Persuasive Coaching: Conclusion

This is the final installment of the persuasive coaching series. After an introduction we looked at the need for the right relationship with the right coach, building rapport, gaining trust, good questioning, and how to be a listening STAR.

Coaching can be an incredibly effective way for people to grow professionally and personally. Do people need a coach? Most don’t think they do. It reminds me of people who go to the gym but never work with a personal trainer. Too many have just enough knowledge and self-confidence to think they don’t need a fitness trainer. However, those who hire a trainer usually make more progress and do so much faster because they get expert advice, increase their motivation, and establish an accountability relationship. Why do you think the greatest athletes in the world continue to work with coaches? Because no matter how great they are a good coach can help them get even better.

As a coach, you need to help those you coach by giving them expertise they might not have access to otherwise. With trained eyes and ears you may notice things the coachee is blind to. Your expert advice might be what’s needed to break a bad pattern or limiting belief. After all, if someone keeps doing what they’ve always done they can’t expect to change for the better.

Motivation is also key because we can all get stuck in a rut every now and then. It’s easy to lose the passion we had when we first met our spouse, started a new career, or embarked on a new hobby. Having someone to help us rekindle that spark and maintain it is huge because it can become an important source of energy that’s used to reach your goals. It’s also especially important to help coachees persevere through tough times.

Accountability is the kick in the ass many of us need to follow through. Knowing someone will ask us if we did what we said taps into the principle of consistency. As I noted in previous posts, most people want to feel good and look good so they work hard to keep their word. When a coach asks, “So by next week you’ll do X?” and we answer, “Yes,” most of us will go out of our way to do X. If the coaching has been good and is moving us towards our goals then we’ll be thankful for the accountability.

I’ll close with this in regards to coaching and accountability; the late Tom Landry, Hall of Fame football coach for the Dallas Cowboys, put it this way, “My job is to get men to do the things they don’t want to do so they can accomplish what they’ve always wanted to accomplish.” If you can motivate people to do what they need to so they can reach their dreams then the sky is the limit for you as coach.

Persuasive Coaching: Listening STARS

Last week we explored the necessity of asking good questions if you want to be a persuasive coach. You’ll recall the right questions can be effective because they tap into the principle of consistency. It won’t do much good to ask lots of questions if you don’t spend focused effort listening. This week we’ll explore five tips to help you grow in this area.

There are several levels of listening and the two you should shoot for as a coach are attentive and empathic.

Empathetic listening is where you seek to put yourself in the place of the other person. You not only understand where they’re coming from, you have a strong sense of how they feel. Empathy is different than sympathy.

Imagine someone tells you they lost their job. You might feel sympathy for them because you know intellectually it must be difficult and scary. The person who empathizes wouldn’t just acknowledge those feelings, to the best of their ability they’d allow themselves to feel the anger, hurt, and scariness that come with losing a job.

Empathetic listening is something most of us shy away from because it often entails feeling emotions we’d prefer to avoid. After all, who want to feel bad if they can avoid it?

Attentive listening allows you to understand where the other person is coming from but not necessarily feeling all the feelings. If you can’t empathize then attentive listening is the next best thing because at least the other person has been heard and you’re still in a better position to coach them.

How can we listen attentively and perhaps empathetically? Most people never consider how they could be a better listener and very few have view listening as a skill that can be improved. When I teach classes on communication I often share a method to help people become Listening STARS.

STARS is an acronym that stands for: Stop, Tone, Ask, Restate, Scribble. We’ll take a brief look at these five simple steps which, if put into practice, will make you much a more effective listener and better coach.

Stop. First, you need to stop whatever you’re doing when someone is talking to you. Doing so conveys respect and makes the other person feel important. Additionally, you will catch more of what he or she is saying because multi-tasking is a myth. You cannot listen when you’re texting, typing an email, or doing any other activity that taxes your cognitive abilities. Many studies show the best you can do is switching quickly from one task to another which means there are times you’re not listening.

