Tag Archives: influencing

My most read business posts in 2014

dscf1285.jpgOnce again the techies at WordPress provide me with an annual report with lots if statistics. They remind me I posted a measly 47 posts last year, and some of them I re-blogged – so thank you bloggers who allowed me to do that.

My blog is now read in 111 countries but primarily in the USA, the UK, and Spain. But thank you those readers from Papua New Guinea,  Uzbekistan, Iceland, Moldova, Qatar, Guernsey, Luxemburg, Afghanistan, Macao, Tanzania and Krygystan among others. Truly an international readership.

The top ten posts were:

1st : Stress back on the agenda? This was 4th last year and in the top spot in 2012

2nd: Teams and Diversity not so simple which was in 5th spot last year

3rd: Women are the winners at work which was in top spot last year

4th: Saying thank you makes good business sense a jump from 16th place last year

5th: Leadership & Influencing and even bigger jump from 21st spot last year

6th: No-one wants to be rated as average This was 3rd last year and in 2nd spot in both 2011 & 2012 – obviously I struck a chord with it.

7th: Erotic Capital – boobs, botox and making the most of yourself a slight drop from 6th spot last year

8th: Rude, arrogant and powerful up from 11th spot last year

9th: Leaders without any shame jointly with Leadership capabilities necessary for a successful merger

10th: Women in Leadership – too nice? Too bossy?

For the second year my most-read posts have been from earlier years with only those in bottom three places from 2014. This probably reflects the paucity of my output in 2014. So must try harder!

My most read posts in 2013


Leadership and Influencing

businessmen_puzzle_shake_hands_1600_wht_3191Older managers may remember the days of Blake’s Grid and the 9:9 management style; striking a balance between people and productivity. That idea has been persistent, about getting the right balance in the way you manage people to get the best out of them.

John Adair, for example developed his Action-Centred Leadership model which was all about keeping the balance between the Individual, the Team and the Task.

And Machiavelli had something to say about this too. Was it better to be loved or feared? he thought it was better to be both but because that was difficult for one person to do he decided “it was safer to be feared than loved.”

But times change and there is currently much interest in the science of influencing. Influencing ethically not in a manipulative or machiavellian way.

Many leaders believe that, particularly during those important first 100 days, they have to demonstrate competence and their strengths. But years of research by social scientists show that it’s better to first show your people side by displaying warmth, and then demonstrating your competence.

A spotlight article on Influence in July-August’s issue of the HBR “Connect, Then Lead” by Cuddy, Kohut and Neffinger, explains current thinking on this.

Basically we judge our leaders on two criteria: how much we like them (warmth and trustworthiness) and how much we fear them (strength and competence). These appear to be the two primary dimensions of social judgement which account for 90% of the variance in the positive and negative impression we form of people.

We have all met people who are competent but display no sense of caring or warmth. They may elicit envy, respect or resentment in others. We may have met people who are warm but incompetent who elicit feelings of warmth but also pity and lack of respect (and it’s hard to imagine how they would become leaders).

So the best approach appears to be to start your leadership by exhibiting warmth, either verbally or using NVC, and making connections, the network building so important early in your leadership career. At the same time you are demonstrating that you are trustworthy. Then, when appropriate, demonstrate your competence. In a study by Zenger and Folkman of almost 52,000 leaders only 27 of them were rated in the bottom quartile for likability and in the top quartile in terms of overall effectiveness. In other words only 1 in 2,000 leaders were disliked and effective.

But this approach – warmth first – is not easy and most leaders feel the need to demonstrate their strengths first. Organisational psychologists, Abele and Wojciszke from the University of Gdansk, carried out experiments about training, offering either competence-based or soft skills programmes. They found that people chose competence-based programmes for themselves but soft skills programmes for other people. And when asked to describe a life-defining event they would tell a story about their own competence but when telling a story about other people refer to their warmth and generosity.

If you want to know more including tips on how to project more warmth or more strength you’ll have to read the full HBR article, in fact the whole of the July-August issue is devoted to Influence.

Influencing ethically

two_figures_sharing_thoughts_1600_wht_9157Influencing is a key skill for leaders and everyone in management positions.

It is seen by some as manipulating people but I believe you can make a distinction.

I regard influencing as an ethical use of skills with a positive intent.

Manipulative behaviour is that described in my post “Leadership – the Dark Side” or as offered by some NLP practitioners training gullible people ie men, in sure-fire dating skills!

Robert Cialdini is one of the most respected experts in this field – and, as suggested by the title of his book; “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion”, he does see it as a science with evidence to back up his theories.

He believes there are 6 universal principles of social influence. These are:

  1. 9780061241895Reciprocation – we feel obliged to return favours
  2. Authority – we look to experts to lead the way
  3. Commitment/consistency – people want to act in alignment with their values
  4. Scarcity – the less available something is the more we want it
  5. Liking – the more we like people the more we want to say yes to them
  6. Social proof – we prefer to behave in the same way as others

Cialdini and his co-authors set out techniques based on these principles in; “YES! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion”. If you want to know why charities send you small gifts, how hotels can persuade guests to recycle towels, or how waiters can improve their tips, read this book. You can also watch a Youtube presentation here.

