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Influence Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

746: How to Foster Deep Connection and Influence with Zoe Chance

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Zoe Chance shares heartwarming, powerful, and practical advice for building relationships and getting people to say yes to you.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The one thing that motivates people more than money 
  2. How to exude more warmth and likability
  3. The one question that helps you get along with anyone 

About Zoe

Zoe Chance is a writer, teacher, researcher, and climate philanthropist. She’s obsessed with the topic of interpersonal influence and her science-based book is called Influence Is Your Superpower: The Science of Winning Hearts, Sparking Change, and Making Good Things Happen. It is being published in more than 20 languages. Zoe earned her doctorate from Harvard and now teaches the most popular course at Yale School of Management (Mastering Influence and Persuasion). Her research is published in top academic journals and covered in global media outlets. She speaks on television and around the world, and her framework for behavior change is the foundation for Google’s global food policy. Before joining academia, Zoe managed a $200 million segment of the Barbie brand, helped out with political campaigns, and worked in jobs like door-to-door sales and telemarketing. She lives with her family in New Haven, CT.

Resources Mentioned

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Zoe Chance Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Zoe, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Zoe Chance
Thank you so much, Pete. Great to meet you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, you, too. You, too. I’m excited to dig into your wisdom about influence and how we can be all more awesome at our job doing that. I want to hear about one of your first jobs, cleaning audiobook covers with a toothbrush. What is the whole story here?

Zoe Chance
This was my very first job out of college. I had a degree from one of the top liberal art schools in the country, Harverford College, and I was so excited to set the world on fire but it’s actually really hard to find a job when you don’t have experience, and the job I could get hired for was working in a factory, cleaning the covers of audiobooks with a toothbrush. And the benefit of that job, the upside was that you get to listen to audiobooks, which I enjoyed, but this was one day, Pete.

And then at the end of the day, my boss says, “You know, Zoe, you did a really great job, and I bet it won’t take longer than three months or so before I can promote you up to the mailroom.” And I just left with my spirit crushed and I’m so embarrassed I ghosted them and I just never went back.

Pete Mockaitis
So, like this is one day?

Zoe Chance
Yeah. It was such an ego blow as a new college grad to be like, “Only three more months and then you can make it the lowest rung on the totem pole of the mailroom.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess I’m curious to know if they’re fresh off the factory line, why are they dirty enough to need a toothbrush cleaning?

Zoe Chance
You know what, Pete, you don’t want to know. They’re not fresh. Oh, sorry. No, no, no, they’re not fresh off the line. These were rented audiobooks. So, especially people who were doing long drives, like truckers and stuff would rent and return audiobooks.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, you like ketchup from the fries.

Zoe Chance
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood.

Zoe Chance
Hard jobs are so much harder than like… all blue-collar jobs, and I’ve had multiple, many of them are just so much harder than all white-collar jobs.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I hear that. Well, thank you for sharing. And you have gone up a few ranks since the mailroom so you’re now a top writer, teacher, researcher when it comes to influence. So, I’m curious to hear what’s one of the most surprising, counterintuitive, fascinating discoveries you’ve made about us humans when it comes to influence over the course of your career?

Zoe Chance
I’ve had a lot of surprises. One of the most surprising is that by reading these secret journals that students keep for my class, I’ve been teaching at Yale for a decade, and I teach the most popular class, and I’ve had hundreds of students share these journals with me in which they reflect on their insights and apprehensions and experiences with influence. What I’ve learned is it doesn’t matter how successful you are, almost everyone is uncomfortable with influence.

And this is also from conversations with executives and activists and politicians, almost all of us feel uncomfortable having to advocate for ourselves, to ask for what we want, and especially in some domains more than others, and this is even some of the wealthiest people on earth, sort of the first big thing is interpersonal influence is deeply uncomfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fascinating. Well, I was just talking to a master salesperson yesterday, Shane from a Kwame Christian’s podcast organization – shoutout – another guest on the show, and it’s so funny because I sure get the impression, he loves…he just eats up the interpersonal influence, and I don’t know maybe he’s the exception, you said almost everyone. Or, is it that those who love it are also uncomfortable with it, kind of like the nerves of public speaking and the thrill of the chase at the same time?

Zoe Chance
What I found is that most people, even if their whole job is influence, interpersonal influence, maybe they work in sales or lobbying or fundraising and are very successful at it and they love their job, but maybe it’s their daughter that they’re having conflict with and they feel really uncomfortable asking her to do her homework, clean the dishes, something like that. Or, it might be they’re uncomfortable…

I was talking to someone who is so wealthy, that he’s on lists of wealthy people, just last week, who was saying that in business it’s easy for him to ask, but when he goes to a restaurant, he would never send his food back because that makes him uncomfortable to create extra work for the people who are working at the restaurant. Many of us have comfort in work-type of domains but we’re uncomfortable in romantic situations. It’s hard for us to make a pass at someone or request something from our partner, things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is intriguing. And, in some ways, I could think about if this wealthy person happened to be like a CEO-ish type role being a steward of the shareholders’ money, basically, is kind of like what you’re doing there, you can sort of feel emboldened. I’m just totally projecting into the role of a CEO, I don’t know.

Zoe Chance
I love it. Keep going. Keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ll just speculate away. You can feel emboldened, like, “Well, hey, this is kind of like my duty. I’ll do the best I can for my shareholders and for my team whose bonuses are all tied into the share price, but sending my food back, I mean, that’s just for me. Like, I’m going to make their job harder just so that I can eat something a little tastier. Like, who do I think I am? Come on.”

Zoe Chance
Yeah, I think that you’re absolutely right, and I didn’t mean to be weird or secretive. So, the guy is Ed Mylett, who’s a motivational speaker and an entrepreneur. And I’m absolutely certain that what you’re saying about CEOs applies to most people where it’s easier for us to advocate for ourselves when what we’re doing is benefiting others. That’s what you’re saying overall, right? Yeah, absolutely.

And what he was saying, Ed was saying that he was uncomfortable in a situation where there’s no reciprocity and he can’t repay someone. So, in a business context, often we can say, like, “Hey, could you do this thing for me and I can do this thing for you?” But he’s saying, “What could I possibly do for the waiter? Or, definitely maybe I can tip them. What can I possibly do for the chef that has to remake the meal? Nothing, so I’m uncomfortable asking for that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I hear you. Okay.

Zoe Chance
Well, can I ask you, Pete, if there’s some…and, obviously, you don’t have to tell us, but is there some area of your life that’s uncomfortable to advocate for yourself in?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. You know, it’s so funny, I feel…I hope none of my landlords are listening to this. We’re temporarily renting as we moved to Tennessee less than a year ago and we’re getting our bearings, and I also have an office space that I’m renting. And I’ve been on both sides of the equation in terms of as a tenant and a landlord, and I know, as a landlord, not that I lash out viciously at anybody, but as a landlord, I think of my investment in the property the same way as I think of my investment in like mutual funds or other things that are completely passive.

And so, as a result, every time a tenant has a request, which is totally fair and normal and reasonable and should be dealt with, I’m kind of irritated. And it’s not their fault, it’s my fault for, I guess, being selfish or just looking at it a little differently, like, “Hey, Pete, real estate is a little bit different than a mutual fund, so re-align your expectations or get your property manager to do more of the heavier lifting instead of bouncing these things to me.”

So, anyway, given that, when I’m a tenant and there’s something that’s a little off, like, “Oh, there are some ants here,” and it’s sort of like, “Well, I don’t want to inconvenience them about the ants.” And maybe it’s my fault because I should’ve done a better job of cleaning up my crumbs. There weren’t very many crumbs but there’s more than zero, and so I guess I’m at least partially to blame for these ants so I really don’t want to be like, “Hey, so take care of the ants.”

And I don’t know what I fear. Is it that they’ll be like, “Well, hey, stop being a slob with your food then we wouldn’t have an ant problem,” or, “Are you seriously inconveniencing me with your ant business? Like, don’t be a whiny little baby and smash the ants like a man”? I don’t know. But I am uncomfortable advocating for myself as a tenant to a landlord unless it’s really like, “Hey, straight up, your pipe is frozen and you need to know about that, so that’s what’s going on.”

Zoe Chance
That’s an amazing example. And just about anybody listening can relate to that on at least one side of the equation. And, yeah, it’s just so deeply human that we just don’t want to inconvenience each other, and also, frankly, we don’t want to be inconvenienced. But the frame of, “I think of my investment in rental property as like an investment in a mutual fund even though I am not a landlord” just makes a lot of sense. It makes a lot of sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. Well, now you got me curious, how about yourself?

Zoe Chance
Oh, gosh, I was so uncomfortable asking for blurbs for this book that I’ve just written, and the person I was most scared to ask, I was scared to ask everyone because you are asking these incredibly successful people you admire to not just write something down for you and give you their super valuable social capital, but you’re implying that they should read this book that will take like 10 hours of their life for free. And, oh, my God, the person I was most scared to ask was Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker.

Pete Mockaitis
I was like, “That’s Luke Skywalker, yeah.”

Zoe Chance
Luke Skywalker, and it was so hard to get the opportunity to ask him, and I got to have a half-hour Zoom call with Mark Hamill. And on this Zoom call, he doesn’t know why we’re having a Zoom call and he’s telling these amazing stories, and I’m so scared to ask that it gets to the half an hour and I literally haven’t said anything. He’s just been telling incredible stories and doing voices of like, oh, my gosh, he did Han Solo and The Joker. He’s a voice artist. And I was so scared, I haven’t said anything.

He was nice enough to stay on. I finally did ask him, and he very gently didn’t say yes, so I don’t have a blurb from Mark Hamill. But I think there was this just deep shame in asking for the most valuable thing from the people I most admire in the world, to ask them for so much time.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s so cool. Well, now I’m so curious, how did you get Mark Hamill to agree to spend a half hour with you?

Zoe Chance
So, I used every single social tie that I had, and the best thing that I had come up with so far was a friend who was the therapy client of Mark Hamill’s brother, but I was very uncomfortable using that. And then, actually, Mark Hamill posted a tweet. He’s an amazing tweeter and everyone should follow him even if you don’t like Star Wars. He posted a tweet saying that he was doing a charity auction for a Zoom call and it happened to be for my alma mater, USC, where I went to school, and they had given me a scholarship.

And I hadn’t actually ever donated money to USC so I ended up making sure that I won the charity auction and I gave $4,000 to USC for their scholarship fund so that I could have the Zoom meeting with Mark Hamill. And can I just share something that’s unrelated to this but my book?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it, yeah.

Zoe Chance
So, in my book, one of the messages that I talk about in the negotiation chapter is the idea of value-creation through three specific questions. And I know your listeners want to have tactical advice so this is a mindset of “How can I create value and long-term, lasting relationships that are fruitful on all sides?” So, a negotiation is just a conversation that leads to something more than whatever was on the table. It’s not just yes or no. There’s nothing complicated about a negotiation but most people don’t think of opportunities for negotiating because it’s just, “Do you want to do this thing, yes or no?”

So, the three value-creation questions, listeners, are, number one, “How could the situation be even better for me?” Number two, “How could it be even better for them?” And, number three, “Who else could benefit?” So, I have this opportunity to get to speak with Mark Hamill, and, already, so he’s one of my heroes. I’ve idolized him since I was three years old, and the movie came out, and it was my first movie. He’s been my hero. So, just getting to have this time is just beyond a dream come true. I’m going to ask him for a book blurb. We’ll see if that works.

I also want to see, “How could this be even better for Mark than me just showing up, random person, that he gets to talk to?” That’s not so exciting. So, I reached out on Twitter and to my Facebook friends, and said, “Hey, I have this opportunity to meet with Mark Hamill. I’m going to bring one person with me and, also, I want to bring him a video love letter. So, anyone who wants to send a 10-second clip of your message to Mark Hamill. He doesn’t respond to DMs, he’s very hard to reach, but we can send him a collective love letter.”

So, I curated this video of a whole bunch of short clips of people from all over the world sending love to Mark Hamill, just to have this be a more fun experience for him. And his wife was on the call, and she came and she watched it. It was so sweet. They loved it. And it was very hard to choose someone to bring with me but I ended up deciding, like kind of almost at the last minute, to bring a hero of mine, named Cass Sunstein who’s a behavioral researcher, who’s written a book called The World According to Star Wars.

I had never met Cass, and he posted on Twitter a link about his book and he tagged Mark Hamill. And I just reached out and I was, “Hey, Cass, I’m Zoe. I’m a big fan of your work. Have you ever met Mark Hamill?” He says no but he’s met George Lucas. And I said, “Would you like to?” So, I brought Cass Sunstein on this call with me, and he was working in the White House at the time on the Homeland Security team and another team doing creating awesomeness for Joe Biden.

So, Mark Hamill will be excited to get to meet Cass who’s written a whole book about him, and he’s coming in from the White House. Cass is excited to get to meet Mark Hamill. A whole bunch of us are excited to get to share our love with Mark Hamill, and his wife gets to come and see this beautiful montage that I’ve created. This didn’t come to the sort of tactically successful conclusion that I was dreaming of, of Mark saying yes to blurbing my book, although he said, “Send it to me and I’ll think about it,” and then he just politely ghosted me. It’s okay, Mark, I totally forgive you.

But it was such a win-win situation for everybody. It was fun, it was an honor, I got to actually now make friends with Cass Sunstein and we’re doing two events together next month, and it’s just great. So, I set up the situation so that it couldn’t fail. Whether Mark said yes or no, there was no possibility of failure. And I also had a lot of fun.

So, the value-creation question is to reinforce, “How could it be better for me?” I got to meet Cass. “How could it be better for them?” Mark gets to meet Cass and get this love letter. And, “How could it benefit other people?” It benefits Cass and the rest of everyone who contributed. So, that’s just one example of how we can create collaborative deals rather than trying to claim all of this value, and just use each other to tactically get what we want.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. And the notion of “How can it be better for others?” is cool in that it just makes it more fun and feel good both for you and for them in terms of, “Okay, yeah, and your customers are going to like this even more,” or, “And the readers of the blog or the podcast or whatever will dig it.” And so that just feels good in terms of not only are third parties being enriched, and, hey, that’s cool for them. It’s also, I think, really does good for your relationship there. It’s like, “Hey, we have partnered and collaborated to do something good for people,” and that just releases all kinds of feel-good, I don’t know, neurotransmitters, hormones in the body.

