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The Value of a Personal Mission Statement

Last week I concluded with a teaser about my personal mission statement so this week I’m going to address the topic and share with you my personal mission statement, or life plan, as some call it.

Back in the early ’90s, I read Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and it really resonated with me. I often tell people, after The Bible the most impacting book I’ve ever read is The 7 Habits. I’m not saying it’s the best book – I’ve read others I enjoyed more – only that it was the most impacting. The impact came because I took the step to write a personal mission statement. Now, each day a part of my mission statement pops up in a task in my daily planner, Microsoft Outlook. Having read it now for 15 plus years, I’ve reinforced who I am, who I’m trying to become and what’s most important in my life.

If you’ve not written your own mission statement I cannot encourage you enough to do so. I’ll go so far as to say it could be one of the most important things you ever do because it’s something that will serve as a guide throughout your life. The mission statement idea is presented in Covey’s book in a chapter entitled, “Begin with the End in Mind.” I’ll leave it to you to read the book, or at least that chapter, so you can write your own plan.

I think a mission statement can help you be more influential in several ways:

  • Writing something down like this will help you stay accountable to what you say is most important and that accountability is ramped up if you share your mission statement with others. When you’re consistent, people come to rely on you which adds to your credibility, a component of authority.
  • Most people I interview never write down their goals let alone have a plan for their life. If you’re ever interviewing for a job and you hand the interviewer a personal mission statement you’ll certainly impress them. I think sharing mine helped me land the job I have today.
  • If you happen to share it with someone who has similar goals or world view then you’re likely to befriend that person because you’ve touched on the principle of liking.

Below is my life plan. It’s not for everyone so yours could look totally different and that’s okay because we’re all different.

My Chief Aim in Life: When I leave this earth and stand in the presence of the Lord, I hope to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant: you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21).

In order to make this a reality I will focus on four main areas of my life. Each area, while distinctly different, overlaps with the other areas. I want to focus on my spiritual life, my family, myself as an individual and my career.

Spiritual: I want to have a close intimate relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ and I want this relationship to be the priority in my life. I want to live a life that’s consistent with Biblical principles. I will seek to do this by striving for Christ-like qualities, knowing that while I cannot completely achieve them because I am human, I will be rewarded. I want to be a good listener. Finally, I want to reach out to others sharing Biblical love and truth.

Family: I want to make my family my priority second only to my relationship with God. I want to love and honor my wife Jane, building her up so she can become the spiritual being God intends for her to be. I want to meet her needs to the best of my ability and help her live a happy and fulfilled life. I want to strive to give unconditional love to Jane and Abigail, as well as other members of my extended family. I want to create a home environment where each person in my family can come to me in times of need and develop to their fullest potential. I want to earn my family’s respect and be the kind of husband and father they can be proud of.

Personal: I want to like who God created me to be; respect myself; maintain a balance between my mental and physical health; live my life with integrity, not compromising myself but standing firm on my beliefs as outlined in my personal mission statement; be open to change and accept when I’m wrong; continue to develop in the areas of loving, learning and relationships; smile, laugh and show my emotions more; I do not want to be controlled by anyone or anything other than God and need to remember I always have free will and therefore a choice in all matters; I want strive first to understand others, then seek to be understood; to be a leader and role model for others.

Career: I want Christ to be the centerpiece for all that I do at work; I want to give my best effort to whatever task is laid before me; be remembered for making my workplace better for having been there in both a productive and personal sense; obtain satisfaction from my chosen career; be fair and honest while remaining firm and decisive; remember the people involved; earn the trust, respect and confidence of those I work with; continue to develop personally and seek new challenges. Last, I need to remember that I work to live — I don’t live to work. Therefore, I will never sacrifice my spiritual, personal or my family’s well being at the expense of my career.

So there you have it. You now know more about me than you may have cared to know. I encourage you to take a similar step in your own life. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Personal Branding

Last week I wrote about association and how we all have opportunities to create the associations we want people to hold when they think of us. We can do more than just respond positively to “thanks” to create a strong association. What I’ll share this week I owe in great measure to a coworker and good friend, James Seay, MBA.

James has been with State Auto for many years. He took a break to serve our great country in Iraq and upon his return – because of his passion for branding – he started putting on personal branding workshops at State Auto. The sessions are high energy, fun and interactive. His goal is to get people to realize other people (customers, coworkers, the boss) have opinions about each of us and we should be doing what we can to shape those opinions as much as possible. It’s not unlike companies wanting to direct customer’s thoughts when it come to their products or services. As I shared last week, sometimes hard work and a doing a great aren’t enough because that’s what’s expected in today’s economy. To see what James has to say about personal branding click here. You can also see him on YouTube.

