The world’s most creative and important products, inventions, and solutions were nothing more than ideas until someone persuaded someone else to do something. Great persuaders bring ideas to life. Persuaders make things happen.
The greatest historical achievements ever created are the results of persuasion. The empire builders, the Caesars and Napoleons, won by persuading others to follow. Cities and civilizations were built with persuasion. Columbus persuaded Queen Isabella that he could reach the East, India, by sailing west; then persuaded her to finance his ships.READ MORE
The more you understand about the nuances involved in persuasion and influence the more you realize how challenging it is to hit all the right notes and really connect emotionally in an authentic way, especially in the ultra-condensed timeframe of a video spot.
This piece, directed by Michael Clarke for Freeride Entertainment and Leo Burnett Chicago on behalf of Samsung is especially successful on the metrics of emotional persuasion. It doesn’t hurt that Kenworthy himself is a ready-made bundle of persuasive triggers to begin with – authority, friendship, consistency and hope personified. He’s even got the word “worthy” in his name.
Samsung know what they have, here. They even call it “Letters of Influence.” And what’s admirable in particular about that title is that the influence being highlighted is a loop, a virtuous cycle between Kenworthy and his friends and fans and family.
Celebrity endorsements are something of a no-brainer for brands because they are an immediate and direct route to certain emotional triggers like Authority and Consistency. But success depends on who the celebrity is, and to what degree consumers can identify with them. It was only a short time ago that an out gay athlete would have been, if not untouchable, then at least controversial; a risky bet.
What’s especially successful about the Kenworthy spot, then, is the framing of his sexuality as yet another challenge to overcome in the pursuit of excellence and, indeed, authenticity. Samsung has done what was thought to be impossible: turning an avoided minority experience into something universal.
Allstate promotes quite ordinary, even mundane, claim handling features – filing ease, payment speed, personal attention – in a way that makes them sound unusually appealing by contrasting them to low expectations voiced by the featured customer’s cohorts.
Contrast is a powerful and simple way to move facts or features from the analytical part of the brain to the emotional part, where persuasion and decision-making take place. Contrast converts objective, passive data into subjective, favorable opinion…
Facts, features, and data points hit the analytical part of the brain, and without some trigger to send or redirect the message to the emotional brain, the information has little meaning.
When information is placed in comparison or contrast with something else, it can be processed subjectively – by the emotional brain. It suddenly has meaning, and it’s persuasive.
Business professionals seeking to climb the corporate ladder face a wide array of obstacles and challenges… Internal candidate competition, market conditions affecting budget, difficult-to-maneuver company policy – all of this and more can trip up fast-rising stars on their way to the C-Suite. Of course, once you reach the corner office, everything is jake, right? Think again.
C-Level executives not only shouldn’t stop learning, they must continue learning even to stay where they are, according to a study consisting of 32 interviews with top talent search consultants at a global executive placement firm. What kind of skill sets should goal-oriented executives focus on? A “strong combination of technical skills and soft skills” comprises the core makeup that recruiting seeks in C-Level players.
Of special note in the survey were team-building skills, which rely on persuasive ability as one of the great building blocks of the executive skill set. Creating common ground and cooperative interaction, as well as providing motivation and inspiration, are leadership attributes that revolve around an understanding – whether instinctual or conscious – of the role the emotional brain plays in human decision and action.
This dependence on the “emotional skill set” has only grown as organizational hierarchies have become flatter. C-Suiters can no longer expect that chain-of-command is enough of an incentive for dedication and productivity. Today’s business team members need to be persuaded. Smart executives will leverage the power of emotion for persuasion and lean on an understanding of people rather than process.
According to the study, though, a natural ability for dealing with people – for emotional intelligence and emotional triggers – may not be enough. Star candidates for the C-Suite are “expected to apply an analytical lens to team management and to be familiar with best practices, as opposed to just managing by gut,” according to the HBR study. In other words, even those executives with an instinctual understanding of how to influence, motivate, and persuade would do well to categorize and quantify that knowledge and skill so as to be able to effectively transfer them to others and help build a culture of competence.