Zoe Chance
Yeah, those are really important. And the sociological thing that we’ve done is we’re moving away from transactional norms to communal norms where it’s really important in this that you’re not saying, “I will do this great thing for you if you do this great thing for me.” That’s another thing that’s fine. We can do that in deal-making, and we do, but to shift to the dopamine, oxytocin, great neurotransmitter situation where you have a relationship with this person where we’re not beam counting and horse trading is to just say, “Hey, how could I make this better for you?”

And there are some things that I could easily do, it’s something that you do, Pete, is posting all of these links for each of the podcast interviews that you have, and there’s no reason for you to do that but you’re just saying, “Hey, listeners can benefit from the links that I share. And all of the people who I’m linking to, they can benefit too. So, why would I not do that?” But a lot of people don’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s true. It does take more work but I guess I just always think about myself in the listener’s shoes, like, “I want that thing but I don’t know where to find that thing.” And I’ve had multiple experiences of hearing something on a podcast, like, “Oh, that’s cool.” And so, I Google it for 20 minutes, and it’s like, “I got nothing. I want to know more about that thing but it’s nowhere to be found so I guess I’m done.” It’s rare that I’d have the gumption to be like, “Hey, podcaster, you said this thing and I need it.” Well, thank you. I appreciate that.

Zoe Chance
And you’re making it easy for them to get that. And I have a whole chapter, well, half chapter, in my book about ease, because ease is the most powerful force of influence. If there’s only one thing that you take away, listeners, to this episode that you might do differently in your life is make it as easy as possible for the other person to follow through on whatever it is that you’re requesting or inviting them to do. Ease is more influential than motivation or price or quality or satisfaction.

And for nerds, there’s a metric that you can look up and maybe, Pete, you’ll link it here, there are Harvard cases and stuff that you can look at. Actually, for the link, there’s a book called The Effortless Experience, which is for real nerds.

Pete Mockaitis
Nice name.

Zoe Chance
Yeah, it’s great. And the metric is called the customer effort score. It’s basically a question that says, “How easy was it for you to do that thing that you wanted to do?” that one metric explains 30% of word of mouth and 30% of willingness to continue to do business with the company.

For customers who say it was very difficult to do the thing they wanted to do, there’s an 80% chance they’ll spread negative word of mouth. For customers who say it was very easy to do what they wanted to do, there is only a 1% chance that they will spread negative word of mouth, and that’s independent of the actual outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
That really resonates because I was refinancing a mortgage and I found a really great rate and I was excited about it. But then, oh, my gosh, this took maybe three months to get done and I kind of prompted him a few times and that really got him off there off their butts it seems, I said, “Hey, you know what, I just met a dude, Justin, like him a lot, he does mortgages. I think he’s hustling, I think he’s actually going to get this done, so I’m going to kind of switch over.” Like, “No, no, don’t, please. No.” So, that kind of got him into gear.

And so, even though I got my great rate and it’s working, I don’t feel great about them, and I have said bad things, it’s like, “Hey, man, I got a great price but they were really obnoxious, so I guess it was worth it, time, money, swap, but it wasn’t fun.”

Zoe Chance
You know what, Pete, so I just moved last year and my refinance was so difficult that I finally just took money out of my retirement account and bought the house in cash.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding?

Zoe Chance
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Zoe Chance
That’s how deeply I feel your pain.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that is potent and you get to that point, and I got to that point a few times, just like, “Just forget it.” And I always say, “Okay, Pete, let’s take a look. It’s been frustrating but just how many hours have you spent and how many more hours could you possibly have to spend, okay? And how many dollars are we saving? That’s a great ratio, Pete. That’s better than just about anything else you do in your business so, like, take another step forward and keep it going.” But I had to like coax myself multiple times to not just throw my hands in the air.

Zoe Chance
Right. You did the right thing. I did the stupid thing where I was just so angry, I couldn’t spend any more time on the refinance, and I’ve no idea how many thousands of dollars that ended up costing me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I appreciate your humility and your willingness to share. Well, so, ease, that’s a huge takeaway. Your book, it’s called Influence Is Your Superpower, we’ve already gotten a couple delightful nuggets. Is there sort of a core theme or big idea associated with the book you want to make sure to put out there?

Zoe Chance
The big idea of the book is that, in addition to make it as easy as possible, so if you just had one takeaway, it’s that. The big idea of the book is that what our goal should be in influencing other human beings is that they want to say yes to us. Our goal should not be that we get the thing that we’re asking for, that’s a short-term win, and the long-term win is that they want to say yes to us. They may not be able to, it might not happen, we might not get that thing in this moment that we want, but we’re building long-term relationships that are much more valuable over time. And I tell loads of stories about that.

The fear that we have about asking is that we will be making people uncomfortable and they won’t want to say yes to us, but when you have a good relationship with somebody, they want to say yes to you even if you’re asking them to come and deal with the ants or whatever that is. And you know that from the people that you have relationships with.

So, to make this practical, something that you can put into action, just focus, keenly, keenly, keenly on expressing warmth before you focus on anything else. The way our brains are designed, we have judgments of each other on two dimensions, which are warmth and competence. The warmth judgments happen first, they’re more powerful, and they’re stickier. This is especially important for us right now because we don’t get to spend as much time in face-to-face interactions when it’s easier to be expressing and perceiving warmth.

It’s actually hard not to like somebody that we’re spending time with if they’re being friendly to us, but, say, when we’re writing messages to each other, people tend to read less warmth than we intended into our written messages and they read more aggression or rank or insults than we intend. So, when we’re writing, especially we need to be very, very intentional about expressing warmth in our messages. It’s a good idea on all of our communications though.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow. Well, these are some big ideas that are hugely doable. And, Zoe, you do a great job of expressing warmth, and it’s interesting, because we were chatting just a few minutes before I pushed record. And it’s funny, I just thought, “Oh, well, she’s just so wonderful, wonderfully delightfully warm person.” That’s just who you are in your personality.

Zoe Chance
I am.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, you got that going for sure, so you got that going for you. But, now, you got me wondering, like, “Hmm, so is this something that you’ve studied and practiced and mastered?” So, this is learnable. How do we do that?

Zoe Chance
Yeah, so it is absolutely sincere and it absolutely didn’t come naturally.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Zoe Chance
I was so shy and nerdy as a child. I couldn’t communicate with anybody and that’s why I got interested in our whole field of communication. I had a theory that my voice was the same timbre as the ambient sounds of the universe, and that’s why people spoke over me and couldn’t hear me when I talked. That’s how nerdy I was.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I was thinking the totally opposite, “Thus, you have tremendous power.”

Zoe Chance
Oh, no. People literally couldn’t hear it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Ambient like you’re just ignorable because it blends into everything else. Okay.

Zoe Chance
Yeah, exactly, just background noise. And so, I liked people but I didn’t know that you actually need to express your liking to people. I thought it was enough to just feel my liking of people. And it was through acting training and learning to emote and to express emotions that I was able to train myself to express the warm feelings that I do have in my heart.

Also, though, I’ve trained myself to like people more than I used to just naturally because I wasn’t thinking of it. You’re not always…just there are lots of things you’re doing in the world besides liking people. But when I was a teenager, my mom’s friend, Eileen, was married to a diplomat, and I wanted to be Eileen because she was so cool, and she threw great parties, she went to all these parties, she had cool clothes and jewelry, and her husband, the diplomat, knew how to drive like James Bond because, I guess, they train you to do that if you’re an ambassador.

Pete Mockaitis
Just in case you need it.

Zoe Chance
Yeah, you have to. So, they were the coolest people in our life. And, Eileen, I think I was like 13, and she said, “Zoe, all you need to do to succeed in life is learn how to find one thing to like about each person that you talk to.” And she had to deal with some very difficult, difficult to like people, and she said, “The way you do it is by asking them questions. And then if you can’t find something to like by asking them questions, you just look at them, and even if it’s just their earrings, you like that.”

So, what happens when you’re looking around in a world at the people that you’re interacting with, and you’re looking for things to like, is that you become very curious about them, you get to know them more deeply, and it’s this incredibly fun and pleasurable way to live where you’re just noticing and appreciating all these wonderful things about people.

So, again, it’s absolutely sincere. I’m not conscious of…actually, I’m really not very conscious of expressing warmth now, and I’m really not conscious unless it’s a difficult situation of trying to find something to like. I just get to do these things habitually, and that’s really important about all these things that I’m teaching in my book about influence, that it’s work to practice new skills but any new skill, through practice, becomes habitual, and then it becomes effortless.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so much there. So, we’re looking for something to like, and then, as sort of a mindset and an ongoing process, okay.

Zoe Chance
And then expressing warmth so that they know that you like them.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And so, for looking for something to like, are there any key…? Well, one thing, it’s nice when you have a goal, “Okay, I’m looking for one thing,” so it’s not overwhelming. It’s like, “Oh, I can’t.” It’s like, “You can find one thing, okay.” And then you can default to a surface-level appearance-y thing if you have to, like earrings. Tell me, are there particular super questions that tend to surface stuff that you like? Or, I guess, does this often follow any predictable patterns?

Zoe Chance
There’s a really deep question that you can ask and if they will have the conversation with you, almost guaranteed that you’ll like them no matter what. And this is from my close friend, Lalin Anik’s TED Talk, and the question is, “What’s in your heart?” It’s impossible not to like someone who answers that question for you.

That’s not the first question, usually, that you ask people, but she, actually, in her TED Talk, shows a video where she just went on a street and she just asked strangers, “What’s in your heart?” and they shared it with her. So, it really is a question that you can ask of a stranger on the airplane if you’re actually flying these days. It’s a question that you can ask in a difficult conversation or an argument that can shift the course of the argument. This is my favorite question.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And I guess that can…that really has a lot of different flavors based on the context in terms of like “What’s in your heart?” As we’re talking now, what’s in my heart is I just want people to have the thrill of discovering some powerful knowledge they can use to make their experience of life and work all the more enjoyable, both from results that they’re creating, like, “Ooh, yeah, look at that thing I did,” as well as from just the pure fun and pleasure of doing so over the limited hours we have on this planet.

Zoe Chance
Pete, I felt that so deeply that I got actually tears in my eyes.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, shucks.

Zoe Chance
Yeah, I’ve never met anyone that I didn’t like even more, even if I already like them if you asked them that question. So, anyone listening, what if you’re at the dinner table next time or a meeting with your team, and you just ask that question, “What’s in your heart?” It’s so powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
And, Zoe, if I may, what’s in your heart?

Zoe Chance
I’m feeling so surprised and so grateful to be having such a deep conversation with you right now. I was imagining that we’d be mostly focusing on very specific practical stuff that I’m happy to talk about always, but this is…yeah, it’s next level and I’m full of gratitude.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, shucks. Well, thank you. This feels very happy. And I think, though, those principles associated with expressing warmth, finding what’s something that you like, and then making things easy, are specifically and hugely valuable. And then there’s also very many different ways they can manifest and particulars.
Well, let’s dig into the ease a little bit. Can you tell us either do you have a specific checklist or series of tactics on how to make things easier or a cool story that illustrates a number of ways we can boost ease?

Zoe Chance
I have just a really simple example to give everybody the idea that you don’t have to make these things complicated, although what you’re focusing on is making it easy for the other person. And now that we’re talking about all these, I’m focusing on the lowest-hanging fruit here, and if you end up reading the book, you’ll see tons of strategies for more complicated things, like developing charisma, and negotiating, and stuff like that.

But for ease, I had a guy named Conor, who was in a workshop that I taught, who runs a speaker series, it’s a speaking business in Ireland, and he heard me say, “Make it as easy as possible.” Do you know someone named Conor who does…?

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve met a Conor who’s from Ireland who has a speaking business.

Zoe Chance
Do you remember his last name?

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve seen him speak like twice. He talked about, “Give it some gab, goals, attitudes, and behaviors, and beliefs.” I don’t know if that’s the same guy.

Zoe Chance
So, this Conor’s group, I think it’s called The Executive Institute but I have to look all of this up. So, anyway, Conor – love you – he went back to his team, and he said, “Listen, the way that our business makes a profit is to have attendees become repeat attendees, and we need to make it as easy as possible for them to come back. And what we’re doing so far is email outreach, just like everyone does, and we make the announcement and everything, we give them flyers, and then follow up by email.”

But he said, “How about this? Let’s put a flyer in everyone’s chair that just has checkboxes where you can check which talks you would like to come back to, and then we follow up by email to say, ‘Hey, you said you wanted to do this talk.’” And so, making that first step of expressing interest as easy as, “Just check the box and then drop the paper off,” they increased their profits that year from this one intervention by 11% for their company.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, with dropping some papers on seats, I mean, that’s huge. And I’m thinking about church, there’s this in Catholic churches in the US, there’s something called the Annual Diocesan Appeal in which the diocese, the grouping in a city or wherever, appeals to all the individual churches, saying, “Hey, support this stuff that helps the multiple churches and programs across the whole region.”

And so, it’s interesting, like I’ve seen it done so many different ways, where you say, “Hey, you’re asking for money, to make a commitment,” and I found, I don’t have the data at hand, but it’s just massively different in terms of if you just say, “Hey, you know, there are some envelopes over there, you can grab them on your way out or on the sides of the chairs and pews, and fill them out,” versus there’s one in every row, and, “I’m now going to walk you through what’s on the envelope.”

And, of course, it’s annoying for all of us and we don’t want to spend our time doing that, but effective in terms of it is unignorable, like, “Oh, yeah, maybe I’ll remember and I’ll get to that.” It’s like, “No, no, I’m making a decision now. I choose to give money or I choose not to give money now, and there’s no kind of, ‘Yeah, maybe later-ish.’” It’s forcing that, and I’ve heard that it’s striking, the results, in terms of what that does.

And now I’m thinking about apps and how I really love it, and it’s, frankly, maybe just laziness and toddlers and distractions, I really love it when I don’t have to enter an email address or a password to get going on an app versus it just goes. I like that a lot.

Zoe Chance
Yeah, and absolutely you use those apps more. Duolingo did studies to understand what’s the perfect level of effort to keep people engaged in learning the languages that they want to learn, and they published something that, essentially, said, the least effort possible. So, make it as easy as possible, and then people will come back. They thought that people wanted a challenge because we’re trying to learn something, and they found out, “Nope, just make it as easy as possible, the best thing you can do.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I would imagine, once again me speculating on their behalf, you want it as easy as possible, but you also want to feel some progress. Like, if you made it super easy, like, “Oh, I tapped ‘Oui’ and ‘Bonjour’ 30 times. Okay, I haven’t actually learned anything but that was super easy.”