I went through James’ workshop and walked away with this as my personal brand, “When it needs to be Done Well!” That tag line now appears on every email I send at work. If you were to get an email from me here’s what my signature would look like:

When it needs to be Done Well!

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CMCT
Senior Sales Specialist
State Auto Insurance Companies www.stateauto.com
PO Box 182822, Columbus, OH 43218-2822
Phone: 614.917.5472 Fax: 614.719.0201

State Auto is one of only 13 companies to earn an A+ Rating by AM Best every year since 1954!

I want people to know they can count on me to do things well so every new email, every reply and every forwarded email people see, “When it needs to be Done Well!” Do you think they’ve started remembering that? I can tell you they absolutely have because some people will jokingly email, “I need something done well…” I know this; I have them thinking the way I want.

I’ve even incorporated my personal brand into my voicemail. If you called and I was unavailable you’d hear this, “Do you need something done well? Then you’ve come to the right place! Hi, this is Brian Ahearn and you’ve reached my voicemail.” One person, my college roommate from my sophomore year at Miami University, left me a very funny message after hearing my voicemail. When I called him back he said, “I have to be totally serious; if I didn’t know you and I heard that message, I’d say to myself, ‘Now that’s a guy I want to do business with!'” That exactly what I want people to think and act on.

Here’s one more proof positive story. A little over a week ago I met one of our Regional Vice Presidents for the first time. We’d had interaction through email and by phone but had not personally met. When we finally shook hands his first comments in a room full of others had to do with my personal brand. He complimented me on the voicemail, emails and most of all, my work.

Here’s a quick side benefit. When you “advertise” yourself you realize you now have a reputation to uphold and consistency kicks in. You find yourself working hard to maintain that reputation because you don’t want to let yourself or others down. If you live up to your brand then you also add to your authority because people hold you in higher regard. As the saying goes, “It’s all good!”

If you wonder why I choose “Done Well” instead of “Well Done” it’s because I didn’t want people to think I was some lousy chef. Seriously, after much soul searching, considering my likes, dislikes, passions, talents, etc., I came up with that personal brand because it tied into my personal mission statement. Next week I’ll share my thoughts about writing a personal mission statement because a personal mission statement can also help you be more influential.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Need Something Done?

Suppose it’s Monday the 22nd and you need to get a report to your boss by next Monday, the 29th. Life’s never easy and in your case, in order to get the report done, you need some stats from a coworker in another department. This is big because your report, after being reviewed by the boss, will be incorporated into the CEO’s quarterly board report. How are you going to make your request to that coworker to ensure the best chance of getting what you need in time to fulfill your obligation?

After nearly 25 years in the working world my observation is that most people will shoot an email off to the coworker that’s basic and to the point, “Harold, I need the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Friday.” That’s completely legitimate but doomed to fail quite often. So how do we start recreating the message to ensure success?

First of all, don’t tell, ask. The principle of consistency tells us people are far more likely to do something that’s in line with something they’ve previously said or done, so a key to success is to get them to commit. It would be easy enough to get the coworker to commit by asking him for help rather than telling him. So our message changes to, “Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Friday?” Your request has gone from a statement to a question. If
Harold says “Yes” your odds of success just went up significantly. After all, people feel good about themselves when their words and deeds match so Harold will probably try a little harder to make sure he lives up to what he committed to.

But wait, Harold’s a busy guy and despite being a nice guy, he feels he’s too busy to help out. A knee jerk response might be, “Alice, I’d love to help but I’m just too busy right now” — and your heart sinks. Not so fast, there might be a way around this potential problem! A better request would have been, “Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by Wednesday?”

Why is asking with a small buffer a better tactic? The rule of reciprocity tells us people feel obligated to give to us when we give first. If Harold says no to Wednesday then you’d want to come back immediately with something like this, “I understand completely Harold, it’s never been busier around here. Could you possibly get the numbers by Friday?” Studies show when you make a second request, offering a concession immediately after someone says no, they’re very likely to concede too which means you might just hear “yes” to that second request.

We’re not done just yet because there’s one more strategy you could employ, the word “because.” You’ll recall from my post several weeks ago, Because I said so!, when you use the word “because” it’s almost like an automatic trigger and people tend to comply with requests when we give them a reason. So here’s how the master persuader approaches this request:

“Harold, can you get me the quarterly sales numbers with profit by
Wednesday because I need them for the board report?”

