Moving projects forward in today's flatter organizations, where cross-functionality is the norm, requires the ability to manage up, down, and sideways. Power and line authority go only so far.
That's where persuasion comes in, says Robert Cialdini, Regents' Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and coauthor with Noah J. Goldstein and Steve J. Martin of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive (Free Press, 2008).
Much as martial arts combatants overcome their opponents using leverage, inertia, and gravity rather than brute strength, you can persuade others by exploiting the principles of social influence. These include the feelings of obligation generated between two people when one does a favor for the other, the tendency to say yes to people we like, and the desire to act in ways that are consistent with our commitments and values.
Activate reciprocity : One good turn generates another. Any favors you do today are likely to be reciprocated down the road:
- Championing a colleague's idea in a meeting when others are giving it only tepid support.
- Sharing useful information with a coworker in another part of the company who otherwise wouldn't have received it.
- Pitching in to help a teammate finish a presentation or prepare for it.
Don't be insincere and don't be cold-blooded; people will see through you and be on their guard. Just look for opportunities to be a good person. You won't just feel good; you'll create a network of indebted colleagues who will actively look for ways to help you out.
Reciprocity can also repair relationships that have gone sour, though not quite in the way you might expect. If you are trying to mend fences with a colleague, ask her for a favor. This sounds counterintuitive, but it works. You're giving her an opportunity to see herself as magnanimous. So ask her to help you out.
Cialdini recommends that the favor be in keeping with the person's job and will make him look good. From his own experience he cites a time when, after winning a heated debate about hiring, he immediately reached out to a colleague who had been in the opposite camp. Walking the colleague back to his office, Cialdini asked him for advice on a paper he was writing. "He gave me a few books and suggested resources," he recalls.
In the course of that discussion, Cialdini also learned what the colleague was working on. By the time he was ready to return the books, he had found some resources to recommend in return, thus cementing a positive relationship. "We didn't have a pleasant exchange in that faculty meeting. As soon as my side won, I could tell there was likely to be bitterness. But because I asked for his help, we've never been less than friends," he says.
Focus on the other person's positive attributes : Like reciprocation, focusing on a person's positive attributes is an ideal way to begin a relationship. This technique requires that you consciously look for something you genuinely like about a person. Even if he is a terror at work, there might be something you can admire about his personal interests, his past experiences, or the causes he supports.
Once you have identified the positive trait, compliment him on it. By showing your approval, you help him to like you. And that, says Cialdini, is when the barriers come down. "People feel safer and are more open and trusting with people who like them. They are more likely to give them the extra information that will help them succeed."
Focusing on the positive can help improve relations with a colleague you have historically disliked. For example, a manager at a pharmaceutical company had a tense relationship with her boss and the two were often at loggerheads. Using this technique, she realized that his tendency to hold work up was due to his desire to get it right.
When she complimented him on those values, his face lit up. The next morning he gave her the kind of information he'd never shared before: a detailed heads-up on what she should emphasize and be on guard for in gaining buy-in at an important meeting that afternoon.
"Without that information, things would have gone wrong. In the process of saying 'I admire your high quality standards,' she also gave him a reputation to uphold," notes Cialdini. He realized that if she appeared in a positive light, he as her boss would, too.
Invoke the person's previous opinions and behaviors : When you remind someone of his previous position on an issue — "Remember, Mark, how you argued that the company should devote greater resources to educating the sales team about the new product line?" — he is more likely to behave in a way that is consistent with that position. This is an example of the phenomenon known as labeling.
To use labeling to influence someone, you're giving him a reputation to uphold. If you want his support on a proposal to shift more marketing dollars from print to online ad buys to drive widget sales, invoke his track record of preferring online advertising for items similar to the widget. You want him to perceive that supporting your proposal is in line with his previous positions.
Labeling, as you can imagine, is especially effective with someone who thinks highly of his own decision-making prowess.
This technique requires familiarity with a person's priorities, values, and stated positions. If you have not worked extensively enough with someone to gain this insight, review presentations he has given and discreetly probe for information about him in conversations with those who work with him more closely.
Influence is ultimately about relationships. The more you have and the stronger they are, the better able you'll be to bring others to your side when you want their support.
Courtsey : Judith Ross & Havard Business Publishing