Zoe Chance
Yeah, they give you that sense of progress, they also make it fun. There are some little unexpected things that pop up. Yeah, they do a lot really, really well. So, something super weird that has nothing to do with our conversation except that it’s about Duolingo is that I just learned that when the Squid Game came out and got super popular on Netflix, Netflix was having such a big cultural impact with this one show that Duolingo’s request for Korean went up by 40%.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog.

Zoe Chance
Isn’t that so cool?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s wild.

Zoe Chance
And because it’s so easy to learn a language on Duolingo, that’s where everybody went.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow. I feel like I should take a second look at Duolingo. It’s great stuff. Well, Zoe, this is so much fun, but tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear quickly about a few of your favorite things?

Zoe Chance
Yeah, one of the things that I encourage you to do, especially because you’re – this is to listeners – someone who listens to shows like this, as I do, trying to better yourself and improve yourself and succeed, you create so much work and so much burdens in your self-improvement that I challenge you, if you’re up for it, to do 24 hours of no.

The 24-hour no challenge is to say no to every single person who asks you for something for the next 24 hours. And it could be small, it could be big, professional, personal, maybe you want to say yes, maybe you don’t. The caveat is don’t ruin your life. So, if you’ve got a dream job offer, or your sweetie proposes to you, don’t be like, “No!”

And you can change your mind. You have the right to change your mind always, just like everyone does, but experience what it feels like to say no, and experience what it feels like to see how they react. And then if you want to then or later, next day, a year from now, you can change your mind. This simple challenge can be life changing and thousands of people that I’ve taught have found it life changing. And I don’t even want to give the takeaways because it’s something that you have to experience for yourself. So, whatever you think it will be like, I predict that you’ll have some surprises.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Zoe Chance
My favorite, favorite quote is from Pauli Murray. She’s an American feminist, black, lawyer, legal scholar, she wrote arguments for Brown versus the Board of Education, and yet, she faced such racism that even after doing that, she couldn’t get a legal job, and she worked as a typist for a white feminist Betty Friedan.

Pauli Murray said, “When my brothers draw a line to keep me out, I just draw a bigger circle to keep them in.” To me, this is the perfect description of what inclusivity means and how hard it is.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Zoe Chance
My favorite study, I really hope is true. We’ve talked about replications and this was just published in a book not in an academic journal, but it’s a study by Richard Wiseman who’s a psychologist in the UK who wrote a great book called The Luck Factor. What he did was recruit people who said they were really, really lucky, and people who said they were really, really unlucky, but it was in a long survey, and I had no idea why he was recruiting them.

He brings them to the lab, and he’s trying to study how does luck happen. When they come to the lab, he gives them a section of a newspaper, and says, “Count the photographs and then tell me how many there are.” So, the unlucky people look through the section of the newspaper, they count the photographs, and they come back and they say, “There are 16 photographs.” “Okay, great” and they move onto the next part of the study.

The lucky people who told him they were really lucky noticed the half-page ad in the section of the newspaper that says, “Mention this ad to the experimenter for a chance to win £500.” They were luckier. They were right when they said that they were luckier people. But my interpretation, at least, it’s not that God was making them luckier, but they were more open to opportunities around them.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is so good. Thank you. And a favorite book?

Zoe Chance
My favorite book is called Love Does, it’s by Bob Goff. This is a Christian book, but when I first read it, I was not religious at all. And so, if you’re not Christian, I don’t think you’ll find it annoying. Bob Goff is the most audacious and inspiring asker I’ve ever come across. And for anyone who reads that book, go to the chapter called “The Interviews” and it will blow your mind.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Zoe Chance
I love my reMarkable tablet that I’ve been taking notes in during this conversation. I’m an absent-minded professor, and I use all these notebooks and papers, and lose my stuff, but I don’t lose it anymore, and I feel lost without it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit, something you do to become awesome at your job?

Zoe Chance
When I’m writing, I need to clear my mind before writing, and I’ve developed a technique that I call “My Nietzsche Journal.” Nietzsche, the philosopher, said that the purpose of being human is to become someone who does not deny, so to rid ourselves of self-deception. And when I’m sitting down to clear my mind, I just write a whole page of one-line prompts that start, “I do not deny. I do not deny. I do not deny,” and I just get all the stuff, all the junk, out of my brain.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget that you share that people quote you on often?

Zoe Chance
Probably the ease one, that the bedrock principle of influence is that people tend to follow the path of least resistance.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Zoe Chance
Please come on over to my website www.ZoeChance.com. That’s Z-O-E-C-H-A-N-C-E.com. And there’s book, newsletter, other fun stuff, and silly stories and things like that. I would love to be friends.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Zoe Chance
I think I’ll just double-down on the 24 hours of no challenge but I gave them already because I don’t want to be heaping up more homework on them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Zoe, this has been a delight. Thank you. I wish you much luck with your book Influence Is Your Superpower and all of your adventures.

Zoe Chance
Thank you so much. And I look forward to following your podcast so I can be more awesome at my job.

739: Greater Happiness and Success through the Principles of Influence with Brian Ahearn

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Brian discusses how influence really boils down to investing in people.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The secret to liking and being liked 
  2. How to use contrast to be more persuasive
  3. How to use LinkedIn to create real-life connections 

About Brian

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An international trainer and consultant, he specializes in applying the science of influence in everyday situations. He is one of only a dozen individuals in the world who holds the Cialdini Method Certified Trainer designation. 

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the Top 100 Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His LinkedIn courses have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.  

Resources Mentioned

Brian Ahearn Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Brian, welcome back to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Brian Ahearn
Thank you for having me on, Pete. I appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear some more wisdom about influence coming out of your book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness. But, first, I think we need to hear a little bit about for your wife’s 52nd birthday, you had quite…you orchestrated quite the gifting situation. Tell us the story.

Brian Ahearn
I did. I like to give unique gifts to my wife. And when she turned 52, I thought, “What can I do?” It’s not a birthday that people typically celebrate. And when I asked people, “What do you think of with the number 52?” most often I hear them say, “That’s the number of cards in a deck of cards.” True. But there’s also 52 weeks in a year. So, my gift to her was a gift a week for the entire year. So, every weekend, whether on Saturday or Sunday, I had a gift for her to open up.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we’re talking about a physical item?

Brian Ahearn
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog.

Brian Ahearn
Every week there was something that was wrapped that she got an opportunity to unwrap, and it was a surprise.

Pete Mockaitis
How do you even think of 52 relevant…? Give us some examples. Well, it’s tricky, my anniversary, wife’s birthday, and Christmas come all in the month of December, so I’ve really got to be thinking ahead of the game, like, “Okay, which gifts for which occasion?” And I find it challenging. So, you’ve done 52 of them. What’s the trick?

Brian Ahearn
Yeah. Well, the trick was, one, I was a good listener, paid attention to the things that she was saying. And then, two, I incorporated the help of a daughter because sometimes we’d go to the mall, and she might say, “Oh, mom wants eyeshadow but she just didn’t want to get it for herself. She thought it was a little bit expensive,” so I would pick it up.

And what I did, Pete, was I always had anywhere from five to eight gifts at the ready. So, I kept them in a bin and I would bring them upstairs from the basement, and then she could shake the boxes and choose the one that she wanted. So, I was never under pressure, like, “Oh, my gosh, what am I going to get her this week?” So, my daughter was a huge help. And between that, we just got some momentum. And the more I did it, actually the easier it got.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I imagine, with any skill, there is building and development. It kind of reminds me of doing a podcast. You’ve got to be a few episodes ahead, and then it just flows. Like, new people booked, and then we just keep that chain moving, 700 plus episodes in.

Brian Ahearn
And you don’t have to spend a lot. It really becomes the thought that counts and the uniqueness of things. So, as an example, my wife is the handyman around the house. She does almost all of the repairs. She enjoys that challenge. One time, I got her a hanging light so that if she was under the sink or somewhere, that she could just bring that light and she could hang it. And she thought, “That is so cool. I wouldn’t have gotten that for myself.”

So, there was really odd and unique things, but it was every week. It was fun when I would bring that bin up, and I will say on the positive side, as a husband, you’ll relate to this, if you’re having a bad week, you could always say, “Hey, I got you a gift.” It made everything better.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ll keep that in mind. All right. Well, you’ve got another book here, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness. You went with a parable style this time. What’s your thinking there?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I love teaching people about the psychology of persuasion, the science of influence, and I was well aware, after having written my first two books, that there are some people who will not pick up a heavy business/psychology book, which my first book Influence PEOPLE was. And then there are some people will never pick up the sales book, because they’ll say, “Well, I’m not in sales so I’m not going to pick that book up.”

And I wanted to reach a wider audience, and I thought, “Well, most people like stories, and the business parable seems to be a very popular genre,” so I decided I would give my hand a try at writing that. And I had extra time, we were all locked down for quite a while, and so I used that time productively to write in a story format.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so tell us, for diehard fans of How to be Awesome at Your Job, who have heard you here three times, I think you’re the only one who’s been here four times, so kudos. I just love influence and I love the way you talk about it, so here we are. What’s something you can share about influence that we haven’t heard in the first three occasions? And, yeah, lay it on us.

Brian Ahearn
Okay. Well, one story that really stands out to me is around a character named Al Harris. So, let me back up and say that the lead character in the book, John Andrews, you meet him when he’s born, you learn a little about his family, he was off to college, learns a little bit about influence in a Psych 101 class, but doesn’t really get it until he gets out in the work world. And when he gets his job, he starts learning from coaches, mentors, and clients, and really begins to see the application of influence.

And one of the people that he meets is Al Harris. Now, Al was based on a real person, Al Janette that I have known for more than 30 years. And almost every character in the book has its basis in somebody who had an impact on my life. So, in the story, our lead character, John, meets Al. He’s at his medical facility, and when they go to lunch, he’s courting him as a prospective client.

He says, “Al, I got to ask you something because I’ve been to a lot of medical facilities before, but yours really has a family atmosphere. What is it? What’s different about your office?” And Al says, “Well, I’m going to let you in on something I don’t tell everybody. I’m alcoholic and I try to hire people who are on the path to recovery.” And, of course, John is a little bit shocked because this guy doesn’t seem he’d be alcoholic, and so they start to have this conversation.

And what Al explains to him is that people, if they can overcome the disease, he feels like working in the medical facility will be easy for them, and he wants to give them a sense of purpose, and give them some feelings that maybe they hadn’t had before, and so he brings them in. And what John learns is the principle of unity because Al lets him know that, “When I’m helping another alcoholic, it’s almost like I’m helping myself. And when that other alcoholic succeeds, or helps me, it’s almost like I’m succeeding and they’re helping themselves. So, we have this unity.”

And it goes from his head to his heart, that is John, he really, all of a sudden, is like, “I get it now that this deep, deep connection that you have with other people,” which Cialdini calls the principle of unity, and I really learned that from my friend Al because, about three years ago, when I was getting ready to speak at his insurance agency, we were driving into the office, and he said, “Oh, so and so that you’re bowling with last night, he’s a recovering alcoholic.” And we had a conversation very similar to what the characters in the book had. And it was really wonderful to be able to honor Al and teach the world what Al taught me.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, and it’s beautiful, the unity notion, and I’m thinking about our conversation with Bob Cialdini. Thanks for introducing us.

Brian Ahearn
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
About how, I think it was, “I’m a student here, too,” like doubled the response rate associated with asking for something. So, unity is so powerful. And that’s a cool way to think about it. It’s like in helping them, it’s like you’re helping yourself but it’s also not selfish at the same time. So, unity – cool.

Brian Ahearn
Exactly. Now, something that was really cool, later in the book, as John is mentoring somebody, he thinks this person has a drinking problem, and he confronts him about it, and, ultimately, he hooks him up with Al, and Al spent some time with him, and I won’t say what happens. I’ll let readers read about that. But what was really cool, Pete, was I was in Grand Rapids at the end of September to speak at an insurance conference, and I randomly sat down at the bar for dinner one night when I didn’t have plans, and the person who was next to me was really drunk.

And we ended up having a conversation for a couple of hours, and I gave him my business…

Pete Mockaitis
Hours?

Brian Ahearn
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Brian Ahearn
And I gave him my business card, and I said, “I really enjoyed speaking with you tonight, and I’d like to stay in touch. Now, you’ve got my number and my email.” Well, he connected with me and, ultimately, I connected him with my friend Al. My wife was like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s like your book is playing out in real life.” So, that was really cool.

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool. And I don’t know if I’ve ever had a conversation with a really drunk person for two hours, so that’s noteworthy in and of itself in terms of what gets shared.

Brian Ahearn
It’s a God thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, what gets shared and what you cover.

Brian Ahearn
And I’m still in touch with him. He sent me a text yesterday and said he had gotten my book, and so who knows? That conversation and my connecting him with Al, just like in the book, may set him on a path that changes the course of his life, and that feels good.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. And so, actually, that’s the perfect segue, Brian, because that’s where we want to go next in terms of so, influence, you say it’s not just about getting what you want, or hitting a sales quota, or achieving some career objective but it plays a role in our broader success and happiness. Can you expand upon that?

Brian Ahearn
Sure. I know that your listeners, they want to be the best they can be at work but they also want to have a positive impact, positively influence other people, and I think this book, the narrative really shows them how, through the arc of their life, influence, not only helps them succeed the office but can help them succeed at home, whether it’s their relationship with their spouse, with their kids, their neighbors, and every one of those is a part of this book.

John has an interaction with a neighbor whose nickname is Bud, and he’s based on a real person that I know whose nickname is Bud. And what I saw with Bud was, four or five years ago, I went out to San Diego to go to his daughter’s wedding, and my wife was with me, and we were in San Diego, and she said, “Oh, I want to play Torrey Pines, the world-famous golf course where they played the US Open many times.”

So, my friend, even though his daughter is getting married and he’s busy, he said, “What time do you need to be at the golf course?” because he had a car. And she said, “I need to be there by 6:30,” and he’s like, “I’ll be downstairs at 6:00 o’clock.” And true to his words, he was. We went to the golf course, she got on at like 7:00 a.m. tee time. And I tell you, Pete, I think he was happier for her than even how happy she was. And it just hit me, he has this rare quality of more joy in his friends’ happiness than his own good fortune.