Lifelong learning is an ideal across the organization; C-Suite candidates would do well to add coaching and mentoring to the mix.
This is one of ways 7 Triggers training helps prepare those bound for the C-Suite. When the courses are brought in to an organization, there is invariably a spark of recognition by the seasoned professionals – folks who’ve been there and done that, whether in leadership, marketing, or sales. “This is what works” is the common observation. Only, with the 7 Triggers formula it’s no longer instinct or trial-and-error. It’s a structured approach validated by science. Practical, flexible, and repeatable.
The jump from team member to team leader can be both subtle and precipitous. As a leader, it’s no longer enough to assume a collegial, cooperative stance, using good communication and conflict resolution skills. There’s an important perspective shift that involves seeing your colleagues as customers, and your ideas and vision as a value proposition. Oarsmen just need to row. Captains have to navigate – and compel the rowing direction not just at a group leader level, but with each individual participant.
As one consultant in the study said:
Leaders need to be constantly testing how people are responding to them… and open to adjusting their style—both in how they communicate with different groups of people and how they change their leadership approach to suit the situation.
When it comes to how to categorize and define the inevitable emotional factors intertwined with business – meaning, belief, motivation, inspiration, decision – a formula like the 7 Triggers helps codify without confining. In other words, it’s a formula that’s both reliably structured yet highly flexible, allowing methods and techniques to be easily tailored across a spectrum from entire markets to unique individuals.
Everyone agreed that better influencing and persuasion skills would help. And, indeed, Influencing Without Authority was the working title for the training workshops. But skills and tools don’t just leap out of the box and start performing. One doesn’t just launch techniques on a smartphone and solve problems with a few clicks.
Influencing skills, persuasion techniques – emotional triggers – as powerful as they are, are best learned and applied toward a particular purpose, within a specific context. Selling is the easiest and most common example. But crew coalition? Team member motivation? Getting alignment and agreement across a highly diverse group of differently-motivated individuals? Not quite as obvious an application as closing a sale.
How do you set a frame and establish objectives – not to mention measurements and milestones – for what is essentially the quality of a relationship..?
The precursor to change is a shift in perspective, which can often be achieved by characterizing organizational roles according to relationship parameters rather than operational frameworks, or roles. To be in an ideal position for influence and persuasion, account managers need to see themselves as leaders, yet treat their cohorts as both customers and as engines of potential. If “mentor” feels too presumptuous, account managers still need to adopt the role of guide and even guru, remembering always the wisdom of Lao Tzu:
To lead people, walk behind them.
See others. Observe. Ask questions. Support, feed, and fertilize as much as, or even more than, setting an example.
The marvelous Margaret Heffernan offers great insights into the importance of social capital to leadership and team success, based on her consulting experience with companies around the world. Her essential premise is that although we tend to lionize the stars of a business, those who she refers to as the “super chickens” (based on a famous experiment by William Muir at Purdue University), extraordinary organizational achievement is actually driven by the trust, rapport, and values shared by everyone.
Heffernan draws perspective from looking at many different pursuits and professions, and found particular insight at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, of all places:
I went there to watch and I was just amazed because, actually, what all the teachers there were looking for were not these spectacular fireworks of individuals. They were looking for actors who had something to give each other because, of course, in drama, it is what happens between people that is really exciting.
Influence and persuasion is about getting beyond the obvious to the things that really matter to people. About getting beyond the facts and features and data that don’t connect with the emotional brain, and which demand a level of analytical energy the brain is reluctant to expend. With colleagues and teams, the level of interest and motivation needed to drive commitment and success must be based on goals and roles that really mean something.
“What’s the driving goal, here?” Margaret Heffernan often asks when she’s invited to consult with client companies. “And they’ll say $60 billion revenue next year. And I’d look at them and I’d say, you have got to be joking. What on earth makes you think that everybody is really going to give it their all to hit a revenue target? You know, you have to talk to something much deeper inside people than that. You have to talk to people about something that makes a difference to them every day if you want them to bring their best and do their best and feel that you’ve given them the opportunity to do the best work they’ve ever done.”
