many years on earth. I’m hopeful for many more years and to be able to enjoy them in good health.

As this day has been approaching, I’ve looked back on my life and would like to share a few things I believe may help you be more successful in your life. I realize success can be defined many different ways so I’ll tell you mine. It’s based on the mission statement I wrote more than 25 years ago.

When my days on earth are finished and I stand in front of the Lord I hope He will say, “Well done.” Success for me will be defined by placing Him first, loving my family, making my work place better in a productive and personal sense and staying true to who I am. The following are things I believe have helped me live a life in which I can look back and say I’m happy, content and would not trade my life with anyone, for anything.

1. Love God. I’ve had experiences in life that let me know in my deepest soul that there is a God. My love for Him and living as He would desire is far from perfect. But, I’ve come to realize He doesn’t love me any more when I succeed or any less because I make mistakes. That made more sense to me after Abigail came along. I would not love her more because she did certain things nor would I love her less if she did things I disagreed with. I love her, period. So it is with God and that frees me to be who I am, accept myself – the good, the bad and all that’s in between – and enjoy who I am.

2. Place others ahead of yourself. When it comes to family, the more you can put them ahead of yourself the happier you will be. I don’t believe we do this in some sort of self-denial, “woe is me” way. You do this because when you truly love someone, you want the best for them. It brings me joy to be able to give to Jane and Abigail. When you see the giving as your reward, you realize your capacity to love is unlimited! We’re to love all people and that’s tougher because it doesn’t come as naturally but I do find more joy when I truly care for and give to others.

3. Choose your thoughts. When it comes to family and others, what we choose to focus on makes a tremendous difference. There is good and bad in everyone and everything. The good new is, humans can choose where to place their thoughts. Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, written about his experiences in surviving the Holocaust, drove this home for me. Recognizing this means I can choose not to focus on the bad and fix my thoughts on the good instead. The more I do this, the easier it is to like other people. When they sense I genuinely like them they begin to respond in kind and everyone is better off.

4. Love what you do. I know it sounds clich├ęd, but it’s true. When you love what you do your reward comes daily. When I think back to my bodybuilding, marathon running and taekwondo days, one thing in common with each was that I loved training. The goals of a bodybuilding contest, running a marathon or a black belt test were just reasons to train harder. But I realize it was easy because I wasn’t training for the prize, I was training because I loved what I was doing and those goals helped me get even more out of something that already brought me so much satisfaction.

5. A little bit over a long period. Steven Covey talked about the law of the land; that you can’t plant a crop and expect it to grow in a day. That natural process cannot be circumvented. So it is with most things in life in which we want to succeed. I learned early on with weightlifting that diligent effort over a long time paid dividends. I saw that with my studies in college and I see it today with my approach to Influence PEOPLE. Success rarely happens overnight. Muhammad Ali said as much; “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” If you love what you do it makes the process more bearable.

6. Work hard. Nothing comes easy and loving what you do and doing it for a long time won’t cut it if you don’t give it your all. There’s simply no substitute for hard work. Going to the gym, dojo, hitting the road, or studying, all require real effort. I never aspired to be “the best” because I knew what my time and physical limitations were. Within the parameters I set, I aspired to be “the best I could be” and most of the time I felt accomplished that.

7. Cut yourself some slack. There will come a day when our time is up. Don’t use up precious time and energy living in regret or beating yourself up for not being more than you are. You’re not perfect and never will be. If you happen to attain the highest heights and are considered “the best” at what you do it’s likely to be short lived. Just look at sports champions. The more you can accept yourself – short comings and all – the more you’ll be able to accept others and that leads to healthy relationships.

These are just a few thoughts on what I believe has helped me get where I am today. I’m happy and content. I realize many people cannot say either, let alone both. I hope what I’ve shared gives you pause for thought and perhaps helps you move closer to happiness and contentment.  

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Cialdini “Influence” Series! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini "Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sometimes Less is More When it Comes to Persuasion

I have some persuasive advice for you – Bite your lip and stay silent for a while. Normally when I talk about persuasion I offer up ways to proactively connect on the six principles of influence. But sometimes silence is golden because quite often less is more. Allow me to ask you a few questions to drive home why this is the case.

When will people appreciate your advice most? When they ask for it.
When do people appreciate your “gifts” most? When they want them. 
So why do we keep offering advice and giving gifts to people before they ask?

There is a time and place for offering up help, sharing advice and giving gifts. Initiating on each of these engages the principle of reciprocity because quite often the other person will feel some obligation to give back to you. However, there are times when they’ll appreciate what you have to offer even more. That time is when they seek you out and ask for it. I’ve noticed this much more as of late at work and home. 

Since my daughter Abigail was a toddler I’ve always made it a priority to spend time with her. For many years it was a father-daughter group through the YMCA known as Indian Princess. Next it was taekwondo for about five years. More recently it’s been time every weekend at coffee shops. I was the initiator with all of these.

When we stopped going to taekwondo it was a combination of her losing interesting plus being busy with high school and an after school job. A while ago she approached me about starting back up with taekwondo. Initially I said no because of my training-related travel, her work schedule and I just didn’t think she’d be dedicated enough to make it several times a week. More time passed and I still resisted which made her want it even more. That’s scarcity in action because the less available something is the more we tend to want it.

I finally relented and told her when summer rolls around and she’s on break and my travel lightens up that we’ll join taekwondo for the summer to see how it goes. Do you think she’ll be more into it and appreciate it more because she had to wait and pursue me on it? You bet!

Another example happened recently. Abigail shared a string of texts she had with a boy. I had some strong opinions about the “conversation” as I listened but I didn’t offer up any thoughts. I kept reminding myself she’s an adult (she turned 18 years old in December) and can handle herself. Finally she asked my opinion but I didn’t say anything so she asked again. She could see I was thinking and was curious. I knew at that point she’d value what I had to say far more than if I just offered up my opinion unprompted.

I’ve also noticed the same phenomenon at work. Over the years I’ve established expertise in several areas but I try to hold back until someone wants what I have. This goes for my training, coaching and consulting. When someone seeks me out, they’ll value what I can offer much more.

Here are a few keys to help make this approach more effective.

1. Establish your expertise and trustworthiness. Both of these elements will add to your authority and make people rely on your wisdom even more. If you don’t have expertise, at least in business, there’s no real reason people will seek you out. On the flip side, if you’re not trustworthy then it won’t matter how smart you are. You need both!

2. Start by giving. Even if you have expertise people may be unaware of that fact. When you start by giving, you show what you’re capable of and engage reciprocity. Doing this helps establish a relationship which will make others feel more comfortable approaching you down the road.

3. Withhold a little bit. As noted earlier, people want more of what they can have less of. That’s scarcity. If you constantly offer up advice without being asked or make yourself available 24x7 then you’re missing the chance to leverage scarcity.

So next time you’re tempted to jump in with your two cents, bite your lip and remember, quite often, less is more. Give it a try and let me know what you notice about others’ response to you.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Cialdini “Influence” Series! Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini "Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world.