So, the character Bud in the book is that comes forth as John interacts with him as a neighbor, and you get to see that giving isn’t about what you’re going to get from the other person. Most of the time, it’s just about the feeling that you get in knowing that you’ve helped somebody. And then you start to realize your joy is almost unlimited because there’s always opportunity to help others.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so beautiful. And then, as we think about influence principles, like reciprocity, it’s true that that person, the golf example, well, now, she really wants to…if that guy wants favor, she’s going to hook him up because that was huge, so there’s reciprocity in action as an influence principle. But in terms of the joy from the giving and serving, it’s like I’m thinking of Charlie Sheen and bi-winning, “You’re winning twice.” You’re winning because you’re serving someone and feeling the joy in serving them, and you’re winning because you’re building reciprocity so you’ve got some trust and relationship capital there that may very well be helpful when you need to make a request in the future.

Brian Ahearn
Yeah. And I hope that people who would read the book would really start to lay hold of that, in that, yes, reciprocity is a natural human tendency to feel an obligation to give back when someone first gives to you. And so, we do try to engage that to help people and to maybe make a sale or whatever the things are. But I want people to start getting deeper and start to realize that even though I might get something from that other person, the truth is I will always get something. If I do it in the right spirit, I will get that feeling of joy knowing that I’ve helped make somebody else’s life better.

And my purpose, with my business, Influence PEOPLE, I always say is professional success and personal happiness, and I want people to start going, “Hey, a lot of my happiness is going to come when I get to know and like these people, and then I genuinely want to help them, and I can just step back and feel that joy that comes with that.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Thank you. Cool. Well, then so tell us, what might be some of the, if we think about John, the protagonist, learning some things in the book and having them hit not just the head but the heart, what are some other top lessons learned that you think have the capacity to both improve our persuasiveness as well as our happiness and success?

Brian Ahearn
Well, in one section, as he is being mentored as a newbie at his role at a medical supply company, he is doing a ride-along with Ben Blackstone. Now, Ben Blackstone is based on a person I knew, Ben Blackman, who was a Cialdini student and very good at utilizing all of the principles. And during this ride-along, he notices that Ben’s customers love him. They really, really like this guy.

So, of course, John is this young trainee, and he says, “What’s the secret? Your customers clearly like you. What do you do to get them to like you?” And Ben kind of slyly says, “I don’t do anything to get them to like me.” Of course, John presses, he’s like, “You must do something because it’s so apparent how much they like you,” and he keeps kind of like playing with him and putting him off, like, “No, I don’t do anything to get them to like me.” And then, finally, John says, “Well, then I give up. I’m missing something.” And then Ben reveals the secret, and he says, “I never do anything to get people to like me. I do everything I can to like the people I’m with.”

And, to me, that’s the gamechanger with the principle of liking. It’s not about me doing what I can, Pete, to get you to think, “Oh, I’m so cool and you ought to hang out with me.” It’s me doing everything I can to get to know you and like you, and to find joy in our interaction. And I think that’s where people, when they sense that, and we all have pretty good BS meters, but when we really believe somebody truly likes us, we become so much more open to the interactions that we have with that person. But the good news is the more I get to know and like you, then I really, really want your best. And that way, whatever I’m putting on the table is received differently to you, and we really create that win-win.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s powerful. And tell us, then, what are some of the best ways that we can get ourselves to like someone else? So, one is that curiosity, learning and asking questions. Any particular questions or other ways that we can develop some more liking for somebody?

Brian Ahearn
Well, it’s interesting, Pete, that two people can do the same things. So, we know what the principle of liking, for example, we find what we have in common. If we learn that we went to the same university, had the same pet, grew up in the same hometown, any of those things that we find we have in common, you naturally like me more, and I naturally like you more.

Or, if I pay you a genuine compliment. Now, one person can do it with an intent just to get something. And if there’s any used car salesmen out there, I’m sorry, that’s quite often what we think about used car salesmen will say and do anything to get you to buy a car, and we can usually sniff that out a mile away.

So, the difference, I think, is the mindset that we go in. We still want to connect and what we have in common, we want to pay the genuine compliments, we want to look for ways to work together that will lead to success, but I’m not doing it to get you to like me. I’m doing it because deep down I’m saying, “I want to enjoy the people that I work with, the customers that I serve, the vendors that I deal with, and so I will choose to do this in order to have that enjoyment.” And, to me, that’s the difference-maker because it comes across differently at that point.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Thank you. So, that’s huge in terms of it comes across differently when you do genuinely like them. And so, totally, a hundred percent, that makes sense. I guess I’m thinking about maybe if there are people or people at certain times that you find hard to like. I think about, it’s funny, holidays that seems to be a thing with regards to, “Uh-oh, Thanksgiving. Oh, Christmas dinner with the crazy uncle who has the completely different political or whatever belief that just makes you or everybody else upset.” Okay, so I guess that’s a trope but it’s the trope we’re in during this time of year.

So, yeah, when liking is hard to come by, how do we, as authentically as possible, access more of it for somebody?

Brian Ahearn
Well, there is a character in the book and based on somebody that I really had difficulty with getting connected to, and his name is Braden. And when John moves into a new team and he begins to interact with that guy, he feels like everything that I do with other people that seems to foster relationship and help to have good working environment is not working with this guy. So, there ends up being an opportunity for him to kind of confront that, and he did so in a soft way but by asking a question.

And he just really says, “Look, I really try to like the people that I work with but you seem to be very hard to get to know. What gives? What’s up?” And he prefaces it with, “I’m going to ask you something and if you’re not comfortable, please then you don’t have to answer, but I’m doing what I can to really try to get to know you and foster this working relationship. It’s not getting anywhere. Is there something I’m missing?”

And then the guy opens up and he begins to share something. It’s almost like the air is let out of a balloon, somebody is finally showing interest in him, and he opens up. And that opening up really begins to foster a relationship with him. So, I share that to say when there are people who are difficult, first of all, always know they’re probably difficult for a lot of other people so don’t take it personally. But I really believe if you can break through with those people, that you will find that there’s somebody on the other side who is really an awesome person to know but they’re not letting it out.

And that can be a self-defense mechanism. It could be that, well, because people don’t respond well to them, they just put up this wall and then they can justify to themselves, “Well, I don’t need somebody to pat me on the back,” or, “I don’t need someone to like me. I’m okay just the way I am.” But, really, inside, they’re desperate for wanting people to connect with them.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. Thank you. Well, I don’t think we talked much in our previous conversations about how to use the contrast principle to be all the more persuasive. Can you speak to that?

Brian Ahearn
Sure. Well, contrast tells us that two things can appear more different depending on how they’re presented. An example that I used with my other books is, Pete, if you walked into a store, and let’s say you’re looking at a couch, and I’m the salesperson, and you’re looking at it, and you asked how much the couch is, and if I say $799, and then moments later, I come back and I say, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake. It’s $999.” Suddenly, you don’t feel very good about that couch.

But if you’re looking at that same couch and I had told you $799, and then I come back and I say, “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s actually $599.” So, what I say first dramatically impacts how you experience what comes next. That very same couch can be looked at entirely differently based on what it is that I did beforehand. And I think people need to always be aware of this because something that we emphasize when we do in-depth training with people is this.

The principles that we talk about may not always be available. You may not have, for example, scarcity, or you might not be able to tap into social proof. But contrast is always available because human beings are always making comparisons to things. We talk about, “Is that car expensive or inexpensive?” “Is he tall or short?” Those are comparative statements.

And once we realized that, we need to step back and say, “Whatever it is that I’m off or whatever it is that I might ask, how can I put something out that becomes the comparison point so I don’t leave it to chance as to what that person may be thinking? I kind of set the comparison point so that what I present next looks most favorable.” Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it is. And it’s funny, I recently purchased a newer vehicle. It’s the Mazda CX5, and I love it. And it’s funny, we’ve operated at zero cars for a very, very long time at our household. And then with toddlers and COVID, and then moving from Chicago to Tennessee, it’s just like sort of changed the game, and so now we have two cars after so long with zero cars, and that’s been fine for my Chicago lifestyle.

And it’s so funny because it felt kind of pricey but then it’s so relative in terms of it’s like, “Well, it feels pricey compared to a Chevy Aveo or similar,” via economy class, the thing that they put forward in rental cars, but if I look at this relative to some Teslas, Genesis, BMW, I feel like I got quite a bargain. And so, you’re right, like it completely changes the way you think about it in terms of like, “Am I being irresponsible in splurging too much?” versus, “Wow, I am such a prudent steward of finances and value-seeker.” That really resonates.

Brian Ahearn
Yeah. And so, again, if you’re the person who’s trying to influence another, what is a legitimate comparison point that you might present that could make whatever it is that you’re offering look more valuable? Like you, I got a new car last year so I’ve had it for like 15 months now, and it was a really nice car. I’d never been a car guy, and so I never thought I would buy a Lexus, but my wife’s father always drove them, and she’s like, “These are beautiful cars.” Once I drove it, I fell in love with it.

But what I realized, too, that even though I was paying a good bit more for that car than I had ever for a car, I also started saying, “You know what, if this car operates like his have, I’ll have this car for at least 10 years because they are so reliable as long as you maintain them.” And my wife had had one for a long time and it was a phenomenal car. So, that became my comparison point. If I have this thing for 10 years, what I spent on that car is nothing for what I’ll get over the life of that car.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right, yeah. So, the contrast is really…it’s kind of like framing or contextualizing in terms of like how do we frame it in terms of the lifetime. And it’s funny, we talk about cars, like Tesla does that with that too, like, “Oh, well, when you take into account the savings you’re going to get from governmental electric vehicle support and not gas,” it’s like plain on their website and maybe they’ve updated it. It’s kind of funky, like, “Wait a minute. How much money am I really giving you right now because of how you’ve presented these figures?” So, very cool. Thank you.

Well, Brian, you tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we hear about a few more of your favorite things?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think we’ve talked a lot about relationship, and I think that’s the foundation of John Andrews and his success and his happiness. Now, all the principles are certainly talked about throughout the book, but what I would encourage people is, when we talked about the principle of liking and how important it is to come to like the other person. If you really think about it, Pete, how that informs the other principles because, once I really get to know and like you, I probably understand how to give better, I understand how to engage reciprocity in a much more meaningful way.

If the more I get to know, if I want to engage social proof by talking about similar others, well, I know you so I know people who, then, are similar. If I am utilizing the principle of consistency, what have you said or done or believed, well, I found that out by getting to know you. So, for me, it is the foundation that the house is built on is the principle of liking and, even deeper than that, if you want to say the basement would be unity if you can really find genuine unity with somebody. But I think everything else gets built from that.

And I think, in this time where we are so divided in so many ways, if more people would say, “Every interaction I want to go into, I want to get to know and like these people, even if they look vastly different than me on the surface in terms of their beliefs and their values and things, there have to be things that we also share in common.” And can we focus on those to say, “Even though we’re different, I really do like you”? I think our workplaces, I think our society, I think our world will be much better off.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that so much in terms of like the relationship and the liking. And I’m thinking in our own podcast operations, when we invite guests, so sometimes we have incoming pitches, but more and more lately we’ve been seeking out people proactively based on listener requests for certain topic areas, which is like 10 times, 20 times as hard, like generating names out of thin air and research, research, research. But I think it results in a finer product that listeners love all the more, I hope.

And so, I think we used to, in our “Come on down. Be on the show” email, just sort of say, “Hey, we’ve interviewed some impressive people, like…” big name, big name, big name. And so, that has some power associated with it, like, “Oh, those guys are a big deal. And if they said yes, maybe I should say yes too,” like social proof.

But I think what we’ve done is make it a little bit more customized in terms of we now say “…and we’ve interviewed people you know such as…” person, person, person “…based upon our mutual shared connections on LinkedIn. And even more so…” ideally, if it’s someone who has endorsed their book, “This is someone you look up to and admire if you request that they endorse your book, and we happen to have them, which, after 700 interviews and plus, that’s semi-frequent nowadays,” as well as sort of like the closer they are to their field. Like, “Oh, this person is an academic versus a business leader versus a bestselling author kind of vibes.”

And I haven’t done a hard AB comparative test but we have seen our rates of acceptance rise. And so, I think that’s beautiful in terms of, okay, yes, okay, we’re talking about social proof and social proof, but it’s like social proof plus because it’s based on doing some extra time and effort and energy associated with, “Who is this person? Who do they know? And who might they admire?”

Brian Ahearn
Yup, I think the extra time and energy is always worth it because people pick up on that. A very common one is, you mentioned LinkedIn, if I send a request to somebody, I always have a personal message in it. Now, if I’m sending out a lot, I might do a copy and paste, so it might be, “Pete, I know you were at the conference, yadda, yadda, yadda,” “Joe, I know you were at the conference,” but every person gets a personal email, and I’m very diligent about that.

I mention the conference I spoke at in Grand Rapids. There were about 400 insurance agents there. Every one of them that I could find on LinkedIn, I send a personal request. And I had hundreds that connected with me. Those are my potential customers. Those are the people that I could help the most given my background in insurance, so it was totally worth the extra time and effort to go and do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Brian, you know, it’s funny, I’ve hung around a lot of speakers who are all interested in growing their businesses, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mentioned doing that, which makes total sense because they already know you, a little bit, and they may not have spoken to you but they heard you talk for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, so like, “Oh, Brian, I recognize that name and that face, and I heard him say some things. And I thought he was at least moderately entertaining and insightful, if not epically unforgettably entertaining and insightful,” which I imagine is the latter in your performances.

So, it’s a far cry from a total cold random LinkedIn message, and now you’re connected, and then that’s like, “Oh, I know a guy. I know a guy who does this stuff.” It’s like we’ve gone from, “I saw a guy speak once. What was his name?” to, “I know a guy, and he’s in my connections. And even if I can’t remember your name three years from now from that LinkedIn connection, I know where to dig it up pretty quick.”

Brian Ahearn
Yeah. Well, I tell you, Pete, I’m heading to Santa Fe next week to work with a small insurance operation, and it’s because I reached out and connected with somebody at a conference I spoke at four years ago. And when this person reached back, I honestly didn’t remember the name, but I looked and I had sent him a personal, and we just didn’t have any other interaction beyond that, but he remembered that he liked the talk. And because he was connected, he was able to find me, and that’s what led to this great opportunity to go to Santa Fe.