You may have to do some digging to learn what really drives each individual, and a company has to stand for something more than just revenue generation, but with emotional triggers as guideposts we have a way to communicate that’s more personal than vocational, and with forms the foundation for influence.
The descriptions by colleagues and contemporaries of his first meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva Summit in 1985 amount to an exemplary case study of either remarkable good luck, the sheer force of personality, brilliant technique in persuasion, or perhaps all three.
In addition to an array of negotiation best practices – have your opponent come to you; appear both more casual and better dressed; be extraordinarily well-prepared – Reagan used one of the 7 key persuasion triggers in a very particular and very effective way.
Here’s the Geneva Summit clip. Can you identify which trigger Reagan activated and how?
Reagan’s success at seducing and swaying Gorbachev, in getting the Soviet leader’s sympathies and camaraderie, is credited to the American president’s ability to be “genuine, authentic, human;” an approach traditionally rejected by conservative American politicians of the era. Reagan’s charismatic “high beams,” as son Ron puts it, were in full force, and won over an initially intransigent Gorbachev.
But there’s a critical factor of the victory missing in this calculation. The legitimate fear on the part of U.S. political leadership was that such a strategy would be seen as weak. Ineffectual. Ingratiating. And, had Reagan proceeded right off the bat with this attitude or approach, such fears may well have been realized.
But the president didn’t do that.
Reagan began the conference with a harsh scrutiny of the Soviet legacy on the world stage. He held forth with such a litany of critiques that Gorbachev was forced to chastise the American president for acting like a prosecutor and treating him like a student.
Then, and only then, did Reagan turn on the charm.
What did he do here? The president set an adaptation level. He first established himself as a critic, a hardliner; not to be trifled with; an emissary of rancor and distrust. Then, he flipped the board. Ronald Reagan, the former Hollywood actor, played both bad cop and good cop. And thereby activated…
All decisions are influenced by context. For example, if you place your hand in a bucket of cold water, your hand feels cold. If you then place it in a bucket of water at room temperature, that water feels warm — warmer than it really is. You have adapted to the cold temperature and now make judgments that are different from those you’d make if you started by putting your hand in a bucket of hot water.
Scientists refer to this as your adaptation level. The human brain responds in a relative way, not an absolute way. This is one reason that logic, reason, and cognitive thought play less of a role in decision-making than we previously thought. Objective facts take a backseat to adaptation level comparisons and perceptions.
In making a persuasive presentation, the way you set up someone’s adaptation level determines your success.
Big data can be compelling. But the emotion brain is irresistible. Among the mountain of forensics this election is sure to produce, one of the most provocative is how the media, and the data they relied on, were so spectacularly wrong about the likely outcome. How and why did almost every predictor, prognosticator, and pundit so completely and uniformly miss or ignore what was really going on in the electorate?
Mike Barnicle, the famous Boston based journalist, put it this way:
What has happened here – and you could see this coming, you could really see this coming – too many people in our business, they missed the one real draw that brings a lot of people to the polls. And it's emotional. The ability for people to feel something about their candidate, and to feel that they can access their candidate emotionally.
From Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Pulitzer prize winning biographer, historian, and political commentator:
What Trump provided was an appeal to the emotions of the people. He told a story. He had a story that was understandable: 'I'm going to make America great again.' People feel that the country has passed them by; people feel that they want something different. And everything else on the other side was a series of programs. They might have helped people in lots of ways, but they didn't connect emotionally.
Donald Trump, by contrast, offered questionable ideas, irrational solutions, and vague policies. And though few media observers missed his ability to connect more effectively with supporters, they vastly underestimated the emotional power embodied by voters desperate for change. The critical lesson here for sales and marketing? Find the pain. Locate – or even create – the discomfort that begs a solution.
