Monday, November 17, 2014

Win or Lose, You Can Do Better!

A few months ago I had the pleasure of addressing nearly three dozen lawyers. I know some of you are thinking “pleasure” and “lawyers” don’t always go hand in hand. However, in this case it really was a pleasure because the topic was a one-hour overview of influence for legal professionals. It was my first time talking with attorneys and it was much different, and a bit more challenging, than working with supervisors, managers and salespeople.

A bit of irony is one description used to define the principles of influence. They’re often referred to as proven rules or laws governing human behavior. Personally I shy away from calling them laws (even though I was talking to lawyers) because when I think about laws, such as the law of gravity, they describe phenomenon that will happen each and every time unless an outside force intercedes in some way.

The principles of influence will not get a yes response each and every time, even in the sterile environment of a campus laboratory. It becomes more problematic in the real world because of the myriad of outside forces. With that in mind, when I talk with audiences I generally tell them the principles are proven rules for human behavior. I emphasize if they’re used ethically and correctly they will lead to yes responses more often. I’m confident of that because more than six decades of research from social psychologists and behavioral economists proves this. We could call the principles “brain rules” because they describe how people typically think and behave in different situations.

As noted above, the attorney crowd was challenging. They asked very pointed questions about using liking with juries, admitting weakness in a case, looking for common ground with opposing attorneys and even how the principles work when raising kids.

At one point during my talk I described the principle of scarcity – we value things more when they’re rare or diminishing. Then I segued into a concept known as “loss aversion.” Loss aversion labels the truth that people hate to lose and when we think we’re going to lose we take steps to avoid that. If you’re a football fan think about the “prevent defense.” When a team gets up on the opposing team and time is winding down quite often the team in the lead changes what they’re doing because the thought isn’t about winning as much as it is about not losing. All too often the team playing from behind throws caution to the wind, gambles and ends up winning. It’s quite frustrating for the fans of the team that used the prevent defense and that’s why so many joke about how it prevents your team from winning!

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky studied loss aversion and came to the conclusion that most people feel the pain of loss anywhere from 2.0-2.5 times more than the joy of gaining the very same thing. This is probably why the sting of a loss in a big game stays with us so much longer than the joy we feel when our team wins the big game.

After my presentation a few attorneys came up to talk with me and one of them shared something profound. He said he rarely thinks back on cases he won but he dwells on the ones he loses. Could it be that’s why we learn so much in defeat as opposed to victory?

I often tell salespeople whether you win the sale or lose it you should learn from the experience. If you win, what did you do that you can replicate into future success? When you lose, analyze what you could have done better then look for ways to change going forward.

Victory is usually celebrated with little reflection and losses are replayed over and over in our minds. It’s just how we’re wired. But, the best athletes work on doing things right and commit as much of their game to “muscle memory” as possible. They become so conditioned through practice that they barely have to think in order to execute properly during their chosen sport.

We can learn from the elite athletes. Next time you win – whether in business, sports, or life in general – discipline yourself to take time to figure out why and look for ways to build on that. The more you repeat winning behaviors the more like you are to repeat as a winner.

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bribes, Rewards or Gifts – Which is Best?

One Saturday morning, after a run and workout, I looked forward to a bagel and an egg over easy for breakfast. As I settled in with my meal and flipped through the news channels, something on Fox and Friends caught my eye. It was a story on parenting.

One mom talked about “bribing” her kids. She told her teenage daughter she’d take her to Disney World if she got all As on her next report card. Another parent said no way would he bribe his kids to do chores or get good grades. The last parent said she uses both techniques at different times.

Obviously none of the parents understood much about what social psychology has to say about influencing behavior. The rewards the parents were offering (there were more examples than just Disney World) work to some degree. That’s why so many businesses use rewards to motivate behavior. However, studies show quite often that engaging the principle of reciprocity can be more effective and cost a lot less.

One study I share during my workshops has to do with a health insurance company wanting to see if they could get a better response from owners of construction companies on their health questionnaire. With one group of business owners they offered a $50 reward for completing the questionnaire. With the rest of the business owners they sent a $5 check acknowledging their time was valuable and they appreciated them taking time to complete the questionnaire.