So you don’t have to be a mentalist or a master of the black arts of NLP to be a more effective influencer, just try these evidence-based techniques to make a difference in an ethical way.

Updated from original post June 2010

Has Training evolved?

De-cluttering my archives, a sort-of  New Year resolution, I came across “The Best of the Training Journal. Key articles 1995-1999″. Unable to resist a peak at the recent past I put it in my to-read pile for a rainy day and wondered how relevant it would be today.

The topics for these articles were:

  • How to write training materials (March 1998) by Eddie Davis
  • A process for selecting training methods (December 1998) by Clive Shepherd
  • On-the-job Training (September 1997) by Mike Cannell
  • Emotional Intelligence: the new way forward (July 1999) an interview with Daniel Goleman
  • Running a successful learning centre (Jan/Feb 1999) by Karen Velasco
  • Herzberg – still a key to understanding motivation (July/August 1996) by Donald Cameron
  • Training and maintaining the virtual team (March 1999) by Shirley Pickering
  • Being appraised (May 1995) by Trevor Bentley
  • Influencing Skills (Jan/Feb 1996)  by Nick Heap

So has anything really changed over the last decade?

The article on writing training packages would stand up today in it’s general advice except that it doesn’t mention all the things we now take for granted. And the big difference is the internet. Creating e-books and PDF files or creating training packages for webinars or other interactive tools wasn’t a consideration in this article.

However in the second article. published the same year,we have a specialist in the use of IT and he produces cost comparisons between web-based, PC based, workbooks with video and audio support. and on-the-job and classroom instruction. So it seems that the use of technology was still considered a specialist area at the time.

The third article on on-the-job  (OTJ) training was written against a background of businesses cutting costs and reducing off the job training. The IPD (as the CIPD was then called) had published a report encouraging more OTJ training and this article was written by the author of that report.

The article on Emotional Intelligence (EI) is an interview with Daniel Goleman shortly after he published his second book “Working with Emotional Intelligence”. It’s basically a critique of traditional training methods but Goleman also concedes that EI is within the domain of personal or interpersonal skills. He argues that EI learning needs lots of repetition and practising models over several months otherwise it’s like “learning to play the piano in one lesson”. This is an interesting piece historically as Goleman talks about his collaboration with Richard Boyatzis and their work for the HAY group. Did we realise just how big the EI industry would get?

The fifth article on running learning centres is a good overview and a reminder of how they could and did contribute to employee development. I’ve seen learning centres in large companies but also seen them run down on cost grounds,  so that they become just drop-in centres where you can go on-line but without any personal. How many companies still provide learning centres?

The fifth article is about Herzberg’s two factor theory of motivation. The author is particularly keen to help managers understand the theory as he believes it helps them understand the links between loyalty and motivation. Do managers still learn about Herzberg (or Maslow)? What do managers and trainers understand about motivation?

The sixth article about training virtual teams is probably more relevant today with more globalisation. The author emphasises the need for soft skills as well as technical skills and recommends that training should begin in a traditional way and using psychometrics to help team members understand each other better. That’s certainly the approach I have used with virtual teams using MBTI Step 2 as pre-work. One thing the article doesn’t cover is cultural differences and that can be an interesting challenge!

Being appraised is what it says, a guide for people being appraised. and is a welcome change from the usual guides for managers and emphasises that appraisal should be for your benefit as well as the organisation. Still relevant today.

The last article is about influencing skills using a diagnostic model based on open systems theory. It covers interventions and transitions as well as contracting and I found it interesting and well worth a re-read.Whether organisations would invest in a 4-day skills course is a different matter in the current economic climate.

Overall an interesting dip into my archives and I could definitely still use some of the information and ideas. Technology has obviously moved on and the current economic situation has some influence although times were hard in the 90s too.

Never mind the quality feel the width

When it comes to impressing potential partners, size really does matter.

Research conducted for Brother Europe, when it was promoting its new A3 printer range across Europe, seems to prove that.

Professor Richard Wiseman, a leading human behaviour psychologist and author of; “:59 seconds. Think a little Change a lot”, carried out the research and he found that in “Dragons’ Den-style” pitch scenarios, businesses using A3 marketing materials appeared ‘significantly bigger, more successful and professional’ than those using standard A4 prints.

Moving from size to weight, in a paper published by researchers at MIT, Harvard and Yale universities; “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgements and decisions” it appears that our sense of touch (the haptic impressions) also influences our thoughts.

They asked people to scrutinise a job candidate by looking at a resume placed on either heavy or light clipboards. The people using heavy clipboards viewed the candidate as possessing a more serious interest in the job and as more likely to succeed than those holding a light clipboard. They conclude that; “First impressions are liable to be influenced by one’s tactile environment”.

They say that understanding how the tactile environment influences perception could be relevant in; “almost any situation where you are trying to present information about yourself or attempting to influence people“.

My colleague and I have always advised candidates to use heavy-duty paper for their CVs and covering letters rather than 70/80 gm supermarket special photocopy paper. This was based on creating a good impression (because first impressions count) but now it seems it’s not just how good it looks but how heavy.

As the researchers say; “physical experiences are mentally tied to metaphors …. when you activate something physically it starts up the metaphor related to that experience in people’s heads” eg heavy = solid, reliable, serious, and so on.

And next time someone puts a clipboard into my hands ….