From the neuroscience perspective, emotional displacement of the type that emerges from fear or uncertainty is fertile ground for persuasion.
Trump supporters heard from their candidate what many others also heard that was ill-conceived or even offensive. But they also got what they didn’t get from anyone else: visibility. Recognition of their hardships and fears, and someone to take them seriously. The media failed in virtually all of that.
“People want to see themselves reflected in the stories being told,” said Michael Steele, former chair of the RNC. “That’s a lot of the animus that’s directed toward the media – that they don’t see themselves as being represented.” It was all-too easy for the media to dismiss the support of such an easily lampooned figure as Donald Trump. And it came at a cost to their basic integrity as investigators.
Selena Zito, writing for The Atlantic back in September, was one of the lone voices seeking to draw attention to the real circumstances and attributes of Trump supporters. She articulated a significant and even profound difference in how Trump’s messages were being interpreted by different audiences:
The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
What’s the basis for this ability on the part of Trump supporters to filter messages and find meaning that resonates? Belief. Whether justified or not, belief that comes from a strong emotional connection can rationalize almost anything. It’s the kind of belief that constitutes a holy grail for a brand or a salesperson. It only happens in the emotional brain. And it’s precisely what Clinton failed to achieve. All the ground game and all the polling data in the world could neither predict nor account for the zealous fervor of an emotionally driven electorate.
There was perhaps just one media figure who was as harshly critical of Trump as he was deeply sympathetic to Trump supporters – a deft cognitive task abdicated by most of the rest of the press. In his widely acclaimed documentary, Trumpland, filmmaker Michael Moore addresses head-on the often troubling rhetoric of the then-candidate, and it’s relationship to his supporters:
Whether Trump means it or not is kind of irrelevant because he’s saying these things to people who are hurting. And it’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff, who used to be part of what was called the middle class, loves Trump. He is the human molotov cocktail that they’ve been waiting for. The human hand-grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them.
Business leaders, marketers, and salespeople need to be investigative journalists when it comes to their customers, and they need to do a better job than the majority of those who covered the 2016 presidential campaign. Data need not be rejected, but neither should it be relied upon to the exclusion of direct engagement with customers to learn their plight and to connect on an emotional level. Leave the building. Make eye contact. Ask and listen.
As the great Bob Woodward of The Washington Post relates:
I had a city editor tell me very early on: “Get your ass out of the chair and go there.
Recently NPR’s Scott Simon interviewed neurophysiologist Jason Sherwin about his research into how a baseball batter processes an incoming fastball. We’re always attuned to anything in the news about how the ever-evolving field of neuroscience informs our everyday lives, and we expect fairly often to hear some reference to the power of the emotional brain, but baseball?
Yep, baseball. Especially fast baseball.
Possibly it’s no surprise that the faster the game the less likely it is that successful performance would be found in anyplace other than the limbic system, the most primal, instinctual part of the brain. Learning and reflexes play an important part, according to Sherwin, but in his research batters who engaged the “thinking part” of the brain more often – the pre-frontal cortex – performed worse in decision-making; on whether or not to hit an incoming fastball.
“When we first started doing this work, we started seeing that when subjects were getting the pitches wrong, they were using the frontal parts of their brain too much. The frontal parts of the brain are mostly involved in deliberate decision-making. And when they get involved, they slow down the speed of your decisions. And when you’re up at the plate and you’re facing a 95-mile-an-hour fastball and you’ve got tens of milliseconds really to decide on whether you want to hit this thing or not, that’s where that deliberate thinking is a problem.”
Turns out that the very thing we seek to achieve by activating emotional triggers for more instinctual or automatic decisions is precisely what drives high-performance in hitting fastballs.
It’s really a whole new spin on the idea of making sure your pitches have an emotional payoff.
Here’s the entire interview:
It’s perfectly understandable to assume that those in professions characterized by scholarship, research, and data analysis would be more influenced by the workings of the pre-frontal cortex, the reason and logic area of the brain, than by the emotional centers located in the limbic system. Understandable, but wrong.
