Influencing is the Lifeblood of the Modern Manager

Have you ever considered how very persuasive people influence others?

What are the factors that cause people to say yes?

According to Professor Robert Cialdini, regarded as the world’s leading authority on the subject of influence and persuasion and author of the classic – Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion, there are several traits of human nature that when used will most likely persuade others.

Four of these characteristics include reciprocation, commitment, consistency and social proof.

Always return a favour

The rule of reciprocation, found in every culture, is that we should repay anything given to us, whether it’s a gift, an invitation, a compliment, and so on. We feel obligated to individuals and organisations who give us something, even if it is small and even if we don’t want it.

For example, straightforward mailing by charity groups usually gets a response rate of less than 20 percent. But this jumps dramatically when the mailing includes a gift, such as stick on labels printed with the receiver’s own name and address.

Being consistent

Human beings like to be consistent. This creates a gold-mine for marketers. They are very aware of the internal pressures against changing our mind, and often take full advantage.

For example, when charity phone callers ask “How are you, Mrs. …? Nine times of 10 we give a positive response. Then when the caller asks us to give a donation to the unfortunate victims of some disaster or disease, we can’t very well suddenly turn mean and grumpy and refuse others who are in a bad way. To be consistent we feel compelled to offer a donation.

Social proof

The most famous case of social proof in relation to suicide was the ghastly Johnstown, Guyana incident in 1978, when 910 members of Jim Jones’s People Temple cult took their lives by drinking from vats of poisoned soft drink. How was it possible that so many died so willingly? Most of the cult members had been recruited from San Francisco and the isolation of being in a foreign country contributed to the natural human tendency to “do what others like us are doing”.

Not missing out

It is human nature to value something more when it is scarce. In fact, we are more motivated by the thought of loosing something than we are by gaining something of equal value in its place. Retailers know this, which is why they perpetually scream “stock won’t last” to make us fear not getting something we were not sure we wanted anyway.

Modern leadership is arguably about influencing and persuasion.

What are the implications here?

Leaders should treat their staff as their customers, providing them with opportunities to grow and develop and provide positive reinforcement (Always return a favour). Managers should modify the behaviour of their people by firstly getting their staff to agree that their behaviour needs to change (Being consistent). Through mentoring young employees by demonstrating appropriate workplace behaviours, the managers are “walking the talk” (Social proof). And finally, managers need to balance positive feedback on performance with constructive negative feedback and the implications of this for the employee and others (Not missing out).

Influencing is the lifeblood of the modern manager.



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