So, it works but you can’t just look at it and say, “Well, gosh, I don’t have an hour to do this, or two hours, or whatever.” You do. If it’s important enough, you have the time to do it, and you have to believe that you’re putting in, you’re investing at this point but it will pay dividends down the road.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thanks. Well, now, let’s hear, do you have another favorite quote that you might want to share with us?

Brian Ahearn
The favorite quote that I share a lot, and this is top of mind right now because I just had coffee with my old high school football coach, and it was 40 years ago now that I played my last game and played under him, and we have stayed in contact since then because he truly cares about his players more than winning games. It’s the men we become, the husbands, the fathers, the businesspeople, productive people in society.

And he always told us that opportunity, or luck was where preparation and opportunity met. Now, I mistakenly thought he’s the one who came up with the quote. Somebody told me it was Seneca, the Roman philosopher, but, still, my coach is the one who imparted it. And because he had such an influence on my life, and I think about that all the time, that whenever an opportunity arises, I need to be ready for that.

And so, I stay sharp on all the things that I do. If somebody called me tomorrow, and said, “Brian, could you get on a plane and go here and give a one-hour talk?” Boom, I’m there because I’m always ready to do those things because of what he impressed upon me.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. And a recent favorite book?

Brian Ahearn
A recent favorite, other than my book?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hmm, “The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness.”

Brian Ahearn
I just finished a book called You Have More Influence Than You Think.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Brian Ahearn
And I heard Vanessa on the Behavioral Grooves podcast, and it sounded really interesting so I connected with her on LinkedIn, and said, “Hey, I’ve been on the podcast like you,” and so it’s a very natural connection. Picked up the book and it was just a different angle of looking at influence, and I found it really, really interesting and the research that she shared. So, I would say that’s the most recent one but, really, I’ve read a lot of books over the year but that one really, really stood out for me.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. We had her on the show, and it was thought-provoking in all the best ways. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I’d say connect with me on LinkedIn. And as I did probably the first three times, I promised anybody who reaches out, if you don’t tell me how you found me, you will get a reply back to say, “How did you find me?” I just like to know why people are reaching out, but it’s that opportunity to start some dialogue. If they say, “Hey, I heard you on Pete’s podcast,” I’m still going to reply back and say, “I love Pete and his show, and thank you for reaching out.” So, there will be personal interaction if you do. And then the other place, too, is my website InfluencePEOPLE.biz. You’ll be able to find my email, my number if you want to connect with me through that, plus, all the resources that are available there.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Brian Ahearn
My call to action would go back to what we’ve already talked about a lot, that the principle of liking is the foundation that everything else is built upon. And I would just challenge people, if nothing else, that tomorrow, when you go to work, or whatever it is that you’re going to do, that you pause and tell yourself, “I want to like this person that I’m going to interact with. What can I do to connect with them, to compliment them, to get myself to really like them because, if nothing else, I will enjoy that interaction more?” And I think people will be very pleasantly surprised at how people respond when you go in with that attitude.

Pete Mockaitis
Brian, thank you. This has been a treat. And I wish you more success and adventures and fun in your influencing.

Brian Ahearn
Thank you, Pete. I really appreciate it.

719: Liz Wiseman Reveals the Five Practices of Indispensable, High-Impact Players

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Liz Wiseman says: "By working on the agenda, you earn the right to help set the agenda."

Liz Wiseman uncovers the small, but impactful practices of exceptional performers.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why it’s okay to not be working on what’s important to you 
  2. The five things impact players do differently
  3. The trick to leading without an invitation 

About Liz

Liz Wiseman is a researcher and executive advisor who teaches leadership to executives around the world. She is the author of New York Times bestseller Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter,The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools, and Wall Street Journal bestseller Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work. 

She is the CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley, California. Some of her recent clients include: Apple, AT&T, Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Salesforce, Tesla, and Twitter. Liz has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and in 2019 was recognized as the top leadership thinker in the world. 

She has conducted significant research in the field of leadership and collective intelligence and writes for Harvard Business ReviewFortune, and a variety of other business and leadership journals.  She is a frequent guest lecturer at BYU and StanfordUniversity and is a former executive at Oracle Corporation, where she worked as the Vice President of Oracle University and as the global leader for Human Resource Development. 

Resources Mentioned

Liz Wiseman Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Liz, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Liz Wiseman
Well, thanks, Pete. I hope I walk away feeling like I can be a little bit more awesome at my job. This is your thing. This is what you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think I’ve mentioned, before we pushed record, that numerous people have mentioned you by name as being awesome at your job from your book Multipliers. And you’ve got another one freshly out Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact. All things we love doing here, so this is going to be a lot of fun.

Liz Wiseman
This is going to be a fun conversation, I can tell.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so maybe to kick us off, could you share with us your favorite story of someone who made a transformation into an impact player and kind of what happened? What was the impact of that and kind of their before and after, and the results flowing from it?

Liz Wiseman
Well, so many of the people I wrote about were already awesome when I stumbled onto them. And the one I think, like if I could pick someone in the book who made the biggest transformation, it might’ve been me. Like, early on in my career, reorienting myself.

So, I came out of college like a lot of people, kind of fired up, knowing…I mean, some people don’t know what they want to do. I knew what I wanted to do to a fault. And I kind of was like knocking on people’s doors, like, “Hi, I’m Liz. I want to teach leadership and I represent good leadership. And ridding the world of bad bosses, that’s what I want to do.”

And so, I tried to get a job at a management training company and somehow wiggled my way into an interview with the president. He looked at my resume and was like, “You know, if you want to teach leadership, maybe you should go get some leadership experience.” I was like 22 years old and thinking, “That’s sterile-minded of him.” It’s kind of like he doesn’t get me. This is what I’m passionate about. It’s what I want to do.”

So, I went and took my backup job, and that one was at Oracle, which was a great place to go to work but it wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do, which was somehow teach managing and leading. So, I took this kind of consolation job, and about a year into that, I had an opportunity to transfer to another group inside of the company. This was back when Oracle was like a couple thousand people, and today they’re like well over a hundred thousand people.

And it was a group that ran technical bootcamps and I was hoping that their charter would expand, like the company is growing, they’re surely going to be building some management courses, young people are being turned into management, like wreaking havoc on the company. And so, I went into the interview, answered the questions from the VP, so it’s like the final interview for this job, and then it was my turn to kind of take charge of the interview. And so, I made my case for why Oracle should build a management bootcamp, not just a technology bootcamp. And, of course, I offered my services, like, “I would be happy to build this.”

And I thought, for sure, he would say, “Oh, that’s great, Liz. Yeah, I can see you’re passionate about that. Here you go.” And his response, it really, really imprinted me. And he was polite but essentially what I heard him saying was, “Liz, make yourself useful around here,” because his reply was, “That’s great, Liz. We think you’re great and we’re excited to have you join this group but your boss has a different problem. She’s got to figure out how to get 2,000 new college graduates up to speed in Oracle technology over the next year. And what would be great is if you could help her to do that.”

He was saying, “Liz, figure out what needs to be done and do the things that we need.” And I wanted to teach leadership and now he wants me to teach programming to a bunch of nerds, you know, programmers. And I’m like, “Oh, that’s not my thing. That’s not the job I want.” But I could see he was teaching me something. I’m like, “That’s not the job I want,” but what he’s saying was, “That’s the job that needs to be done.” So, like, “Point yourself over there, please.”

And it really shaped me because I said, “Okay, I don’t want to do that but I will do that and I’ll figure out how to be good at this.” And, Pete, I’m woefully underqualified to do this job. I came out of business school and had a teaching background, but I had taken like two and a half programming classes in college, and now they want me to be teaching programming to a bunch of hotshot programmers coming out of MIT and Caltech but I did it and it was amazing what happened after I reoriented myself, and, in some ways, subordinated what was important to me to work on what was important to my boss and my boss’ boss.

First of all, I figured out I love this job. Like, this was fun. I was having the time of my life. And then the second thing I discovered is that by doing that, all these opportunities opened up to me. And they came and tapped me on the shoulders, and said, “Liz, we want you to now manage the training group.” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m having fun teaching.” They’re like, “No, we want you to do this.” I’m like, “Yeah, pick someone else who wants that job.” And they said, “No, we want you to do this.”

And I don’t know if it was because I understood the technology or it was because I was willing to serve where I was needed, but, yeah, I finally said yes to that job. And then I just kept getting bigger and bigger opportunities, and I think it was because I learned to channel my energy and passion around what was important to the people I work for rather than focusing on what was important to me.

And it shaped my whole career and just allowed me to do work that was far more impactful. And it wasn’t too many years, if not even months, after that that I was able to argue that, “You know what, we really need to invest in management training and I’d be happy to do that.” And then, I, essentially, got a blank check, like, “Liz, absolutely. Go build that. Build a team to do it.” And that work had so much more impact when I decided to work on the agenda of the organization rather than on my own agenda.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that feels like a golden key to a whole lot of career things right there. And I guess what’s intriguing is, well, one, you were fortunate in that you got to do the thing you really wanted to do anyway afterwards. And, two, I suppose, I’m thinking, that approach, in a way, it feels rather noble and virtuous in terms of, hey, there’s some humility and there’s some service and generosity that you are engaging in when you’re working on the job that needs done as opposed to the thing you want to do.

I guess I just might want to hear to what extent was there drudgery? Or, it sounds like in your story, this path was actually plenty of fun even while you were on it prior to doing the thing that you really wanted to do originally. Is that the case with the other impact players, generally speaking?

Liz Wiseman
Well, I think it is. And you said it was sort of a noble choice, and I think it was a humble choice. I wouldn’t characterize it as a noble choice as much as a savvy choice. And it wasn’t like I was just like, “Okay. Well, what’s good for me in this?” I could see there was a real need there but something happens when you are working on something that’s important.

So, like if I’m off working on my own agenda, I’m pushing a boulder up a hill. I’m trying to get people to meet with me. I’m trying to get someone to pay attention to the thing I care about. Now, some amazing things can happen when you go down that path. But, like, what happens when you’re working on something that’s important? It’s what I call when you’re working on the agenda.

Well, every time I put myself on this path of impact, working on something that was important to the company, the executive, one of my clients, I always find that people have time to meet with me, resources flow. Like, I’ve done a lot of work with executives over the years, and one of the things I’ve noticed is I’ve never noticed like a senior executive at a corporation tell me something was important to him or her, and then not have budget for it.

It’s like funny how that when you’re working on the agenda, people have time for you, resources flow, decisions happen quickly, there’s more pressure but there’s also more visibility for your work. Like, it’s not drudgery. It’s actually fun because you’re making progress. And when you say drudgery, Pete, it makes me think about something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is burnout. We’re dealing with this burnout epidemic, the Great Reshuffle, the Great Resignation, whatever you want to call it. And I think we’re quick to assume that burnout is a function of effort and work. Like, we’re working too hard. We’re working too much. We have too heavy of a load and we’re going to burn out as a result.

And I’m not opposed to anyone taking time off. Like, a little R&R is probably good for a lot of people particularly right now, but I think burnout, based on all of my research, it tends to be a function of too little impact, not too much work. That what causes us to burn out is when we’re expending energy but not making a difference, not seeing how our work makes a difference.

So, like the beginning of being high impact and doing awesome work is doing work that is valued and important. And even if some of the work is tedious, like, oh, man, I remember like nights I stayed up till 5:00 in the morning trying to learn how to do correlated subqueries so I could teach them the next day. I couldn’t sustain that all the time, but I was making a difference. I was having an impact. I was doing something important. It was energizing not enervating.

And, yeah, there’s details and drudgery and hard things involved but it’s rewarding. It’s what I’ve seen in my own experience in studying these high-impact contributors. It’s a buildup experience not a burnout experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s beautiful in terms of that’s just a fun mental distinction that does so much. When you’re working on the agenda, what’s important to other folks, so many of the roadblocks that are annoying and frustrating and yield to burnout and exhaustion disappear. People are available, they make time for you, they make money for you, they take your meetings, you’ve got some support and backing as opposed to being ignored, and follow-ups. So, yeah, like that’s pretty fine.

Liz Wiseman
And you build voice. You build voice in the organization, and it’s how we build influence and credibility is by making progress on things that matter to our stakeholders. And so, as we do that and as we serve, people listen to us. And by working on the agenda, you earn the right to help set the agenda.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I’m loving this and that’s a lot of insight right there. So, tell me, is that pretty much the core idea or thesis of Impact Players? Or, how would you articulate it?

Liz Wiseman
I just think it’s one of the starting points is how people orient themselves. And I think if I were to kind of try to crystallize the thesis of Impact Players, let me start with the research. We looked at the difference between individuals who were considered by their leaders smart, hardworking, and capable people who were doing a good job, like doing well, versus smart, hardworking, capable people who were making an extraordinary impact, doing work of extraordinary or inordinately high value.

And so, this isn’t like top performers versus bottom performers. In a room full of equally smart, capable, hardworking people, why are some people stuck going through the motions of their job while other people are making a big difference? So, that’s what we looked at. And when I looked at those differentials and all the profiles that we built through interviewing 170 managers is we found that the ordinary contributors, typical contributors, people doing well, they’re doing their job.

And this is how managers describe them. They do their job. They do their job well. Often, extremely well. They follow direction. They take ownership. They are focused. They carry their weight on teams, which sounds great in some ways, like ideal team members and contributors but there’s stellar and unordinary times, but they tend to fall short in times of uncertainty and ambiguity. This is where the impact players handle these situations very differently, and there were five.

And it was how they handle messy problems, like, “Your job is not my job. It’s like no one’s job. It’s not really owned by this department. It’s like no one’s job but everyone’s job.” And this is actually where I think the most important problems and opportunities of an organization is in that white space between boxes. Now, in this case, ordinary contributors tend to do their job. Whereas, the impact players go do the job that needs to be done.

The second is how they handle unclear roles, where, “Okay, I know we’re collaborating, but who’s really in charge?” We have a tendency, organizations want to have more collaborative teams, flat in organizations but in these situations, typical contributors tend to wait for role clarification or direction, like wait for someone to tell them who’s in charge or give them formal authority. Whereas, the people who are having a lot of impact tend to just take charge but they’re not like take charge all the time.

They step up and they lead, maybe a particular meeting, maybe a project, but then they’re willing to step back and follow other people when they’re in the lead. So, it’s like they bring kind of big leadership, let’s say, to the 2:00 o’clock meeting, they’re the boss, but they then walk down the hall to the 3:00 o’clock meeting and they serve as a participant with the same kind of energy that they led the team. So, they’re able to step in and out of these leadership roles really fluidly, which really builds our credibility because we trust these kinds of leaders, the ones who don’t always need to hold all the power.