And what were the results? You’d think the $50 offer being 10 times more would definitely get a better response but it didn’t. Only 23% of those offered the big reward filled out the questionnaire but 52% who were given the $5 gift up front complied with the request. So the response was more than twice as much in the gift scenario and there was a huge savings depending on exactly how many people cashed the $5 check. If every person, including those who didn’t fill out the questionnaire, cashed the check, the savings would be 57%. If only those who completed the questionnaire cashed the check the health company would have saved 77%! No matter how you look at it, more than doubling the response at a substantial savings is the smart business decision.

Sometimes giving something small up front engages reciprocity and the other person feels it’s only right to repay the favor. Here’s a personal example with my daughter, Abigail. When she was about 15 she was a typical teenage girl. She didn’t want to do things that were physically hard and would make her sweat….like cutting the grass. I was going to be traveling and knew I’d need her help with the lawn while I was away. I also knew if I tried to negotiate I’d lose. Had I said, “Abigail, I’ll give you a $10 a week raise in your allowance if you’ll cut the grass when I need it,” she would have said, “No thanks dad, I don’t like money that much.” Then I would have either had to significantly increase my offer or pull the parent card and force her to cut the grass. Neither approach would have been good because she would resent me or make me a lot poorer.

What I did instead was give her the $10 raise without asking for anything in return. When she asked why I was giving her the raise I told her reasons I believe she’d legitimately earned it. About a week later I was going on a trip and asked if she would cut the grass. Initially she hesitated and gave me a look but before we got any further I said, “Come on Abigail, I gave you a raise in your allowance and didn’t ask for anything. Can’t you help me out?” She said she’d cut the grass and has ever since – without arguing – whenever I’ve needed her help. And here’s the best part – for Christmas last year one of my gifts was a card with grass cutting coupons…and I don’t even give her an allowance anymore!

As noted earlier, rewards do change behavior and that’s why they’re so prevalent in business. However, much of the time we can get the behavior change we want and spend a lot less by ethically and correctly engaging reciprocity.

APPLICATION: This week take a look at instances in which you reward people for behavior and see if you can engage reciprocity instead by freely giving up front. Then, next time you need a favor just ask for their help. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many say “Yes” and that it cost you a lot less.

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

Influencers from Around the World - One Great Question to Ask: Lessons from Marshall Goldsmith and Patrick Lencioni

This month the “Influencers from Around the World” post comes all the way from South Korea thanks to Hoh Kim. Hoh and I met in Arizona early 2008 when we went through training together to earn our Cialdini Method Certified Trainer designations. To learn more about Hoh visit his website, The Lab h, and his blog, Cool Communications. You can also find Hoh on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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

One Great Question to Ask: Lessons from 
Marshall Goldsmith and Patrick Lencioni

How you communicate your weaknesses can define whether you're trustworthy or not, according to Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the world’s foremost expert on the science of influence. Without trustworthiness, we cannot have true authority in the eyes of others. Many leadership experts also express a similar concept.

Everyone talks about the importance of trust. But, do we know how to act to build trust as a leader? Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, shared some excellent insight. According to Lencioni, when we use the word “trust,” it normally means “predictable trust.” For example; I know one of my team members will do a good job, as she or he has been a good performer in the past. However, Lencioni suggested that leaders should practice what he called “vulnerability-based trust.” Leaders cannot be strong in every aspect, which means they also have weaknesses. Leaders should first know what their weaknesses are, and they should feel comfortable disclosing them to their team. Leaders shouldn’t be defensive. Instead Lencioni wrote, “In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.”

Everyone talks about the importance of feedback in developing people. However, Marshall Goldsmith, one of the noted experts in leadership development, emphasized the importance of “feedforward.” Feedback is about your behavior in the past and feedforward is about suggestions for the future behavior. Feedback is in the rear view mirror, while feedforward is looking into the windshield. To drive your car you have to pay attention to windshield, what lay ahead, not the rear view mirror, which only shows what is behind.