When it comes to decision-making, physicians are just as subject to the overwhelming power of the emotional brain as are their non-STEM neighbors. Even, according to two separate studies published recently in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, on decisions related to one of their core scientific functions, the diagnosing of patients. “Most reps demand a level of cognitive function that physicians have neither the time, energy, nor inclination to invest.”
In the first study, researchers found that even when the medical issues were identical, the doctors provided less accurate diagnoses when faced with disruptive patients (e.g., demanding or aggressive). “And the effects weren’t small,” writes Julia Belluz in her article on the studies in Vox. “When the patients’ medical problems were complex, the doctors made 42 percent more mistakes diagnosing difficult patients compared with more agreeable ones.”
In the second study, diagnostic accuracy was 20 percent lower for the annoying patients, even though time spent on diagnosis was the same. The doctors also tended to recall more about the behaviors of difficult patients, forgetting their clinical histories.
According to Belluz:
The researchers suspected physicians' mental resources are so taxed from thinking about how to deal with tricky patients that their ability to process medical information becomes impaired. ``If resource depletion affects simpler, everyday problems,`` they wrote, ``it is not surprising that these highly complex cognitive processes are impaired if a substantial proportion of mental resources is seized by the confrontation with emotional experiences triggered by patients’ troublesome behaviors.
These findings have important implications for healthcare sales reps.
We know from neuroscience that data-based decision analysis of any kind is a “highly complex cognitive process” requiring approximately 300% more calories than “mental cruising,” and that the brain waves emitted during such activity are precisely the same as those produced by plunging our hand in a bucket of ice water. Heavy analysis hurts; it’s not our natural inclination, and it’s easy to derail.
And yet, most healthcare reps, in a well-intentioned effort to appeal to their customers’ clinical interests, inadvertently demand a level of cognitive function that physicians have neither the time, energy, nor inclination to invest.
Reps who know how to trigger these natural responses sidestep the heavy lifting of logical analysis and clear a path to yes.
In these studies, researchers’ speculation of “taxed mental resources” as the cause of debilitated diagnoses is likely correct, but there’s a little more to it than that. It’s not just that more mental resources allocated to managing patient emotions are inhibiting cognitive function, but that the physician’s emotional brain (the limbic system), as the default taskmaster of the logical brain (the pre-frontal cortex), is more easily overcoming their cognitive function when engaged by negative emotional factors.
Here’s the critical insight for the sales rep: The same is true in reverse. A positive emotional engagement will align with what the brain is already inclined to do just as effectively as a negative one. Reps who know how to trigger these natural responses not only sidestep the heavy lifting of logical analysis, they clear a path to “yes” rather than put up the cognitive barriers for “no.”
The evidence that a doctor’s diagnosis is influenced by emotional factors during examination may be bad news for the misbehaving patient, but it’s good news for the skillful sales rep.
There was a time when it seemed like Apple didn’t have to work very hard to be tremendously persuasive. It was as if everything it touched became the object of deep desire across multiple markets and demographics. The truth, of course, is that Apple has always worked very hard indeed to persuade customers and opinion-makers alike.
Making the arduous look easy is one of the hallmarks of great design, whether in performance or product or communication, and is inherently persuasive because it lowers the barriers to adoption, or change, and is in itself so customer-centric. Steve Jobs himself was relentless in his focus on ease and elegance. And not just in products, but in all aspects of the Apple brand experience. The advertising. The presentations. The turtlenecks.
These persuasive attributes are conspicuously absent from Apple’s current attempt to make a public case for its non-compliance with government demands to engineer the release of data from one of its products. Some would even argue that Apple is losing the public relations contest.
From a purely neurological perspective of persuasion, wherein the emotional brain is chief executive and taskmaster of human decisions (logic and reason are lowly minimum-wage workers), Tim Cook’s Customer Letter is a good example of what not to do: lay out the facts of the case and expect them to be persuasive on their own.