Pete Mockaitis
And the ones who care when it’s not “theirs.” That’s sort of endearing. It’s sort of like, “Okay, you care about this because you care about the team, the leadership, the project, the company and not just you care about your babies.”

Liz Wiseman
Oh, absolutely. It’s like they work with the same kind of level of intensity. They don’t need to be in charge but they’re willing to be in charge. And I think it’s a really powerful form of leadership. And it’s very much like sort of you take like the pyramid shape of an organization, and you turn that on its side. It’s more like the V formation of a flock of geese, where the flock can fly a lot further because they rotate that leadership.

One bird goes out in front, leads, breaks that wind, creates drag, sort of creates an ease for the other birds behind in that formation, but that lead bird doesn’t stay there forever like until it tires and then falls from the sky in the state of exhaustion, which is what happens so often in corporations. The leaders are running around with their hair on fire. They’re like all fired up, they’re working hard, but other people sit underutilized. Like, when the lead bird has done their duty for the team, they fall back and another moves into that role.

And then there’s three other situations where we see this differentiation when unforeseen obstacles drop in the way, things that are really out of your control. Most people tend to escalate those, whereas the impact players just tend to hold onto them and get them across the finish line. Not alone, pulling in help but they tend to just hold ownership all the way through.

When targets are moving fast, typical contributors tend to stay on target, they stay focused, whereas, the impact players adjust. They’re adapting. They’re changing. They’re like kind of waking up assuming, “While I was asleep, the world changed, and I probably need to adjust my aim so I stay on track with what’s important and relevant.”

And the last is what we do when workloads are heavy, like when there’s just mounting workloads, when there’s more work than…when the workload is increasing faster than resources are increasing, and most people, they carry their weight, but when times get really tough, they sort of look upward and outward for help to ease that burden.

Whereas, the impact players, we found they really make work light. Like, they don’t take all the work, they don’t take people’s workload away from them, but they work in a way where hard work just is fun. They bring a levity, a humanity, that just sort of eases the phantom workload so that people can focus on the real workload.

Liz Wiseman
That’s kind of what I found.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, I was going to ask exactly that, so thank you for sharing. And so, that’s sort of like the five core distinctions. And I want to zoom in on a couple like super specific practices, habits. But, first, maybe I’d like to get your take on what discovery, in the course of all these interviews, did you find most surprising or counterintuitive?

Liz Wiseman
I should probably tell you I’ve got a little bit of a pessimist in me which maybe makes me a better researcher. But when we went in to study, like, “What is it that the top, real top contributors are doing?” I expected there to be a fair number of hotshots and superstars and people around whom the team revolved, and what I found was exactly the opposite. There were 170 of these impact players that we studied, analyzed. Not a single one of them was a prima donna, a bully, a bull in a China shop. Not one of them worked at the expense of the team, like, “Hey, I’m so good at what I do that you all need to kind of like be backup for me, or sort of accommodate me, humor me.”

They were superstars and everyone knew it. Like, that’s one of the things about impact players is everyone knows who these people are but they work and I think they’re comfortable with their stellar-ness, their awesomeness, like they get it.

Pete Mockaitis
They don’t have to prove themselves or flex or show off.

Liz Wiseman
Yeah. In some ways, and I’m just realizing this, Pete, is one of the things I found in the multiplier leader, so the other research I’ve done, like, “What is it that leaders do that allow people to be impactful and contribute at their fullest?” And the ones, the leaders I want to work for are the ones that are really, really comfortable with their own intelligence and capability. Like, I want to work for someone who’s an absolute genius who knows it, which you think, “Ooh, well, isn’t that like a know-it-all, a bully?” Like, no, I want to work with someone who’s so comfortable with their own intelligence and capability that they’re over it.

It’s not like, “I have to show up to work every day proving how amazing I am.” It’s like, “Yeah, I get it. I’m smart. I’m talented. I’m over it so now I can spend my time as a leader seeing and using the intelligence of others.” And I think these impact players are similar in that they know that they’re really valuable contributors, they know they do important and valuable work, but they don’t need to be proving it all day long. In some ways, it’s so obvious. They were comfortable with it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s cool.

Liz Wiseman
I thought there’d be some brilliant jerks in the lot but there weren’t, at least not in my sample.

Pete Mockaitis
And then these 170, they were identified by their managers, they’re saying, “Boy, this guy is really an impact player”?

Liz Wiseman
Yeah, they were. And so, we didn’t go in and decide who was. We asked managers to consider the people that they have led over their career and identify someone from each of these two categories – impact players, ordinary contributors – and we also had managers identify someone who I later called an under-contributor – smart, capable, talented, should be amazing, like someone you hire, like, “This person is going to be awesome,” but yet they’re not. Like, they’re under-contributing relative to their potential and capability. And that was interesting. There’s like a whole set of things to learn there.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s different than the five key distinctions that we already covered? Like, they don’t do the things that the impact players do or is there more?

Liz Wiseman
Well, I think kind of in that ordinary contributor station, like you would see people who are well-meaning, working hard, and they’re doing their job. When you see people in that under-contributor kind of position, sort of on the stratification, you see a lot of people who are really pushing their own agenda, you often see people who are trying so hard to be valuable, trying so hard to like get ahead, maybe that they’re honestly annoying.

Like, “Hey, hey, how am I doing? How am I doing? Am I doing great? Was it good work? Hey, hey, coach, what? Can I sit next to you on the airplane? You know what, hey, let’s go hang out.” They’re needy, maybe needing too much attention, needing too much feedback, and they end up becoming more of a burden than a contributor on teams, but, yet, they’re people who are trying really hard.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. Cool. Well, so then I love how we’ve laid out the five distinctions. And now I’d like to get really specific in terms of what are the particular mindsets, or habits, or particular practices, words, phrases, just like the super in-the-moment tactical, practical stuff that we’re seeing in terms of an impact player? I sort of got the conceptual. Could you give us a couple examples of, “Hey, these are the specific actions that we’re seeing over and over again”?

Liz Wiseman
We talked about the first distinction kind of through my own experience, is this willingness to do the job that needs to be done. It’s about extending ourselves like beyond our job boundaries. One of the favorite impact players I got to write about in the book is someone named Jojo Mirador, and he is a scrub tech. He works at Valley Medical, which is part of an academic hospital chain.

So, there are a lot of residents there, doctors who have graduated from medical school. They’re now in their training. They’re in residency. And he’s a surgical scrub tech. Now, Jojo’s job is to prepare the surgical tools for an operation, to make sure they’re sterilized and available, and to hand them to the surgeons when the surgeons ask for them. That’s his job.

But Jojo approaches his job differently than other scrub techs. First of all, he looks on the calendar, and he’s like, “What surgeries do we have coming up? Are there any that I’m not familiar with? Let me look. Let me just like Google that and figure out what’s going on in the surgery.” And during surgery, he’s not just listening for the requested instrument.

Pete Mockaitis
“Scalpel.”

Liz Wiseman
Yeah, scalpel. Exactly. It’s like such a moment. He’s watching the surgeons’ hands, he’s like, “I want to know what the surgeon is doing because I want to know what their next move is going to be because I want to be thinking about the tool they need, so I’m ready.” And one of the surgeons told me, “Jojo doesn’t just lay out the instruments. He lays them out in the order they’re going to be used so he’s got them ready.”

And when the surgeons ask for an instrument, he doesn’t just hand them the one they asked for. He hands them the one they actually need. So, let’s say they’ve asked for like a scalpel, and he provides a gentle suggestion, he’s like, “Why don’t you try this one instead that might work better?” Of course, these residents, they’re young, they’re new, and you can imagine the pressure on them to look like they know what they’re doing when they’re holding someone’s life in their hands. And you can imagine how grateful they are that he doesn’t just do his job. He extends himself and does the job that needs to be done.

And you would think that the senior surgeons wouldn’t want these suggestions, but they do, in fact. He said, “It kind of feels good. They come seek me out before a surgery.” They say, “Jojo, here’s what we’re going to be doing. What kinds of tools do you think are going to work best here?” And they line up outside of the scheduler’s office, they kind of fight a little bit over who gets to have Jojo in the OR with them.

And they found this nice gentleman’s way of sorting this out. It’s whoever has the most complicated procedure is the one who gets Jojo. And I love the imagery of this, which is just extending ourselves out of our job scope, but not doing it in an aggressive way of taking over. It’s done with this kind of sense of finesse of, “I think I can be helpful here.”

Another one of the behaviors we see is that these impact players, they don’t tend to wait for an invitation. I think a lot of people want to be amazing at their job, who have a lot of passion, who have a lot of talent, or maybe holding back a little bit, too much waiting for someone to come along and discover them.

And maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my career teaching leaders, coaching executives, part of my message to people is like, “Ooh, your leaders probably aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think they’re thinking about you. They’ve got their own set of things and they probably don’t have time to figure out, ‘Okay, wait a minute. I’ve got this meeting coming up. Who are all the possible people who might be valuable contributors?’” Like, sometimes, we need to invite ourselves in and go where we’re uninvited but do it in a way that people are glad we showed up to contribute.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really interesting because I think this has come up a number of times, like, “Oh, so many things you attend, it’s unnecessary, it’s a waste of time, and you should figure out polite ways to excuse yourself from them.” And this might be the first time I’ve heard someone say, “There may be times where you want to try to get into a meeting that you weren’t invited to.” And the way that could be super appreciated, like, maybe can you give us some verbiage or an example there, because I can imagine ways you might say it that could come across as appreciated as opposed to like, “Whoa, stay in your lane, buddy”? Could you give us an example there?

Liz Wiseman
Yeah, let me share two. One is about just initiating meetings that no one’s asking you to do. Eli Van Der Kamp at Target, she’s a project manager there, and her job is to get all the technology in a Target store up to speed and ready to go before a store opens. Well, this isn’t her area of responsibility but she can see that, “You know what, we’ve been dropping phonelines in here.” And her job was to get them up and running, but she’s like, “I don’t think we actually need those phonelines because, now that we have fiber optic cables, the phonelines that were needed for the alarm systems in the store, like fire alarms, we don’t need those.”

But it wasn’t that they didn’t need them, they sometimes needed them, and it was sort of complicated, and no one’s asking her to do this, but she realizes the company is wasting money on this. It’s a $92 billion a year company, it’s not a significant amount of waste in a company that size. But it’s significant enough, she decides she wants to do something about, so she just kind of invites herself to lead this meeting, calls people together, explains the problem with no sense of judgment whatsoever, “But we have this problem, and we’re like buying phonelines that we don’t need and it’s wasting money.”

And she just lays it out and invites people to step up and solve it. It was a complex decision tree. They worked it all out, owners stepped up, emerged, the problem is solved and she steps back. It’s sort of like inviting yourself in to lead and volunteering to lead where nobody has asked you. Now, it could be inviting yourself to a meeting nobody is inviting. So, I had experience with this, it was probably midway through my career. It preceded the most valuable piece of work I ever did for Oracle.

And I think, at this point, like I’m the vice president of Oracle University. I ran training for the company in human resource development, and I’ve particularly been focusing on some executive development, and had been working with three top executives to build this what was our flagship leadership development program. We called it The Leaders Forum. And it really consisted of two parts, which is teach our executives around the world like our strategy so they really understood that, and then build some leadership skills.

And in the process of doing this, it became clear that the strategy was not clear. So, we were bringing executives in, like 30 people at a time, presenting the strategy to them, building some skills, setting them on their way, and they’re like, “You know, the strategy is not clear.” So, the three executives I was building this program with, we heard the feedback, and we tried to make some adjustments, and it’s still not clear.

Finally, it comes to a head and we realized we have to stop these training programs until the strategy for the company is clear. I’m in that meeting. We decide this needs to happen. One of the three executives says, “Okay, you know what, I’ll get together a meeting of all of our product heads, all of the senior executives, and we will clarify the strategy.” Okay. So, I know that meeting is happening but I’m not included in this meeting because it’s a product strategy meeting and I’m responsible for training. But the meeting was happening the next week, and I decided that I probably should go to that meeting, not just to listen in, but I felt like I could really help.

And so, this is, I don’t know, this was a meeting of, let’s say, nine of the top 12 executives in the company, and I just decided to show up. And so, I show up, I knew the president would be thrilled that I was there, maybe not some of the others, but I get there early, I sit down, and one by one, like the various executives are coming in, they’re kind of like, “Hi, Liz,” and they know this is a product strategy meeting and they’ve got the head of training there. And they’re like, “Hi, Hi.” And then one particular executive came in, his name was Jerry, and he looked at me, and he’s like, “What are you doing here? Like, you’re the training manager. This is a product strategy meeting.”

And this was an important moment for me because I kind of squared my shoulders, looked at him, and said, “Jerry, we’ve got a really convoluted strategy right now that leaders around the world aren’t able to understand. Like, this group has got to take a lot of complex information about our products and distill it down to something that’s simple and clear, and that’s actually something that I’m pretty good at and I thought I could be of help.”

And he still wasn’t entirely convinced but I think the president said something like, “Yeah, Jerry, Liz is really good at this. And trust me, we could use her help.” And then I just paid attention, and I listened, and I listened to this conversation. Now, the fact that I had taken that job teaching programming helped me to really understand what they were talking about and be trusted to even be in the room, but I’m like taking notes.

I’m like, “Okay, what about this? And I like this pattern.” So, I’m now starting to reflect back to them, “Well, here’s this issue that I see coming up and I hear this, and it seems like these seem to be the three biggest drivers.” And they’re like, “Could you say more of that?” And it’s a longer story but, cutting it short, after two or three more of these meetings, they finally decided that they’re going to kind of obliterate the whole strategy, rebuild it from scratch, and they’re like, “Liz, we want you to be the author of the strategy. Like, we’ll all give you input but we want you to be the one that puts shape to this.”

And it was something I was able to do and it made a pretty big impact in the company, and I just think it’s so funny that maybe the most valuable work I did for the company was work I kind of forced myself into just a little bit. And I wasn’t forceful and I wasn’t rude but nobody asked me to do it. I just knew it was something I could be helpful with.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Okay. Well, so then any other examples leaping to mind in terms of a particular practice that makes a load of difference, sort of a small difference but huge leverage?

