Tactics of Influence: Head, Heart or Hands?

August 29, 2007

You and I spend much of our lives attempting to influence others, from encouraging a child to eat his brocolli to presenting an important recommendation to our bosses.  When was the last time you thought about the tactics you use to influence?  Can you identify your influence style and determine if it’s working?  Are you  fully aware of the tactics available to you?

If you are like most people, you use an influence style and the same tactics over and over.  You use influence tactics that have worked in the past or were modelled for you by mentors.  Chances are you could improve your results at influencing others if you examine and expand your tactics. 

According to a piece published by the Center for Creative Leadership (authors Baldwin and Grayson), there are three basic approaches to influencing others:  logic (head), emotions/values (heart) and collaboration (hands).  In this post, I’ll introduce each approach.  In following posts, I’ll delve into each influence tactic more fully, adding examples and fleshing things out with my own material.

Head.  When you rely on logic, you choose to influence or persuade others with a focus on the head.  In this style of  influence, you explain why your proposal is the best one, showing pros and cons.  You might also describe the benefits of your proposal to the person you are trying to persuade or to the organization to which you both belong.

Heart.  When you attempt to influence or persuade others by appealing to values or the vision of an organization, you use an emotional or heart approach.

Hands.  When you couch your persuasive efforts in consultation, listening to other viewpoints, providing resources, or removing obstacles for  others, you use a collaborating style of influence.  You can think of this as a “hands” approach.

I like this head, heart, and hands categorization because it’s simple and easy to remember.  As you communicate with others over the next few days, pay attention to which category you use to influence and persuade.  If you keep a log, you will be able to get an accurate picture of your influence habits and tactics.  Are you primarily a head, heart or hands influencer?  Do you use a mixed approach?

I’ll talk about effectiveness in upcoming posts.  For now, I welcome your comments!

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Need More Information? Stop Talking!

August 22, 2007

One of my executive coaching clients and I were discussing the use of questions to uncover what’s behind a person’s position on a particular issue.  We discussed a number of open-ended questions, like the following:

1.    Can you give me a bit of the history behind this process?  What problem did it originally solve?  Who was on the team of developers?

2.    Here are the facts as I see them.  What else do I need to look at?  What am I missing?

3.    In an ideal world, we would proceed in the following way….  What concerns does this raise for your department?

I could tell that the executive was disappointed about some aspect of our conversation, so I asked about it.  He responded, “I was hoping you’d tell me some questions to get behind these issues.”  Later, I realized the opportunity I had missed.  Nothing was wrong with the list of questions.  The secret the executive was hoping to find lies in the way we handle the responses we get to the questions.  For example, if a person’s answer to a well-formulated question still leaves us murky about what she really thinks, we can respond with a simple statement:  “Please tell me more.”

The secret, then, is to stop talking.  Assuming you are not asking for private or embarrassing information, a pause is a powerful tool.  In western culture, if one person is silent after a question is answered, someone else will rush in to fill the vacuum.  In the process, that person will often provide more information in relation to the question—exactly what the silent person is looking for. 


Law of Persuasion: Influence Others with a Simple Twist

August 15, 2007

People are eager to increase their skills in persuasion, to know how to gain commitment and cooperation in business and in life.  When organizations hire me to speak and consult, they are looking for secrets to persuade others.   

At the end of my sessions, people are usually encouraged and a bit surprised—because the laws of persuasion are not as difficult as expected.  We know these laws instinctively, but we are often so busy that we don’t think about them when we compose messages.  My specialty is to bring the laws of persuasion to the surface and to make these laws easy to apply. 

For example, here’s a fundamental law of persuasion:  When you focus on the needs and goals of the people receiving your message rather than your own goals, your message becomes more persuasive. 

To test this law of persuasion, read the following excerpts from the preface of a book on job skills.  Assume you are a job seeker and choose which book you’d prefer to read:   

Option 1:  I have experience as a recruiter in a large institution, a specialist in a job-readiness program, and in other positions in human resources.  My experience points to a need for a quick, easy-to-read guide of tips people can use in their job searches.  I wrote this book for job seekers to share my experiences. 