Tone. Paying attention to tone is important because it often conveys feelings. When I ask my wife Jane how she’s doing and I hear, “Fine,” in a short, terse tone I know she’s not fine and wants me to ask how she’s really doing. Much like body language, tone can indicate how someone is really feeling.

Ask. This reminds us to ask clarifying questions. Normally I don’t advise people to interrupt someone when they’re talking but the exception is to get clarification on something that was shared to prevent miscommunication. Another advantage of asking clarifying questions is doing so shows you’re actively listening.

Restate. It’s one thing to think you understand another person but it’s altogether different to actually understand them. Never assume. Instead, take a moment to restate in your own words what you think he or she is trying to convey. If you realize you don’t either ask more questions or have them to tell you their story again.

Scribble. If you can take notes do so. When you do this don’t try to write the next great American novel because you’ll miss too much if you’re too focused on writing. Try to bullet point key concepts that will trigger more detailed thoughts when you reread your notes.

Each of these five steps is simply a choice but don’t fool yourself – listening is hard work. To improve it will take time, energy, and patience. Like most skills you need to succeed in business and life, listening needs to be worked on continually. It’s not easy but the personal and professional benefits are huge.

Persuasive Coaching: Ask the Right Questions

A good coach is a lot like a good salesperson. A good salesperson never makes you feel pressured or sold. Using a combination of questions and a conversational tone a good salesperson helps the prospective customer uncover their needs. Next, the salesperson engages the prospective customer so he or she sees the right service or product to meet their needs.

In a similar way, a good coach will have a conversation where lots of questions are asked so the person being coached – the coachee –  feels like they came up with the solution to their challenges.

People who self-generate their own ideas will always be more committed to them than ideas that come from being told what to do. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, clearly understood this when he encouraged readers to, “Let the other person feel the idea is theirs.”

Why is this approach so effect? Because of Robert Cialdini’s principle of consistency. The psychological principle tells us people feel internal psychological pressure as well as external social pressure to be consistent in what they say and do.

As little pleasure seekers and pain avoiders humans work hard to make sure their words and deeds line up. When we do what we say we’ll do we feel better about ourselves. We also look better to others when we consistently keep our word. Both are strong motivators of behavior.

Being more committed to whatever solution the person being coached comes up with isn’t the only benefit of asking good questions. Asking questions and engaging in dialog also helps shape the coachee’s thinking. The more they learn to critically think and solve their own problems the more self-sufficient they become. That independence usually means they can make more decisions and do so faster.

If you’ve raised kids you know how important it is to help them develop their thinking because mom and dad won’t always be around to answer questions. The same can be said of a coach.

I’ll close with a quote from Tom Hopkins, author of How to Master the Art of Selling. Tom tells audiences, “When you say it they doubt it but when they say it they believe it.” Ask the right questions and the person you’re coaching will believe in the answers they come up with, be more committed to their ideas, and will have learned how to solve their own problems.

Persuasive Coaching: The Right Relationship, The Right Coach

Not too long ago, on a Saturday afternoon I was having a cup of coffee with my daughter Abigail. One of her friends stopped by and as you might expect, the conversation turned to what each of them had done the previous Friday night.

Abigail’s friend talked about how she and her boyfriend played pool. Her friend said she’s not a good pool player and her boyfriend tried to “coach” her. If you’re thinking, “I bet that didn’t go too well,” you’re right.

After a while I shared with the two of them that in order for coaching to work you have to have the right relationship and the right coach. For example, my wife Jane is an avid golfer. On her best days, she shoots in the upper 70s. I learned the game as a kid, took lots of lessons, and even played at one of the best courses in the United States – Jack Nicklaus’s Muirfield Village Golf Course. Despite my background, I don’t give Jane any advice unless specifically asked. If you’re been married for any length of time you know what I’m talking about. Having shared that, many people – perhaps even you – could give unsolicited advice to Jane and she’d give it serious consideration.

