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To Give or To Give Back? That’s the Question and There’s a Big Difference!

We hear the phrase “giving back” quite often in conjunction with companies when they get involved in community initiatives or support various causes. I think the phrase is technically incorrect and misses a persuasive opportunity for many organizations.

When you hear the phrase “giving back” it implies something was given first and therefore reciprocity was engaged. It’s as if the company felt responsible to do something in return for the community. However, in terms of “giving back” to the community the question is this: what has the community given first? The more I thought about this the more I realized “giving back” is incorrect and organizations should simply talk about their “giving.”

It’s very rare that a community “gives” to a business organization. An organization files all kinds of paperwork and pays various fees in order to conduct business in a community. The organization then goes through different approval processes for building permits, signage, etc. By law the business pays taxes and in return they set up shop and may employ people from the community. It’s strictly a contractual business arrangement but it’s not reciprocity.

I realize to advise businesses to stop saying they are “giving back” and start touting their “giving” will bother some people. It goes against tradition and it’s very much in vogue to say you’re “giving back.” Again, technical or not, the business isn’t giving because community give first.

I believe good corporate citizenship is good business because people like to see business involvement in their communities. Good corporate citizenship makes individuals want to do business with the organization and that benefits the bottom line.

It’s really the business that’s giving – engaging reciprocity – because there’s no guarantee anyone will respond in some positive way towards the business because of their good community deeds. I don’t think a business should give to the community just to try to drum up customers but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a business entity alerting people as to their giving.

If a company supports a local school, donates to local causes, allows employees to volunteer time for community projects or does something else to help, even though they don’t have to, that’s great because it benefits people and the community as a whole. That’s giving, not giving back, and there’s nothing wrong with a business letting local residents know what they’re doing. Do they hope it engages reciprocity? Absolutley.

So, here’s my advice to businesses and business owners – stop talking about “giving back” and start telling people about your giving. Doing so will be correct and might engage a little reciprocity along the way.

Pre-suasion: Unity Means Together is Better

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to Robert Cialdini’s 7th principle of influence, unity. When I introduced unity, I said it goes beyond liking because it taps into a shared identity with another person. Unity goes deeper than simply having something in common with someone. In his latest book, Pre-suasion, Cialdini writes, “The relationships that lead people to favor another most effectively are not those that allow them to say, ‘Oh, that person is like us.’ They are ones that allow people to say, ‘Oh, that person is of us.’”

Simply put; me and you aren’t as strong as us. How do we obtain or build a shared identity so we can tap into unity? Acting together and being together are two ways to accomplish this.

When we do things with each other – act together – those shared experiences help make us who are we are. In turn we share that identity with others who’ve been shaped in a similar way. Here are some examples:

Marines go through the crucible of training together. Those who see actual combat experience something very few people can relate to. Those experiences make the men and women who serve unique in many ways and it forms a deep bond.

Sports teams practice and play together. When I played football in high school we had “two-a-day” practices in the hot August sun. Something else we did was play under the lights on Friday nights. Both experiences forged deep bonds among the players. I’ve been out of school for 35 years and still have regular contact with the guys who were captains with me on our senior year. There is an “us” mentality with that group which includes our head coach.

“Hell week” for fraternities and sororities are difficult and not everyone makes it through. Failure to make it through means you don’t get it in the frat or sorority you pledged. But when you do get through hell week you can look at your brother or sister and know they understand you in a deeper way because of the experience.

Being together could entail something like vacationing together, meeting someone at a resort, attending a sporting event or some other event. For example, if you were one of the 400,000 who attended Woodstock in August, 1969, you’ll have a shared identity with anyone you meet who was also there.

Quite often businesses will arrange trips for top performers or give tickets to sporting events. The hope is that being together, especially if something amazing happens, will imprint memories that will tap into unity.

Here’s a personal example. Last year I was at the Ohio State – Tulsa football game when a huge storm rolled in. As it began to pour, and halftime approached, people quickly left the stadium for shelter. Because we were already soaked to the bone Jane and I along with our friend Dan stayed to watch the final plays of the half. It looked like it was going to be uneventful until an Ohio State player intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown in the pouring rain. We were going nuts and I turned to Dan and said, “We’ll never forget this moment!” as we gave each other high fives and hugged.

For you to effectively utilize the principle unity in your persuasion attempts focus on two things:

  1. Creating opportunities to do or experience things together, and
  2. Do some research on the person you’ll attempt to persuade because you might discover something that alerts you to a shared identity.