We all have areas of improvement in our workplace. If you could choose one area for improvement over the next year, what will it be? Better listening? Faster decision-making? Better emotional management? Whatever it is, acknowledge your weaknesses to your team members. You won't be seen as a loser. If you stay in your weaknesses you might be viewed as a loser but when you acknowledge a weakness candidly, and ask for feedforward from your members and colleagues, you will be seen as a more trustworthy individual.

When you acknowledge weaknesses and ask for feedforward you make a public commitment to improve. By utilizing the principle of consistency, one of the Dr. Cialdini's six principles of influence, you will have a better chance to actually experiencing progress.

How do you ask for feedforward? Take the Marshall Goldsmith's advice and simply say, “I want to be better at (listening, for example). How can I be a better listener?” If your colleagues suggest something, don't defend yourself, just respond with a sincere, “Thank you.”

As we approach the end of 2014, it is a good idea to practice feedforward with you wife, husband, or significant others. Do you want to be a better spouse? Let me share one of my secrets to be a better spouse. Once a year I ask to my wife, “Honey, how can I be a better husband? What can I do better to be a better husband?” So far, my wife has never asked me to buy her things like a diamond ring or luxury clothing or high-end handbags. She just loves to be asked.

Hoh Kim, CMCT® 
Founder, Head Coach & Lead Facilitator, THE LAB h

Monday, October 27, 2014

Make Requests Like a Persuasion Expert

Persuasion is all about moving people to action. Aristotle defined it as “the art of getting someone to do something they would not ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” The bottom line when it comes to persuasion is getting someone to do something. How we communicate can make all the difference between a “Yes” or “No” response.

Most of the time people are directive, telling instead of asking, when they want something. For example:

Clean your room.
Fax me the authorization form.
Get me the sales numbers.

Each request is direct and to the point. The communication may be clear but unfortunately people don’t like to be told what to do. And none of the statements above requires a response, which means the recipient of the message might hear what’s being said but think to himself or herself, “No” without ever having to say it.

Each of us makes requests of people daily, and the science of influence tells us with certainty there are better ways to structure our communication if we want to hear “Yes” more often. If you want to make a request like a persuasion expert follow this simple formula:

R = W + T + B + R + D

Request = What + Timeframe + Because + Reason + Downside

Here’s an example using the formula: Would you get me the authorization form by this afternoon because without it I can’t proceed any further on your claim, which will delay your payment by several more days?

A number of persuasive techniques are used in the example above so let’s dissect each part.

“Would you” – Adding these two words turns the statement into a question and engages the principle of consistency. A question like this demands a response and once someone says “Yes,” the likelihood they’ll do what you want has gone up significantly.

“by this afternoon” – These three words ensure you’ll get what you want within a timeframe that’s acceptable to you instead of being left to chance. If someone says they can’t get it within the allotted time you can engage reciprocity. Immediately upon hearing no, if you put out a new timeframe (i.e., How about by tomorrow afternoon?) your odds of hearing “Yes” have just gone up because most people are willing to meet us part way after we’ve first conceded a little bit.

“because” – One study showed a 50% increase in “yes” responses when a request was tagged with “because” and a reason was given. This even worked when the reason was bogus! We’re conditioned from childhood to almost mindlessly do what we’re told when “because” is used. Do you remember your parents ever saying, “Because I said so!” in response to your asking why you had to do something? We’ve all been there and maybe you’ve used that phrase yourself.
“I can’t proceed any further on your claim, which will delay your payment” – This invokes the principle of scarcity. People are much more motivated by the thought of losing something as opposed to gaining the same thing. In this instance the person knows they won’t be paid until they’ve done what’s being asked. This is much more effective than saying, “As soon as I get it I’ll proceed on the claim and you’ll get paid.”

Once more compare the two requests for the same thing:

Fax me the authorization form.
Would you get me the authorization form by this afternoon because without it I can’t proceed any further on your claim, which will delay your payment?

Next time you need something from someone or you need them to do something remember to structure your request by asking instead of telling. Let them know what you want and when you need it by. Tag your request with “because” and a legitimate reason. Finally, let them know what happens if they don’t do what’s asked…the downside. Follow this simple approach and you’re sure to hear “Yes” more often.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.