This phenomenon doesn’t just apply to spousal relationships. Why is this the case? Sometimes the more we’re known the more we’re taken for granted. Jesus noticed this an said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (New Living Translation)

Sometimes those most familiar to us, even though they have our best interest at heart, are rejected when it comes to advice. This can happen in business as well as personal life. Someone within the confines of a company can be seen as just a coworker and not an expert even though they may have plenty of expertise.

How can you overcome this? Tap into the principle of authority in two specific ways; create expertise inside the business and establish your expertise outside of your company.

Within the business work on getting one coworker to listen to your advice and try it. Once you’ve done this (assuming your advice worked well) you’ve established beachhead of sorts. With one person won over it becomes easier to win over the second, third and so on. By doing this you gain advocates (the principle of consensus) which makes future opportunities easier because those advocates can “brag on you” in ways you cannot, at least without seeming like a boastful jerk.

Outside of the business how can you establish expertise? You can blog, write a book, give presentations, create videos to name just a few. As you do this and begin to gain some notoriety. When people at work see others paying attention to your expertise it’s likely they will too. That’s also the power of the principle of consensus.

When it comes to persuasive coaching, assuming you’ve done a good job establishing rapport and building trust, people want to know they’re dealing with someone who really knows their stuff – an expert. What are you good at, known for and/or passionate about? Make sure others know that about you and you’ll begin to attract the right people to coach because you’ll have the right relationship and be seen as the right coach.

Persuasive Coaching – The Importance of Building Rapport

When it comes to coaching, building rapport is almost as important as gaining trust. Rapport is essentially that feeling of connection you have with another person. If you’re like most people you can usually tell when you have rapport with someone. However, like most people you probably could do a better job at creating rapport with a little help from social psychology.

Rapport is analogous to what Robert Cialdini calls the principle of liking. This principle of influence tells us it’s easier for people to say yes to us when they know and like us. There are many things we’ll say yes to when a friend asks. On the flip side, we’re usually quite comfortable saying no to someone we don’t know or don’t like. For example, if a friend asked you to go out for drinks after work it would probably be easy to say yes. But, if someone you don’t know asks I bet it would be just easy to say, “No thanks.”

When it comes to coaching, rapport or liking, is important because it’s easier for someone you’re coaching to say yes to your advice if they know and like you. There’re two simple things you can do to engage this powerful psychology. Look for what you have in common with another person and offer genuine compliments.

When you know you have something in common with someone it’s easy for them to like you. For example, if you find out you root for the same sports team, went to the same college, or grew up in the same town, it’s easy to have an immediate connection with someone.

When it comes to compliments, we all feel good when someone pays us to genuine complement. Unfortunately, too often people leave good thoughts in their head rather than expressing them to another person. While thinking good thoughts may positively impact you, you don’t get the same bang for the buck as if you actually shared a compliment with the other person. That’s so because sharing compliments naturally makes other people like you more.

Here’s a very important point; the power of the principle of liking isn’t about getting people to like you. The power comes when you like the other person. When you look for what you have in common and pay attention to things you can genuinely complement you will start to like the other person more. This is where everything changes! When someone senses you like them they’ll be much more open to whatever advice you may share with them.

A big part of coaching is getting people to change their behavior. Coaches try to get those they work with to discard unproductive behaviors and embrace new productive ones. This is where persuasion comes in handy because persuasion is all about changing people’s behavior. How you communicate may make all the difference between yes and no.

If we go back to our definition of the principle of liking – it’s easier for people to say yes to those they know and like – then hopefully you see why this principle is so important in coaching. If the person you’re coaching likes you and knows that you like them they’ll be much more open to any suggestions that you may have to help them improve.

When you’re in a position where you have to coach others, I cannot encourage you enough to build rapport by tapping into the principle of liking. Not only will the person you’re coaching be more inclined to make the productive changes they need, you’ll enjoy the process because you’ll like those you coach much more.

Persuasive Coaching – Competency and Trust, Two Sides of the Same Coin

In order for business coaches to be successful two elements are absolutely essential. First, they have to know what they’re talking about. In a word, they have to be competent. Second, they need to gain the trust of the people they’re coaching.

