When it comes to influencing others – either to accept your point of view, or to do what you want them to do – you have a number of choices.
You could take the approach of Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his many Terminator movies and get your way by forcing/blasting people into your way of thinking. The drawback is that strategy is hardly going to win the hearts and minds of your people.
Which is why you should be considering ‘ethical’ persuasion techniques.
When we think about ethical techniques to influence others it is helpful to draw on the knowledge of two experts in the field. Namely, Robert B Cialdinithrough his seminal book on the subject ‘Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion’ and Tony Robbins via his ‘The Power of Influence’ seminars.
In essence, if we don’t understand people in terms of how they think and what motivates them, our chance of positively influencing their decisions and behaviour is significantly reduced.
In my capacity as a performance and business coach working with business leaders I’ve had the opportunity to observe a variety of influence strategies up close. I’ve seen how some attempts to influence can succeed while others fail, and I have often referred back to the principles of Cialdini and Roberts when reflecting upon what has happened.
What I have found from those observations of attempts to influence others is that successful (and ethical) influence is successful at four levels:
- How the business owner, leader or manager delivered (or pitched) their message to their teams including which weapons of influence they used, whether consciously or subconsciously.
- How the work groups accepted the messages delivered, based on monitoring their level of interest, the sort of questions they asked and body language observed.
- Feedback immediately following and/or shortly after the delivery of the message.
- The degree of impact and ongoing acceptance of the message within the business.
As you might expect, the degree of success from the process of influence varies significantly from one situation to another. However, from my observations, it is worth noting the results were largely positive when the leader took the time to understand the science behind each weapon of influence and used the selected tools in an appropriate manner.
That meant the leader was able to prepare for and deliver their message cognisant of the needs and expectations of the various stakeholders (such as employees, board members, or family members).
For those leaders who failed to take the time to fully embrace the process from the outset, the results were much less powerful and/or enduring.
To help you understand the range of ethical influence techniques here is a quick overview of the core attributes of influence from both Robert Cialdini and Tony Robbins.
1. Reciprocity: We are literally ‘hard wired’ to return a favour when someone does something nice for us.
2. Commitment: When we observe people being committed to a cause then natural motivation flows for us to be encouraged to do the same, somewhat like ‘leadership by example’.
3. Consistency: As with the above if we observe people doing things on a consistent basis that demonstrates their commitment. That in turn means we appreciate that behavior and are more likely to follow it.
4. Social Proof: If other people (such as friends and colleagues) are adopting a particular action or strategy then we are more likely to accept that course of action and follow suit.
5. Liking: People like to be with people they know, like, trust and respect. Therefore if I am a leader that the team likes they are more likely to listen to what I have to say and accept my proposition/point of view. That support may not go on forever if it’s found that the leader’s decision making has not been sound, but it does get you the benefit of the doubt, for a while at least.
6. Authority: A business leader may appeal to the fact that he or she is in charge and therefore the team should listen to what they have to say. That may work to some degree (at least in the short term) depending on the culture of the business. However, ongoing success will be dependent on the extent to which the team feels the decisions taken are logical, fair and the right results were achieved.
7. Scarcity: This is essentially appealing to the ‘fear of loss’ which is a primary human motivator. In other words if we (or the business) don’t adopt a certain strategy then we stand to lose something like loss of sales and/or market share, or an opportunity that has a short window in which decisions need to be taken.
1) Certainty: People are looking for the sense of assuredness in the decisions they take or those that are made on their behalf. This coincides with the fact that the body through the process known as homeostasis desires to maintain a stable state. The greatest motivating fear we have is the fear of loss and/or some form of instability or disruption.
2) Variety: On the one hand whilst we are looking for certainty we also need variety and spice in our life so that work in particular does not become boring and repetitive.
3) Significance: The William James quote ‘The greatest need of human beings is to be recognized, valued and appreciated’ explains this meaning well. In both our personal and business lives we need to feel wanted at an individual level and for the work we do including our contributions made.
4) Connection to love: Human beings are mammals and as such have a biological need to be around people and to be loved. We can clearly understand that within a family environment. In a work setting that could mean a close, warm and friendly working environment where people respect and care for each other (but without feeling the need to blow kisses around the room!)
5) Growth: Most people in business will be more motivated to make a change if it means some form of growth for them at a personal and/or business level. This corresponds to the research highlighted by Dan Pink in his book ‘Drive’ where he identified ‘Mastery’ as a key human motivator. He discovered that people have a deep drive to master the core tasks that make up the work they do which in turn increases confidence, reduces stress and improves self-esteem.
6) Contribution beyond self: Simply put we experience more fulfilment at work and in our lives if we are doing nice things for other people. Helping others who are in need produces a healthy dose of the brain chemical Oxytocin which in turn stimulates us to do more, so we should do more! In a business environment this can simply mean helping a team mate out when you can see they are struggling. At a corporate level if could mean the company giving people time off to work to participate in community based projects.
From insights gained through working with business leaders I recommend you consider how and when you can use the 12 Weapons of Influence below to improve your influence outcomes. You may decide to use only one ‘weapon’, or you could use a combination of them to achieve your goal.
Finally, no matter how good your delivery is or how convincing your proposals are, you must consider what your team are thinking.
In our experience they will be looking for answers to one or more of these seven questions:
- Does it make sense, and do I believe it?
- Is this in my best interests and/or are my interests being taken into account?
- What impact will it have on me?
- What impact will it have on others I care about?
- Do I think it’s doable?
- Will it be worthwhile, what will benefits be?
- Once in place I can see this change continuing and can see I the benefits continuing to flow?
Now, it’s over to you to study and apply each of the weapons of influence. One thing you can be sure about is that if you approach your influence opportunities in the right manner and with the right intent, you will improve and grow more confident over time. From our experience most business leaders see significant improvements within 3-6 months of conscious and consistent practice.
As with many leadership skills, successfully increasing your ability to influence others is often related to how well you implement the skill, or in this case how well you use your selected ‘weapon’ of influence.