Liz Wiseman
Well, one of the ones I found was so interesting was this how people handle moving targets. And do you kind stick to what you’ve agreed to? Like, someone gave you a target, “We’re trying to increase market share by 12% year-over-year.” That’s like your goal, maybe your business development meter. What we find is that ordinary contributors tend to stick to those targets and they stay focused, whereas the impact players are constantly adjusting. In some ways, they’re reactive.

I wouldn’t say they’re reactionary but they react differently. Like, they’re assuming that they’re off target. So, it’s kind of like the metaphor I would use here would be like a violinist. So, if you play the violin, you know that you have to constantly tune that instrument. And, honestly, it was kind of mysterious to me when I was younger, like maybe younger up until like just a couple of years ago when I was like, “Why can’t they tune their instrument before they get up onto that stage? Like, why do they play poorly before they play well?”

And it’s like because even that movement from their backstage to centerstage, they’ve got to tune it before they perform. And it’s this tuning mentality, like lots of little small adjustments. And what we found the impact players do is they respond well to feedback but they don’t wait for feedback. They’re asking for feedback before it’s offered.

Shawn Vanderhoven, is someone who works on my team, and when Shawn started working for me, he would ask questions when he’d start a project, “Okay, what’s the target here? What does a win look like? What are we trying to accomplish?” And once he understood that, he would then start submitting work as part of that, and then he would ask a different set of questions, like, “Are you getting what you need? What can I do differently? What do I need to change so that it better fits the need?”

And he does this with such frequency that he then goes and corrects his works, comes back, submits it. But in the five years I’ve worked with Shawn, I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever had to sit down and have a tough conversation with him. I’ve never had to sit down, and say, “You know, Shawn, this is off and I need you to get it back on.” And it’s not that he doesn’t need that correction, we all do, but he always beats me to it. He’s fixing and changing and adjusting before I ever ask. Like, he’s doing the asking. And it’s so easy to give him feedback.

And one of the other like little distinctions that makes a really big difference is that people aren’t…these impact players aren’t focusing the feedback on themselves, like, “How am I doing? What do I need to do differently?” The focus is on the work, “How can I make this work better?” So, where others are maybe reacting to feedback people give them about themselves and their performance, the impact player is getting information to help them constantly adjust and tune their work so that their work is relevant and on tune.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Well, Liz, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Liz Wiseman
Well, maybe if there was an overarching theme that separated the impact players from everyone else, and I should say it’s not really about people. It’s more about mindsets that we tend to operate in. It’s like what separates an impact player mindset, that I and others tend to go in and out of from sort of a contributor mindset, is how we deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. And the difference we found is that the impact players, when they encounter situations that are out of their control, they tend to dive head in to these situations, kind of like the way an ocean swimmer, or a surfer, like seizes massive oncoming wave that’s kind of scary, like I would turn and run, panic, and get tumbled in the surf, but they dive head into and through this wave.

And they tend to move into uncertainty and they tend to look at that uncertainty and ambiguity through an opportunity lens rather than a threat lens. Like, where other people see, “Ooh, that’s uncomfortable. Roles are unclear. That’s messy. That’s out of my control. Let me back away from it.” The impact players kind of wear opportunity goggles and they’re like, “Oh, yeah, that’s messy, uncertain, uncomfortable, but there’s…let me find an opportunity to add value.” So, they tend to bring clarity to situations that other people tend to steer clear of.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Thank you. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Liz Wiseman
Criss Jami, “Find a purpose to serve, not a lifestyle to live.” And when I saw that, and I just saw this today, I thought, “That really captures a lot of what I’ve learned studying these people who were having a lot of impact is that they are not like pushing an agenda, they’re not necessarily pursuing a lifestyle. It’s they’re finding a situation that needs them and contributing wholeheartedly in that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And now could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Liz Wiseman
I think maybe the one that is most useful to the work I do is just this idea that we tend to overestimate our capability, that I think it’s the Kruger-Dunning effect, that we tend to think we’re better at things than we actually are. And this is the dynamic that I’ve seen play out in my work, kind of studying the best leaders, is that when we get put into a leadership role, we tend to focus on our intent, and we tend to not see our impact on others. Like, most of my work is about looking into this space between our intent and our impact, like learning not to operate based on our best intentions but to actually operate based on the effect that we’re having on others.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Liz Wiseman
I’ll give you one that this is a book I like because it made me so mad. I was really jealous when I read it, like kind of green with jealousy because the book is Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. And the reason why I love it is because, A, it’s an amazing book, and Ed Catmull is an amazing storyteller.

And it’s a story of Pixar, if you’re not familiar with the book, so it’s really like looking into “Why does Pixar consistently produce amazing films. Like, is that an accident or is there actually a system behind that?” And the answer is there’s a system behind it, there’s a reason why, and it’s not coincidence, and it’s how they lead and it’s the culture they built. And the reason why this book made me so mad is I got that reading and it was not too long after I had written Rookie Smarts and I’m like, “Wow, this is an amazing illustration of Rookie Smarts. It’s like what happens when you’re new to something and the innovation that comes out of it.”

And it’s an amazing example of what I call multiplier leadership. Leaders like Ed Catmull who use their talent and intelligence to bring out the best in others. And I’m like, “Wow, how did he do in one book what took me two books to do? And he did it better than that.” But I really loved that book and it’s full of fun, interesting, very practical ways of leading.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Liz Wiseman
Index cards. Succinct is not my strength and so I have to work at succinct in writing and in speaking. And so, I use index cards, and when I’m pulling together final thoughts before giving a talk, a presentation, if it can’t get on the index card, it’s not part of it. So, I use it to really boil down my thinking.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Liz Wiseman
I think a favorite habit would be, I guess, I call it check in before diving in. And I’ve been there, like some people would say that I’m a workhorse, like I’m definitely not a racehorse. I’m a workhorse. I’m one of those people who just like grind through stuff. And I usually like to get right to work and I’m excited about it, I jump in. And one of the things I’ve learned to do with my own team is before we start working on something, to just take sometimes up to half of our allotted time and just check in, like, “How are you? How are you doing?”

And it’s gone well beyond pleasantries, and it’s typically like a chance for people to say, “You know, I’m not doing well. I’m struggling.” And sometimes we’ve spent hours, like we had a day blocked to work on something, and we spent hours just on, “How are you?” Sometimes it’s like, “Well, I’m disappointed that I thought by now I would have this done, and I don’t.” So, there’s been these moments where you could really check in and connect with like how people really are before we work on stuff. And it’s made all the difference for our team who’s gotten us through really some tough times.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And is there a key nugget you share that tends to be quoted back to you frequently?

Liz Wiseman
It would probably be something…it would be better said than this because I think other people would probably say it better than this. It’s just like, “Be the genius-maker not the genius.” It would be some version of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Liz Wiseman
Well, I’m pretty easy to find. TheWisemanGroup.com is a little bit of information about the work that my team and I do. ImpactPlayersBook.com, MultipliersBook.com, I think RookieSmarts.com, RookieSmartsBook.com, I’m honestly sure about that one, or, like I’m @LizWiseman on Twitter.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Liz Wiseman
Maybe a challenge and a suggestion. The challenge would be to ask yourself, “What might I be doing with the very best of intentions that is a barrier to impact? Like, what is preventing me from doing the most valuable meaningful work?” And it’s often things that we’re doing with our best intentions.

And if someone wants to get on the path of impact, maybe a challenge to start here, which is to find out what’s important to the people that you work for, whether it’s a client, a boss, internal customers or stakeholders. Find out what’s important to them and make it important to you. And all the right things tend to flow from that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Liz, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and impact in your future endeavors.

Liz Wiseman
Thank you. It’s nice talking to you.

694: How to Make Your Voice Heard with Connson Locke

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Connson Locke says: "Making your voice heard is not just about dominating other people."

Connson Locke reveals the factors that get people to sit up and take notice.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why we pay attention to some more than others 
  2. The elements of an influential voice
  3. The simple secret to becoming more likable 

 

About Connson

Professor Connson Locke joined the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2008 where she teaches Leadership, Organizational Behaviour, and Negotiation and Decision Making.  Connson has over 30 years’ experience as an educator, coach, and consultant working in Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, and Australia. Prior to entering academia, she served as Regional Training and Development Manager for the Boston Consulting Group where she was responsible for the learning and development of consulting staff in 10 offices across Asia Pacific.

Connson holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Business Administration (Organizational Behaviour) from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in Sociology from Harvard University where she graduated with honours. Her new book, Making Your Voice Heard, uses the research on power and influence to help people speak up to those who have more power than they do. 

Resources Mentioned

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Connson Locke Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Connson, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Connson Locke
You’re welcome. Thanks for inviting me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, my pleasure. I am excited to talk about how we can go about making our voices heard. But, first, I think we need to hear just a bit about you, bungee jumping in Thailand.

Connson Locke
Well, bungee jumping in Thailand, it was in my early 30s and I was going through an early mid-life crisis and I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I thought, “I’m just going to go away on vacation by myself.” And in Asia, at least at the time, it was quite safe for a woman traveling alone. So, I went to Thailand and I thought, “Oh, look, there’s a bungee jumping place that’s over a lake.” And I’d always wanted to bungee jump, and I thought, “It’s over water so it’s probably safe, right?” It was only afterwards that I found out if you hit water at such high speed, it’s like hitting the ground.

And so, I went, I got this tuk-tuk driver, and the tuk-tuk is like the local taxi, he didn’t speak any English, and I pointed out where I wanted to go, so he took me there. He had never seen bungee jumping before so he was the only person there that was watching me, essentially, except for the staff. So, I stand up there, and the thing about bungee jumping, you see the photos, it looks like people are flying. You do not fly. You drop like a rock.

So, I stepped off the platform thinking, “Oh, I’m going to fly like a bird,” and I just went, boom, straight down, screaming. So, afterwards, I go back to the tuk-tuk, and the driver was staring at me, like, “Oh, my God, I cannot believe what you just did.” And he’s like tapping his chest going, “Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” like your heart must be going crazy, and I said, “Yes?” And so, he bought me a bottle of water, which he makes hardly any money but he bought me a bottle of water because he felt so bad for me. That was me bungee jumping in Thailand.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom? I bet that probably plays in your head from time to time. That’s unforgettable. Well, so I take it that it wasn’t something you’re going to do again?

Connson Locke
No, no, it was one of those things I wanted to try once but that’s it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, there you have it. Well, I’ve been skydiving and hang gliding, and I loved it, but bungee jumping just feels like my stomach would go, “Waah,” just from the jolt.

Connson Locke
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And I don’t know if I would do so well. Okay. Well, so I’m glad we covered that. That’s important. And now it’s also important, your book Making Your Voice Heard. That is something, boy, our listeners have asked for before. Can you tell us what’s kind of like the core thesis here?

Connson Locke
So, this is all about what I call upward influence. How do you influence people who have as much or more power than you do? And this is something that has always interested me. And I teach leadership at the LSE, so I’ve been teaching leadership for about 13 years now. And what I noticed in a lot of leadership courses, the focus is very much on, “How do the leaders influence their team?” But, come on, if you’re the boss, how hard is it to make your team do what you want them to do? Like, okay, you’ve got to engage them and all that, but still.

What’s really important and what I struggled with for the 16 years before I entered academia was, “How do I influence my boss?” or, “How do I influence the client?” or, “How do I influence the people who have more power than me, the government official, or whoever it is that I’m trying to convince?” That’s the challenging thing and that’s what the book is focused on.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I’m looking forward to digging into the particular details. But maybe could you start us off by sharing with us a particularly surprising and counterintuitive discovery you’ve made while doing this research?

Connson Locke
I suppose what I find interesting about it is that it’s possible. What I mean is I’ve always been a very shy introverted person and, growing up, I’m Chinese-American, and growing up my parents were very traditional Chinese, I always grew up with this idea that, “Hierarchy is hierarchy and you’re not supposed to argue with your boss. Like, you don’t disagree with your boss. That’s crazy. And why would your boss change his or her mind because of what you say? They are the boss.”

And so, to me, I guess it’s not counterintuitive but it was something that was surprising for me is that, actually, this is something your boss wants you to do in a lot of cases. Like, they want to hear your voice, they want to get your opinion, and if you think that something is going wrong and you can fix it, they want to know that. So, it’s one of those things that, once I realized it’s beneficial for the organization, oftentimes the people in charge want to hear your voice, then that kind of changed the way I looked at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, I concur as someone who has been both the boss and the follower. As the boss, it is genuinely helpful when I say something and someone tells me, not necessarily, “That’s the stupidest idea ever. You’re so wrong.” But rather, “Hmm, do you think that’s the best course of action, given X, Y, Z?” and I go, “Oh, shoot. Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, thank you.” And then, “It’d be like disastrous if we went ahead and charged ahead with the thing I originally thought of, so thank you, collaborator, for bringing that to my attention.”

Okay. Well, so then I want to dig into the how-to of that. But maybe, zooming out, can you tell us, kind of fundamentally, what makes some people more influential than others? And I’ve had listeners say something like, “Hey, sometimes I’ll be in a meeting, and I’ll say something, and then someone else, and it was sort of like, ‘Hmm,” kind of barely acknowledged. And someone else will say just about exactly the same thing, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and there’s like enthusiasm and movement, and I think, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ And it feels horrible.” You feel so small when that happens. But what are some drivers behind that? What makes someone more influential than someone else?

Connson Locke
So, sometimes it’s pure bias, sometimes there is maybe the person who is being paid attention to is maybe physically bigger, or is taller, or has been around longer, or is more senior. So, these are things you don’t necessarily have control over and there are biases towards listening to those people more. But what you can do to be that person that people listen to is there’s reputation, and then there is delivery style, and, of course, there’s content, obviously, but we’re talking about two people presenting the same amount of content, so who gets listened to more, assuming all other things are equal.

Reputation is what’s called basis of power. So, basis of power are where you get your power from, and if you’re the boss, you get your power from things like you have access to rewards and punishments. But if you’re not the boss, you get your power from two things. One is called expert power, which is people respect you for your expertise. And the other is called reverend power, which is people like you, but this takes time, you have to build it over time.

And if you’ve built that respect, if people respect you, and they go, “Oh, okay. Well, I’ve worked with Connson for a long time, and when she says something, I know that it’s worth listening to,” or, “I’ve worked with Connson a long time, and I really like listening to…I’ve really liked working with her, so I think I will listen to her.” That is something that can really feed into that. So, that’s the reputation.