It’s of little value to be exceptionally intelligent if someone doesn’t trust your advice and direction. On the flip side, it won’t matter how trustworthy you are if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Competency and trust are two sides of the same coin so let’s see how persuasion can help those qualities come to the forefront in coaching.

Competence is simply knowing your stuff. This is important because it’s human nature to be more open to new ideas and change when we know the person we’re interacting with has expertise. That’s Robert Cialdini’s principle of authority in action.

Having expertise doesn’t mean coaches know everything. A coach doesn’t always have to know more than the person they’re coaching although it certainly helps. What’s important is that good coaches have trained eyes and ears they use skillfully to observe situations and behaviors. They may make suggestions based on their observations but the better route is to ask good questions because doing so allows the person being coached to come up with their own solutions. Taking this approach is especially helpful because it taps into the principle of consistency.

Consistency alerts us to the reality that people feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what they say and what they do. When someone believes they’ve come up with a solution, as opposed to being told what to do, they own it more because of consistency. A sense of pride comes into play because we all feel our ideas are good ideas. This is why Dale Carnegie encouraged readers of How to Win Friends and Influence People to, “Let the other person to feel the idea is theirs.” Remember, competent coaches ask good questions!

Competence is also displayed through wisdom which is the application of knowledge. It’s not enough to be smart, you have to know how to apply those smarts in ways that help the people you’re coaching. When you know someone has done something for a long time you naturally assume they’re good at it. Something as simple as, “Sally, I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years now and what I’ve found is…” That little reminder of  years of experience makes the coach more credible. Of course, this can also be accomplished with a good bio or third party introduction.

When it comes to trust, credibility can be enhanced by admitting weakness. Nobody has all the answers so sometimes admitting that to the person you’re coaching gains trust because they view you as more honest. “Joe, that’s a great question, one I’ve never considered before. Would it be okay if I looked into it and got back with you during our next coaching session?”

Another way to gain trust is by displaying good character and adhering to consistency can help you. As a coach, when you do what you said you would do you’re more believable and trust grows. In the example above, getting back to Joe in the next coaching session gives Joe a reason to trust you. Little acts of doing what you promised reveal character and build trust over time.

One last way to enhance trust is by engaging the principle of liking. Liking tells us it’s easier for people to say “Yes” to those they know and like. When you engage this principle don’t focus on getting the other person to like you. Instead, engage the principle with the intent of coming to like the person you’re coaching. When someone sees you truly like them you get a whole host of benefits and one big benefit is trust. After all, we naturally assume people who like us want the best for us and will do right by us. In short, you gain trust when someone knows you truly like them.

Remember, competency and trust are different sides of the same coin. You need both to be an effective coach and now you have a few simple ways to enhance them using persuasion when you coach.

Persuasive Coaching – An Introduction

In 2010, the company I’ve worked for the past 27 years, State Auto Insurance, implemented business coaching in the sales area. I had the opportunity to lead that change and actively participate as a sales coach. For a year and a half I was on the phone every month with nearly three dozen sales manages. After that I was assigned to work with a dozen regional vice presidents for the next four and a half years.

Because I was outside the manager’s and vice president’s chains of command I was able to bring a unique perspective to the coaching process. Fast forward to 2016 I was asked to participate in a companywide transformation as State Auto moved from a performance management organization to a coaching culture.

For the next several weeks I’ll share coaching concepts with readers and tie in the psychology of persuasion to the coaching process. Let’s start with some terminology.

What is persuasion? I think Aristotle has the best definition I’ve heard to date. He said persuasion was the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask. Persuasion is not just about changing minds, it’s about changing behaviors.

What is coaching? There’s no set definition that everyone agrees on but the description I like most is this: coaching is the ongoing process of improving performance and results through continuous feedback. Improving the right skills should lead to better performance and ultimately better results. Make no mistake, you can improve skills and performance but the bottom line is improving results in business coaching. If results don’t improve then circle back to see if the right skills are being addressed.