The following is an admittedly presumptuous attempt to second-guess one of the world’s most influential CEOs. But we do know quite a bit about the mechanisms of persuasion, and when you start mapping this communication with some triggered alternatives (supplied in obviously simplistic form), it becomes fairly easy to see how it might have been a more persuasive message.
Here is the icon key for the emotional triggers profiled in The 7 Triggers to Yes, and which are used to tag the letter analysis below.
By having the neuroscience underpinnings of what constitutes truly persuasive messaging, and by applying a framework or formula of designated emotional triggers, it actually becomes a relatively straightforward exercise to turn a piece of logical communication into something that actually connects with people and draws them to your cause, your perspective, your proposal.
The first consideration is strategic: Know your audience and adopt their perspective rather than focusing on how to articulate your own. In the case of Cook’s letter, it seems unclear who exactly he is addressing. The letter says “A Message to Our Customers,” but it reads like a deposition; complete with a spate of technology references that many Apple customers would likely not understand (Apple customers were at one time on the higher end of the technology sophistication spectrum, but if we’re talking iPhones, nowadays not so much).
The second consideration is tactical, and involves crafting messages that activate specific emotional triggers in the brain. It takes some practice to refocus and redraft messaging that aligns with specific triggers, and the differences may at first glance seem nuanced or incremental, but the payoffs in persuasive power can be substantial.
Perhaps the strongest example here is in the last section of the letter. Cook chose to rely on fear. Fear is a legitimate and potentially powerful motivator; persuasive in its own right, and an element of what we call the Consistency Trigger, which centers around issues of risk. But Cook might have chosen Hope, often the most powerful emotional trigger of all, and by doing so emphasized Apple’s commitment to its customers and its principles, rather than its resistance to the government.
It’s hard to know whether Cook’s objective was even to be in any way persuasive. Maybe he just wanted to get his “deposition” out there for stakeholders, the government and the press. But public opinion appears to be something of a toss-up right now, and Cook may well have been more influential in that regard had he used some of the principles of persuasion we now know from neuroscience.
One of the most interesting and useful aspects of learning and activating emotional triggers for the purpose of influence and persuasion is that they tend to cut through more intricate or complex approaches; those offered by, say, behavioral or sociological observation. The neurological mechanisms of the human brain are not subject to external constructs like cultural cues or personality styles.
One of our consultants tells the story of a senior sales vice president at a large and well-known corporation who had invested in an elaborate and costly process of customer segmentation as a way to improve selling performance. I wish I could report that our consultant didn’t have to heart to tell him that from a customer persuasion standpoint, the effort and expense was a waste. But he told him. We didn’t get the account.
The research reported by Chris Musselwhite and Tammie Plouffe in a Harvard Business Review article on “Influencing Styles” is an example of how, without a central neurological framework to use as a reliable driver for what actually works in persuading others, we are relegated to interesting but ultimately vague classifications.
These categories are behavioral, not neurological – useful, perhaps, in determining what our “go-to” approaches might be, assuming we lack any real knowledge or insight into the science of emotional triggers:
As a self assessment I think this is potentially useful. “We are all aware that people use different influencing tactics,” the authors suggest, “but did you realize that we each naturally default to the same tactics every time?” Yes, humans are habitual. And it takes effort to develop new and more effective skills and techniques.
If you see yourself in this list, just know that any success you have in persuasion and influence comes not from your style itself but from the emotional triggers that are likely to emerge from, or be employed as a result of, that particular style.
The “Inspiring” style for example, is very likely to be activating one or more of the Friendship, Contrast, and Hope Triggers. Even “Rationalizing,” which we know from neurological studies is definitively not influential on its own, can nevertheless play an important role in activating the Authority and Consistency Triggers if properly deployed.
HBR’s “influencing styles” is an interesting exercise, but hardly applicable if your goal is to actually become more influential and persuasive.