This approach uses “because,” which gives the best chance of hearing “Yes!” It’s also in a question format which engages consistency, upping the odds that Harold will follow through. And, should Harold say no, you have an opportunity to engage reciprocity by making a concession and falling back to Friday.

Could Harold still say no to Friday? Sure. But think about the person who regularly makes requests as I’ve just laid out vs. John Doe who always tells people what he needs with no forethought to timing or reason. Who do you think will be successful more often? Certainly the savvy communicator. That translates into more work accomplished on time and probably under budget. That’s most likely the person who’s in line for a raise or promotion because work is about results. Now you can have results because you know the keys to making successful requests.

Brian
Helping you Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Coming to Terms

I thought it would be good time to review some influence and persuasion terms with you. A few of these you’ve seen in some past blogs and others you will certainly see in future posts.

Understanding and ethically applying these psychological principles doesn’t guarantee everybody will do what you want. After all, they don’t represent some kind of magic wand. However, I can say with certainty; if you employee these more strategically and regularly you will hear more people say “Yes!” to your requests.

As you read through these you might think, “That doesn’t apply to me” or “I don’t fall for that.” That assessment may be true quite often but certainly not all the time. To get you to critically think it through I’ve added a question after each principle to give you cause to pause and think. While you may have seen right through some manipulative person’s attempts to persuade you, I’m willing to bet there are other times where you were influenced into action without even knowing it.

Reciprocity – Some might describe reciprocity as the “good old give and take principle” or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This principle describes the internal pressure we all feel to return the favor. At its most extreme it might be the person trying to think of a way to repay someone who saved their life. For most of us it’s as simple as picking up the tab at a restaurant because our friend got it last time. Have you ever sent someone a Christmas card because they sent you one first? If so, it’s because of reciprocity.

Liking – In business there’s a saying, “People like to do business with people they like.” Jeffrey
Gitomer, sales trainer and author, likes to say, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” We like to be around people we like and they naturally have more influence on us than those we don’t know or don’t like. In turn, the more likable we are the more persuasive we’ll be. Have you ever bought something because a good friend recommended the product or service?

Consensus – A farmer would say we’re like cattle because we like to “mooove” with the crowd. When we see lots of people taking action, or people just like us, quite often that’s enough to get us to go along with the crowd. You’ll also hear consensus referred to as “social proof.” Be honest now; have you ever stood up during a standing ovation when truthfully, you didn’t think the performance deserved it? If so, it’s because you were moved along by the actions of others.

Authority – We don’t have enough time to weigh all the decisions that come our way so quite often we defer to people we view as authorities, or experts. In fact we do so with such regularity that studies show our brain activity actually slows down when experts tell us what to do! In other words, critical reasoning can go right out the door! Experts need not be actual people either. Have you bought something, perhaps a car or major appliance, primarily because Consumer Reports rated the vehicle high?

Consistency – We all feel an internal pressure to live up to our promises. We feel good about ourselves when our words and deeds match, when we’ve done what we said we would. Have you ever found yourself doing something, not because you really wanted to (i.e., help someone move), but because you gave your word?

Scarcity – When we sense something is becoming less available or diminishing in some way, there’s something in us that all of a sudden wants the thing even more. When was the last time you rushed out to the store because you suddenly remembered, “Sale Ends Sunday!”? If that was you it’s because you were motivated by the potential loss of an opportunity.

Compare and Contrast – Did you know two things can appear more different than they really are depending on how they are presented? Considered for a moment how that might impact your decision making. For example, you go to the store to buy something and you’re not sure what that item might cost. When you arrive you see a sign that states, “Normally $150, now only $99!” By comparison $99 appears to be a very good deal. I’ve hear people justify purchases like that because “it was too good a deal to pass up.”

So there you have it, the layman’s overview of several psychological principles than affect us all to one degree or another every day. Most of the time these principles impact us in such subtle ways that we’re not aware of it and yet they’re major factors in our decision making. As we continue our journey together I think your eyes will be opened to how politicians, marketers, salesmen and so many others try to persuade you to do what they want.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Cruising along with Influence

With influence we’re focusing on Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. How exactly can we do that? My wife and I are going on a cruise this week so I can share a couple of real examples from cruises we went on in the past.

Many years ago while cruising we had a full day at sea which meant all the action was going to be poolside that day. Knowing that, we arrived at the pool early so we could get couple of lounge chairs and save a few seats for some fellow State Auto employees. Success was ours as we landed several lounge chairs right next to the pool!