I believe good coaching helps people improve so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability AND prepares them for future opportunities. A side benefit is that quite often improvements carry over from the professional arena to the personal life of the individual who is being coach.

This is why coaching is so exciting! If you’re being coached well and see you’re having more success in your job, if you feel like you’re also getting ready for future goals, and if you see a positive impact on your personal life then who wouldn’t want to be coached?

Where does persuasion come into the coaching process? In order to improve performance, a coach has to get the “coachee” to develop new skills, improve existing skills, and ultimately implement new behaviors. Helping people break free of old habits and changing behavior is where an understanding of persuasion becomes a huge help.

A business has to have a good product or service in order to compete in the marketplace. Persuasion won’t make a poor product or service good but it can help you sell the merits of your good product or service more easily. Likewise, when it comes to coaching a coach has to possess good coaching skills. Persuasion can help a coach convey his or her good ideas in a way that makes it easier for the person being coaching to buy in, say yes, and make the necessary changes. That’s what we’ll start focusing on beginning next week.

Simple Doesn’t Mean Easy

Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Einstein’s theory of relativity was obviously not a simple concept but he was able to simplify it so even people who were not scientists could understand it and some of its implications. The same could be said of persuasion.

When Robert Cialdini wrote Influence Science and Practice more than 30 years ago he simplified the act of persuasion in such a way that the average person with no background in social psychology could understand it.

When I speak to audiences about the psychology of persuasion I let them know early on that they’ll “get it.” After all, what I share is nothing more than human behavior so it’s easy for people to recall times where they:

  1. Were impacted by a specific principle of influence and took action, or
  2. Used a principle of influence causing someone to respond positively and take action.

In either case, whether or not they could articulate what happened, the light bulb comes on as I explain the principles. It’s at that moment they clearly understand the why behind their behavior or another person’s. However, knowing and doing are two different things! Just because you understand something doesn’t necessarily mean you can easily do it. Here are two simple illustrations.

  1. You can probably watch a pro golfer swing a club and break down the swing. You may know a good golf swing means keeping your head down, left arm straight, turn your hips, rotate your wrists at impact to name just a few of the mechanics. But doing all of those can be really hard!
  2. You probably know how to live a healthy life style. At the core it entails eating less, eating better, and exercising more. Easy to know, harder to do.

When it comes to implementing persuasion ethically and correctly it’s harder than you might think. I see this every time I lead the Principles of Persuasion Workshop. During the afternoon of day two I have participants work in teams with the following goal: use all they’ve learned about persuasion to build a case to get a boy named Jimmy back into school after being expelled.

Everyone understand the principles. They can define them, tell me what causes them to begin operating and how to make them more effective. But putting all that knowledge to good use can be challenging. In fact, I use the two illustrations below to drive home that point. One plus one is a simple formula.

But, when you throw in the complexities that come with different people and unique situations the formula can look a little more complicated than one plus one.

It’s not the knowing that counts, it’s the doing. There are lots of people who “know” things but they’re no better off than those who don’t “know” things IF they don’t put their knowledge to use. My goal with this blog is to help you gain the knowledge then get to the business of doing. Tune in next week as I start a series on persuasive business coaching.

Humology is the Intersection of Humanity and Technology

I had the privilege of speaking at the Assurex Global North American P&C and Employee Benefits Sales Conference a few weeks ago. It was a top-notch event at a beautiful location that brought together more than 100 highly successful insurance agency owners and producers. My topic was the application of persuasion in sales. I love the opportunity to share at events like that! A side benefit is getting the chance to hear other interesting speakers.

One speaker caught my attention, Andy Paden, the Director of Practice Development at INSURICA. During his talk, Andy used a term I’d never heard of before, “humology.” The term was coined by INSURICA’s consultant, Scott Kosloski, founder of Future Point of View. Humology is used to describe the intersection of humanity (relationships) and technology. He stressed the need for people to understand how relationships and technology have to be considered together in business.

I think it’s especially important to think through this topic because too many people bemoan the fact that technology is hurting our relationships. I don’t believe that’s the case because “good” relationships are primarily a matter of perspective.