Kim Castleberry hit my radar quite by accident, as I was searching reviews for learning management platforms. A video review of Kajabi she posted caught my attention. The woman I saw was engaging, authentic, knowledgable and – best of all – she obviously understood her customer. Kim didn’t just review the various aspects of this technology tool based on generic abstractions like feature sets or ease-of-use, she related her analysis quite specifically to what would likely be important to her particular customers. I liked and respected her immediately, and sought out her website where I promptly signed up for her newsletter.
The first delivery I received was a veritable master class in persuasive email newsletter writing.
Whether she does so from natural instinct, years of trial-and-error, or by having studied persuasion techniques and best practices, this lady knows her emotional triggers and uses them with great ease and skill. I know when I’ve come across someone who is particularly adept at this when I find myself (or, more accurately, when my brain finds itself) responding to a Trigger activation even when I understand explicitly not only that it is, in fact, a Trigger, but even which Trigger it is.
Fact is: Triggers work even when you know they’re being used!
Following is Kim’s email newsletter. Can you identify the persuasion triggers? Hover over the hotspot icons to see which triggers are being used, along with descriptions of Kim’s persuasive expertise.
Chief Creator of Awesomeness? I am thoroughly persuaded!
Pixar president Ed Catmull is revered among business development and leadership experts for his remarkable success, but more so for his approach to making others successful.
In a Forbes article, Professor David Slocum reviews Catmull’s book, Creativity, Inc., as “one of the…best books that have been written about creative business and creative leadership. Ever.” Here’s what he says:
Reading Creativity, Inc., one can easily appreciate Catmull’s gifts as a leader whose style – deft, open, humble, caring, trusting, purposeful – has built, shaped and sustained an exceptional creative culture…That combination of effectively bringing creativity to his leadership challenges and leadership to his firm’s creative work is rare.
Note the key adjectives used to describe Catmull’s approach: “deft, open, humble, caring, trusting, purposeful.” A generation or two ago, these attributes would have been seen as too soft, even weak for a leader. But in today’s flatter business environments, these values become invitations for contribution rather than directives for duty.
And, they are powerfully persuasive.
We know from neuroscience that people are far more willing to agree, support, and follow your lead when they perceive your proposal as a shared solution; one that includes, respects, and involves their participation. Slocum refers to Catmull’s “tireless communication” and credits Catmull for his “intensive, democratic collaboration” as a central tenet of his leadership style. This is rooted in a mindset that begins with the value and perspective of others.
Even in leadership it’s not how we sell, but why others buy.
Creativity, Inc., coauthored with Amy Wallace, has been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award: Best Business Books of 2014.
Dad was a great salesman, an extremely successful entrepreneur and businessman, but hated small talk – at least of the kind that accompanied non-business situations . My mom, on the other hand, could teach a master class in small talk. And I’ve come to understand that if my mom had had business aspirations of the kind that fueled my father, she probably would have been more successful than he, simply because of her remarkable skill at small talk.
Mom’s ability to broaden her network of contacts in virtually any situation that includes other people – I’m talking the doctors office, the grocery store, her many volunteering efforts – is legendary. She literally makes friends everywhere. The fact that her “agenda,” such as it is, has more to do with social business than commercial business, is beside the point. When asked what makes her so good at meeting people – at the icebreakers and small talk that so readily paralyze or bore the rest of us – her answer is both simple and genius:
I'm really very interested in other people.
Not everyone can get out of their own way in social situations even if they are genuinely interested in other people. Still others are just not that interested! And that’s okay. But if your business depends to some extent or at some point on engaging the interest, cooperation, and facilitation of other people, it’s vital to appreciate the value of the social currency we call small talk.
How valuable is it? Neuroscience says it’s critical. Breaking down skepticism and fear, putting people at ease, is the only doorway to trust, which is the foundation for one of the most essential emotional triggers associated with cooperation, support, and decision-making.
Relationships are more than rapport, and friendship is more than friendliness, but icebreakers and small talk are the garden gate. And if you’re in a business – or at a point in your business – where you need to build networks, you’ll want access to a lot of gardens to leverage your chances for a bountiful crop.
So, what can we do to be more effective in those awkward first-meeting moments?