Late morning we decided to go play a bingo ticket because it was potentially worth $5000. The odds of winning were slim but scarcity, the fear of losing out on the chance for the big prize, motivated us to go to the bingo area and play the odds.
We were gone approximately 30-45 minutes and when we got back to the pool, low and behold, people were laying on our chairs! I politely asked them to move because they were sitting in our chairs but they refused. I reminded them the clothes, books and other items they’d put at the foot of the chairs were ours and they were obvious indicators the chairs were being used.
They refused to move and the young pool attendant would not help us out because he said we’d been gone more than 30 minutes. Without going into more detail, suffice it to say, the exchange that took place about the loss of the poolside chairs pretty much ruined our afternoon.

So what’s this have to do with persuasion? Plenty, because after learning about persuasion we were able to avoid a repeat performance. The following year we were facing the same situation, a day at sea which meant another early trip to the pool. As we enjoyed the morning a young couple took one of the last lounge chairs available which happened to be next to us. While the wife leisurely stretched out and enjoyed the sun her husband was relegated to sitting at the foot of the lounger as he read his book.

When lunch rolled around we wanted to go to the schooner lounge to eat. Leary of coming back to no chairs I turned to the young couple as asked, “Would you mind watching our things because we want to grab some lunch?” As any nice couple would, they agreed.

Because I understood the psychology of persuasion I knew I’d tapped into something called consistency. Consistency is the psychological pressure we all feel when it comes to our words and deeds. When we give our word we feel good about ourselves when we keep it. How do you think that young couple would have felt if we’d come back to find strangers sunning on our chairs? If they’re like most people they’d feel bad. I was banking on the fact that no one wants to feel that way and it would prompt them to take appropriate actions to ensure the chairs were waiting for us when we returned.

After they agreed to watch our chairs I told the young man he was welcome to stretch out on one of our chairs while we were gone, which he was eager to do. Now that I’d given him something I’d engaged reciprocity, the psychological principle where we feel obligated to give back to someone who’s given us something. Because I’d given him use of our chairs I knew he’d be even more likely make sure no one tried to take our place.

I got a double whammy for my efforts because I engaged consistency and reciprocity. What you’ll find is quite often it’s possible to bring multiple influence principles to bear in a situation and when you can do so it significantly increases the odds of hearing someone say “Yes” when you make a request.

As you might expect, we enjoyed our lunch and returned to the pool later to find our lounge chairs waiting for us which made for a great afternoon! These are the types of real world application I plan to share as you continue this persuasion journey with me. I welcome your feedback so just click on the comments link below to let me know what you thought of this week’s article.

Brian, CMCT
influencepeople 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Principle of Consistency

If you had to sum up the Principle of Consistency I suppose you could say this, “People generally want to be consistent in word and deed.” Think about a time you gave your word but did not do what you’d promised. How did you feel? If you’re like most people, you didn’t feel too good and probably try to avoid that feeling next time you give your word.

Knowing other people probably feel the same way, how can you make the consistency principle work for you? Simple; because people are more likely to do something that’s consistent with what they’ve openly professed before, attitudes they already hold or something they’ve done in the past, your odds for success increase significantly if you can get them to commit to you. The easiest way to go about this is to ask a question and wait for a response.

Parents, how often have you gone through this scenario: your child’s room is a mess so you say, “Clean your room!” If your child is like most, you walk by the room later in the day only to find it just as messy…if not worse! When you ask him why the room isn’t clean, typical responses include, “I didn’t hear you” or “I didn’t know you wanted me to do it right away” or “I was going to in a minute!”

Next time try asking this question, “Will you please clean your room?” The key is to then wait for the verbal reply. If you don’t hear a reply, just ask the question again. Will your child always clean the room after saying “yes?” No, but by simply asking a question rather than issuing a command engages the principle of consistency and your odds for success have increased greatly.

In Dr. Cialdini’s book, Influence: Science and Practice, he cites a study in which researchers had someone put a radio on a blanket next to another person, and then left for a brief time. Shortly thereafter, a “thief” came along and took the radio. They repeated this scenario 20 times and only four people intervened in any way.

But, when the experiment was repeated and the person putting the radio down asked the other person “to watch my things,” 19 out of 20 times the strangers intervened when the “thief” came along! The only difference was getting a verbal commitment!

Simply asking questions rather than making statements is the best way to engage the principle of commitment and consistency.