I’m sure as we moved from an agricultural society to the industrial age many people thought relationships suffered because families no longer worked together. Suddenly family members were gone 12-16 hours a day in factories which meant significantly less time together.

When the phone was invented I bet lots of people lamented that face to face conversations were less frequent. Rather than walking or driving several miles to see a neighbor or relative to sit a talk people just picked up the phone.

In more recent times I’ve heard countless people say texting hurts relationships because no one picks up the phone to talk anymore. They also pooh pooh social media sites because “those aren’t real relationships.”

Over time it’s inevitable that society and technology will change how people interact. But can we really say one time period is better than another? I think our challenge is to figure out how we can use technology to have the best relationships possible.

I’ll share two personal examples. The first is Facebook. I got on Facebook more than eight years ago because a friend said my daughter Abigail would probably want to get on Facebook when she turned 13 years old. I enjoyed Facebook more than I would have imagined and I began to realize Abigail was probably learning more about me than I was about her! She saw how I interacted with friends, my sense of humor and much more. She had a view of me that I never had of my parents and that helped our relationship.

I also saw my relationship with Abigail grow because of texting. We have more frequent contact with text because there’s no chance we would have called as often as we texted. Because I was willing to communicate with her in the manner she preferred we communicated more and our relationship grew.

If you want good relationships with friends, family or customers make sure you engage them on social media. That means taking time to respond if they comment on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or blog posts. That’s where communication happens and relationships form and grow. Taking this approach has helped me meet people all around the world.

The last thing I’ll mention is the application of the principles of influence. People often ask if those principles are as applicable today given all the change in society and technology. Absolutely! Society is rapidly changing and technology is changing even faster but the human brain has not evolved nearly as quickly. That means the same principles that guided our decision-making thousands of years ago still guide us today. How we engage those principles differs only because we have more ways to communicate today and we can communicate with more people faster than ever.

I encourage you to embrace the changes that are happening. As you do, ask yourself how you can use the change to build more relationships and strengthen those you already have. I’m sure as you do that employing the principles of influence will come in quite handy.

Giving Isn’t About You, It’s About Them

When talking with a consulting client recently I encouraged them to look for ways to engage the principle of reciprocity with clients through giving. I told them when it comes to giving always remember; it’s not about you, it’s about the person you’re giving to. Let me explain.

Quite a long time ago I used to regularly have lunch with a friend named Mars. Every month I’d call him on the first weekday of the month and we’d look at our calendars to find a time to get together for a meal. Lest you think I have a great memory I’ll tell you my secret for consistently reaching out to him – I had set a recurring task on my computer to remind me to call him. That made it quite easy for me.

One day my friend thanked me for always calling to set up lunch. I jokingly said, “It’s not because I’m such a nice guy. I’m just really good with my computer.”  He replied, “No, that fact that you take time to call means a lot.”

That was an “aha” moment for me. I realized it didn’t matter to my friend that it took very little effort on my part. All he cared about was that I took the time each month to reach out to him.

We all value things differently. For me a full tank of gas is no big deal but when I fill my daughter’s gas tank it’s a huge deal to her. It doesn’t matter to her that it costs me very little in terms of time or effort, she really appreciates it, and appreciates it more than if I just handed her the cash to fill up.

It’s the same in business. It may take me very little time or effort to pass along a friend’s resume but for them it could be huge if they land a job so they’re always very appreciative.

When you give, don’t focus on what it costs you (time, effort or money) and don’t focus on what the particular gift would mean to you. Everyone isn’t like you so think about the other person. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what it means to them. That’s what really matters!

The golden rule encourages you to give unto others as you would have them give unto you. Giving engages reciprocity, which means if you need something down the road the recipient of your gift is more likely to give to you in return.

Giving is good but if you want to get the most bang for the buck consider engaging “the platinum rule” this week. This rule encourages you to treat others as they want to be treated and to give to others what they want. When you do this not only will you make his or her day brighter, the likelihood of help when you need it in the future will be even greater.