Remember, unity is about togetherness – not you and me – us.

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: 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 – 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.

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.

Even Known Irrelevant Information Can Bias Decision Making

If you follow me on Facebook then you know over the weekend Jane and I had a little scare that landed her in the emergency room for about three hours Saturday afternoon. Our time there included a CAT scan of her brain.

Jane had been working out Friday morning with a friend when she felt a sudden explosion (her word) in the back of her head, right in the middle. She said the pain was a 10 on a scale of 10 in the moment but quickly subsided. It did leave her with a mild headache but nothing else so she didn’t think about it anymore until the same thing happened that night.

I wasn’t aware of either episode until she told me about them late Saturday morning. We decided she should call a couple of doctor friends to get their take on the situation just to be safe. Maria, an urgent care doctor, and Mike, an ER doctor, both agreed Jane should go to the emergency room as a precaution.

About a year and a half ago one of Jane’s brothers had brain surgery for bleeding on his brain caused by a subdural hematoma. He had fallen and that caused bleeding inside his scull, which put pressure on his brain. Scary stuff. When describing the incident to our ER friend Mike, Jane mistakenly said her brother had an aneurism. Mike called a local emergency room so we would get in quickly. He also alerted the doctor on call about Jane’s situation.

As we interacted with the doctor in the emergency room he suggested a brain CAT scan based on what Jane described AND because of the information that her brother had an aneurism. Aneurisms can be heritable and therefore caution is needed with family members. The only problem was Jane’s brother didn’t have an aneurism. We confirmed that fact through a series of quick texts. However, once the ER doctor heard the word aneurism it changed his thinking and diagnosis.

Here’s the interesting part about the doctor’s decision making. The doctor told us if he’d not heard the word aneurism, based solely on Jane’s responses to his questions he would have just assumed she strained something while working out and would have sent her home. But his thinking had become biased by irrelevant information. I found it fascinating that this highly trained, logically thinking doctor recognized the bias in his decision making because he even said so! But he couldn’t change his thinking and recommended the CAT scan. I even confirmed, asking him, “If an aneurism had not been mentioned we would not be talking about a CAT scan, right?” He agreed. Despite discussing the irrelevant information at length we decided to go ahead with the CAT scan as a precaution. It came back normal and that gave Jane great relief.

For the most part people are emotional creatures and sometimes rationality just doesn’t cut it. We see it all the time. For example, once people hear about a shark attack they stay out of the water even though such attacks are incredibly rare and they stand a much greater chance of dying in a car accident. It does little good to rationalize with a veteran who suffers from PTSD when he hears a loud sound because his reality has been changed by prior experiences.

For Jane and the doctor the possibility of “what if” led them to a wholly different decision than they would have made otherwise. Certainty is better than uncertainty, no matter how small the odds. In the end, all three of us were more relieved than we would have been despite knowing what we knew about the irrelevant information.

Why Study Persuasion? You Can’t Afford Not To!

There never seems to be enough time in the day to do all that you want to or all that you need to. So why should you spend your precious time learning about persuasion? Because you cant afford not to!

Let’s start with exactly what I mean when I talk about persuasion. Persuasion is not simply about changing a person’s thinking because if the change in thinking doesn’t lead to a change in behavior have you really gained anything? For example, if you ask your child to clean their room, which do you want to have happen?

  1. Have your child acknowledge cleaning their room is a good idea (changed thinking).
  2. Have your child actually clean their room (changed behavior).

I don’t know any parent who would be satisfied with A. When we try to persuade we want to change behaviors and that’s why I believe Aristotle has given us the best definition of persuasion. He said it was, “The art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” Someone isn’t doing something so you interact with him or her in hopes of changing their behavior in some way.

What you may not realize is how much of your day is spent persuading people. In To Sell is Human Daniel Pink cites a survey of more than 7,000 business people in non-sales positions. He wrote, “People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.” If you happen to be in sales that percentage is probably greater than 60%.

That means if you’re like the typical worker you spend more than three hours a day attempting to persuade others! Over the course your career you’ll spend upwards of 40,000 hours engaged in the act of persuasion at work!!

So let me ask this – if you’re going to do something for at least three hours a day, 40,000 hours over a lifetime (and that doesn’t include time persuading your spouse, kids and others outside of work), wouldn’t it be wise to understand how to do it to the best of your ability? Put another way, can you afford not to become more skilled at persuasion? There’s a lot at stake at work and at home when it comes to perfecting your persuasion skills so I encourage you to tune in next week to find out more.