Option 2:  The purpose of this book is to make your job search easier, less frustrating, and more successful.  This book is a quick, easy-to-read guide you can use for any job search.  You’ll find tips about things that have worked and things that haven’t worked—in job searches of real people.  Follow this guide for an easier, less frustrating, and more successful path to your new job!   

The people in my workshops always choose option 2.  Yet, the difference between option 1 and 2 is a simple twist. Option 1 focuses on the author of the book rather than the reader.  It repeats the words, I and my, focusing on the experience of the author.  Frankly, who cares?!   

Option 2 focuses on the reader’s goals, frustrations and needs.  It repeats the word you and your.  By choosing to address the needs and goals of the potential reader (in this case a job seeker), the author increases the chances that her book will be read. A fundamental law of persuasion is in force. 

Here’s a classic way to test your messages against this law of persuasion.  You’ll need two different colored highlighters.  Use one color to highlight the use of I, me, my, our, or your company or department name or goals.  Use the other color to highlight the use of you, your, or their company or department name or goals.  Whatever your intentions, the color that dominates (you vs. I) reveals the focus of your message. 

If needed, make a few simple twists until the balance changes to focus on the receiver.  Only then will the law of persuasion work in your favor. 

This entry is adapted from my book, Secrets to Get Busy People to Respond to Your Messages.  You can order it at http://www.incrediblemessages.com/products.htm.


Avoid This Stupid Mistake #3: Failure to Market Your E-Mail

August 9, 2007

Here’s the situation:  Like you, I am inundated with e-mail, both the kind that I need for my profession and the insidious spam that seems to multiply when I sleep.  When I open my inbox, I have the job of sorting through these e-mails under intense time pressure.  There’s always more mail than time to give it.This means that all of us who write e-mail must compete for our receiver’s most precious resource:  attention. 

Here’s the stupid mistake:  A respected, seasoned colleague of mine sends me e-mails with no subject line.  Because I identify her name, I open these e-mails.  When a name that I don’t immediately recognize hits my inbox with a blank subject line, I automatically delete the message.  No hesitation on this one. 

I’ve had occasions when at the very last minute I’ve recognized a name as an important contact, or even a client, and rescued the e-mail.  When this happens, I can’t help but shake my head at the lack of professionalism—and the risk this person takes of having the message lost altogether—in this oversight. 

Here’s the solution:  ALWAYS take time to compose a compelling subject line for your e-mails.  Here are two important reasons:

  1. You are competing for attention, and it’s smart to use every advantage you have.  Your subject line sells your message.  If you fail to compel, the message gets deleted.
  2. Your subject line is like a file drawer for your message.  If a person needs to search for your message at a later date, it’s the subject line that makes it possible to find it.

Are You Making a Personal Brand Mistake?

August 8, 2007

Experts tell me that the essence of a brand is a promise.  For example, people are willing to spend  more for a Coke than a generic cola because they can count on the consistency of the Coke taste–no matter where they are in the world. 

All successful brands have a believable and predictable promise:  Nike, IBM, Starbucks, HJ Heinz, Newsweek, AT&T etc.  The brand tells you what to expect, every time.

People have brands, too, even though we don’t always think about it.  Our brand is based on personal promise.  People will be drawn to us and want to work with us if we deliver on a desirable promise–consistently.  It’s a mistake to think that quality and consistency are less important in our personal brand than they are for a commercial product.

Here are some questions worth considering.  Does your personal brand promise and deliver the following:

  • Integrity?
  • Agreed upon action–on time, every time?
  • Optimism and an upbeat attitude?
  • Professional and personal generosity?
  • A problem solving rather than a blaming approach?
  • Critical thinking and creative solutions?
  • A concern for the goals of others?
  • Appreciation for the contributions of others?
  • Highest caliber documents and presentations?

It’s a mistake to think you don’t have a brand as a person and as a professional.  It’s a mistake to think that quality and consistency don’t matter.  For the greatest success, define your brand and deliver on it.  Your credibility is at stake.