But the other thing is the delivery style. And delivery style is everything from your body language. We think a lot about body language but, actually, I think what’s even more important than body language is the voice. What are we doing with our voice? Are we emphasizing? Are we being monotone? Are we using pauses? And that’s something that we can practice, but, also, it’s delivery is like it’s being pithy, it’s like getting to the point, it’s catching people’s attention. So, it’s that combination of how do you sound, how do you look, and what are you saying.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then let’s talk about both the long-term game and the short-term game. Let’s hear first some quick hits, the do’s and don’ts of sort of like the voice and the presentation and the delivery style because that’s something we can do immediately and, hopefully, see some impact. So, what are the top things that give us an influence boost versus an influence ding?

Connson Locke
Okay. So, when it comes to delivery style, think of how you look and how you sound. And I’m going to assume that what you’re saying is the same regardless, so let’s focus on how you look and how you sound. How you look, if you’re online, you need to pay attention to lightning. If you’re not online then, obviously, you don’t have to worry about that, you’re all in the same room anyway. If you’re online, you also need to pay attention to sound quality, so getting a good headset so people can hear you.

The other things about how you look is think about your clothing, your hairstyle. Are you standing up straight? Are you slouched or are you taking up space? So, the good things are, if you’re standing up or sitting up straight, you’re taking up some space, which means you’re not shrinking, you’re not kind of hiding, but you’re really owning that space. You’re using eye contact while speaking because that’s what makes people…that’s what makes you come across as confident. And you’re using a tone of voice that’s confident and natural, a pace that’s natural, and you’re willing to pause.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, could you maybe give us a verbal demonstration then associated with what does a nice influential voice sound like versus a not-so influential voice?

Connson Locke
Sure. So, if I’m trying to tell you about what makes me influential, yeah, and I’m talking and I’m just kind of using a lot of filler words, it’s not very engaging and, after a while, you kind of tune out. Instead, if you’re short, sharp, sweet, you deliver the information, look confident, sound confident, and deliver your information in sharp bites. Okay, I’ve got a confident tone of voice, I’m pausing in between each point, and sometimes I’ll change my tone if I’m emphasizing something or maybe I’ll say something a bit softer if I want to get your attention. That’s using your voice to its potential and it’s something you can practice. Everyone can practice at home. You record yourself on your phone, you play it back.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. It’s so funny, in the first one, my attention started drifting just within a couple of seconds, and this is kind of my job is to pay attention to everything you’re saying.

Connson Locke
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And think about how we’re going to package and present it. So, I thought that was pretty funny and then there may very well have been some listeners, I think you’d notice the same thing or maybe even skipped ahead, like, “Oh, I’m bored right now. Let’s get more.” So, that’s potent there. And then part of it is practicing and recording yourself so you can just hear and see the difference for yourself. Any other tips in terms of doing the preparation so that that is possible?

Connson Locke
You know, who I think one of my best coaches has been, and he hasn’t meant to be my coach, my husband who I have been married to for about 20 years now. He’s a very impatient person. And when I first started dating him, I would tell him stories about what happened to me at work, and I’d go on and on and on, and he would just drift off, like he was not listening anymore.

So, over the years, I learned to be very much to the point. Like, I think a great way of practicing is to find a friend or a family member who you know is pretty impatient and practice telling them a story. If you can keep their attention, you’re getting to the point.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like it. Okay, so that’s the vocal stuff. You mentioned clothing, and maybe this is common sense but maybe perhaps not common practice. What are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to clothing?

Connson Locke
With clothing, you have to pay attention to the culture of the organization you’re in. Don’t make assumptions. I had a student who went for an interview at an advertising company, and she wore a very conservative dark blue suit, and she noticed that everyone around her was wearing colorful funky kind of creative clothing. She did not get the job. So, don’t make assumptions about what’s the appropriate clothing or not. Really, you need to observe the culture around you and adopt what is best in that environment.

Pete Mockaitis
I notice in my own clothing game, which is mediocre – I’m wearing a T-shirt right now but you’re cool with it. Thanks, Connson – is that just sort of little things in terms of like, “Oh, there’s a wrinkle I didn’t notice before but, oh, now I see it and it’s there,” or, “Oh, there’s a little bit of a spot of, I don’t know if it was maybe a little bit of grease or oil or ketchup I got to wipe up and had just a smidge of that sort of oil or residue left behind.” So, it’s like a wet spot but it’s there for, I guess, the day. That’s what I find with clothing is those little things.

And, I don’t know, sometimes I wonder how much do people care but I think I’m coming around to thinking that even if it’s not fully in their conscious purview, it’s sending a little bit of a signal that’s impeding influence. Would you agree with that or what do you think about those little clothing things?

Connson Locke
I think with clothing, it’s the impression that you make. So, if there’s a little stain and you hardly notice it, I doubt anyone else is going to notice it, unless you point it out to them, which I would suggest you don’t do. But, otherwise, it’s about the general impression. And so, as long as, in terms of the general impression, if you’re making the impression that you want to make, sometimes you want to make a more casual impression, sometimes you want to make a more formal impression, and so it’s all about that kind of broad impression that you’re making, and that’s what you should be aiming for. I wouldn’t worry too much about the little wrinkles or the stains.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thanks for that. That helped there. I think fit also can factor into things in terms of if it’s a little too tight or a little too baggy, it looks quite different than when it’s sharp, like, “Oh, yeah, that fits you just right.” You just look good no matter the context. Okay, so clothing, we’re not going to say much more about that. When it comes to that expertise and the reputation, sort of the long game, how do you recommend we develop that well?

Connson Locke
So, developing expert power, the most obvious way to do it is just to be really good at what you do, be really good at your job, but also to make sure people know that you’re good at your job. So, for example, when I first started working at LSE, I got a lot of good evaluations as a teacher, but not everyone knows what evaluations everyone else is getting. But the head of my group was so impressed with my teaching scores that she actually had this little, at one of the staff meetings, she gave me a little award for getting the best teaching evaluations that she’s ever seen.

And so, that was great because I didn’t have to brag on my own behalf, which never looks good. She was the one who kind of let people know what I was doing, and that helped me gain expert power. So, then my colleagues were like, “Oh, wow. I didn’t know that Connson was good at that.” So, it’s being really good at what you do but also making sure, finding a way to let people know that you’re good at it.

If you want to build expert power with a particular person, it can really help if you can help them solve a problem that they’re working on, that they’re struggling with, because then you’re helping them solve this problem and they’ll be grateful, and they’ll also be like, “Oh, you’re pretty smart.” So, those are the ways of building expert power.

Pete Mockaitis
And then what I’m intrigued by your fantastic evaluations, and maybe particular pedagogical things that are not within the scope here, but is there anything you do in the classroom you think that is particularly powerful when it comes to being liked and influential by your students?

Connson Locke
I think, in terms of the evaluations that I’ve received, there are two things that students usually say. One is they can tell that I love what I teach, like I really care about this. But it’s not just that I’m so fascinated about the topic that I teach, it’s that I care about helping them become better leaders. So, when I teach, it’s not me kind of indulging myself. When I teach, it’s about helping my students become better at leadership, at influence, at doing better in their careers, and they can tell that. They can tell that I want to help them. So, that really engages them.

The other thing is I tell lots of stories, and they love the stories. So, I tell stories about my kids, about my husband. I guess I’ve already mentioned something about my husband today, and it’s just I bring all of my personal experiences into it, and they think that’s very engaging.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, certainly. Okay. Well, so then when it comes to the workplace, well, hey, that’s been a common theme we’ve seen in terms of just caring, just is huge in terms of people pick up on it, they want to reciprocate, you’re motivated, you get more creative ideas, you look out for their good, and so all kinds of great things happen just by caring, and caring can be rare in some environments, so it really is a distinguisher. So, what else do you recommend folks do to bolster their likability at work?

Connson Locke
So, in terms of likability, so expertise is one thing, and we’ve already talked about that. Likability is different in that it’s really about getting to know people as people, not as work colleagues. It’s really having that curiosity in a person. It’s wanting to connect with people just for the sake of connecting. So, for example, I don’t know, if you’ve got someone who works at the front desk, and you’re walking past the front desk to go to the stationery cupboard, pause at the front desk, chat with them, get to know them, at least get to know their name and who they are.

It’s that connecting with colleagues, chatting with people at the coffee machine. I know that doesn’t happen so much now with the pandemic and everything. I had a colleague, just today, who’s helping me with something, and she was so amazingly helpful. I said to her, “I’m going to take you out to dinner in return.” And so, it’s that taking the time to get to know people and appreciate people. That makes you likable.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, you also write a bit about energy and body cues. Can you share with us a little bit about what are these, how do we identify them, and use them to our advantage?

Connson Locke
So, when it comes to body cues, I think most of what I think is important to focus on is what you are communicating to other people because that’s what you have control over. And what I think is most important, when you’re trying to be influential, is communicating confidence. And so, confidence, communicating confidence is everything you learn in presentation skills training – stand up straight, take up space, use eye contact, sound confident, all of those things.

When we’re trying to interpret other people’s body cues, we have to be very careful because it’s really easy to misinterpret. So, one thing I usually warn people about is narcissists are great at looking confident, and we confuse confidence with competence, and, obviously, it’s not the same thing. If someone looks confident, we think that they’re pretty competent. The next time you are interviewing someone or listening to someone, and you think, “Wow, they really know what they’re talking about,” just question yourself a little bit, “What am I basing this on? Am I basing this on the fact that they sound really confident? Or, am I actually basing this on something concrete?”

Like, if you’re interviewing someone, how do you protect yourself against a narcissist? There are a couple of things you can do. One is you ask for specific examples of what they’ve accomplished, because once you get the examples, then you can hear how they talk about the examples. Do they talk about it as if they did everything themselves, or do they give other people credit?

And the other this is you ask other people how they were treated by this person, especially the receptionist or the junior people, because narcissists tend to talk down to people who they don’t think are very important. So, I guess the bottom-line is don’t read too much into other people’s body cues, and, in fact, try to get additional data to make sure that what you’re interpreting is accurate.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that sounds dead-on. And then I find there’s an interesting blend, I was chatting with my buddy Connor about this, not Connie, not Connson – Connor. And he said, I think I was chatting, it was a speech therapist. I was taking my son to a speech therapist, and she said, “Yeah, his pronunciation on words is pretty good but when it gets stretched out to a whole sentence, it does get a little bit harder to understand.” And I thought, “You know, I’ve always thought the word was pronounced pronunciation, and you’re the speech therapist, so I would imagine pronunciation is your whole game. So, if you say it’s pronoun-ciation, then I’m inclined to think maybe it is.”

And I think it’s so fascinating, and maybe this is agreeableness, the personality trait that I’m capturing here, but it’s like there are some folks who seem, and she was very sweet, but there are some folks who seem very confident and positive that their way, their thoughts are correct. And I, who have, I guess, a decent bit of humility and agreeableness, or whatever the construct is, when I receive that, I go, “Oh, okay. Well, I kind of thought it was this,” or, “Hmm, that doesn’t make much sense to me given A, B, C in my own experience, but you really seem to think…”

And so, it’s tricky and, often, that’s the conversation I have with friends, it’s like, “Wait. Am I crazy? What’s the deal here?” And so, hey, help us if you can. Help us decode that. Like, how much stock should we put in the confidence of another person relative to our own knowledge, data, expertise? And it’s probably not a one-size-fits-all answer. I’m putting you on the spot, but how do you think about that dance?

Connson Locke
The way I think about it would be trying to break down, “Is this person…Do I feel like this person is confident in what they’re saying because of the way they are saying it? Or, are they actually putting some data and some logic and some actual concrete support behind what they’re saying?” Because if they’re giving me some concrete support, okay, maybe I’ll be a bit more confident in what they’re saying. If it’s simply they’re delivering it with confidence, no, don’t be fooled by that.

I’m just going to use my husband as an example again. When my children, my daughters are now teenagers but I remember when they were younger, when they were like eight and ten years old, and my husband is the full-time parent. And one time I heard one of my daughters asking her father about a history question. We live in the UK so, obviously, they’re not going to ask me a history question. I don’t know about the queens and the kings of England and all of that.

So, they asked their father, who’s English, and he gave a very definitive answer, and so they went and did their homework. And then they came back to me the next day, and they said, “I got that question wrong. I asked daddy, and daddy was so confident, and so I thought it was right, but it was wrong.” And I was like, “Yes. Well, you should really double-check for yourself. Daddy says things confidently but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.” And so, my daughters were learning that lesson very early on, but I think it’s something we all have to keep in mind. Just because someone is saying something in a confident tone doesn’t mean it’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, Connson, tell me, any other key things you want to make sure to mention about making your voice heard before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Connson Locke
I think one of the most important things we need to understand about making your voice heard is that it’s not just about dominating other people. It’s not just about being heard. Like, you have to have something to say. You have to have a reason why you’re doing this. So, what has helped me over the years, as I said I was very introverted before and had a lot of trouble making my voice heard. But what has helped me over the years is that I have a higher purpose in a way. I’m helping people learn, I’m helping people be better at what they do, and that’s what drives me.

So, I think instead of just thinking, “How do I get loud enough so everyone is going to hear me?” you should be asking yourself, “What do I want to say and is it worth saying? Is it actually going to add to what’s happening out there?” The other thing I would say also is influence is a two-way street. So, it’s not just about trying to convince the other person that you’re right. It’s actually about getting to know the other person as well and being open to them, asking questions and finding out what their perspective is, and having a two-way conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Connson Locke
Yes, so there’s a book by Kahlil Gibran called The Prophet, and there’s a quote from that that says, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that holds your understanding.” And it took me a very long time to understand this, but now that I’ve been through failure, I’ve been through a lot of pain over the years – I’m 55 so I’ve lived, you know, I’ve done a lot of things – I now understand that when you go through a painful experience, you’re growing and, as a result, you actually get bigger.

And I kind of think of it as it’s kind of like a snake shedding its skin. So, each time you go through this painful experience, you kind of shed a skin, you’re getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and it’s how you grow. It’s how you develop. And so, when I look back on my life and the painful experiences I’ve had, I now no longer regret any of them. There was a time when I hated it, I was like, “Oh, my God, why did I do that job? Why did I have to go through that? Why did I have that horrible boss?” But now I’m like, “You know what, I learned from that and I’m better for it and I’m bigger for it.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Connson Locke
I would actually say, and this is a little bit controversial, the power poses study.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, Amy Cuddy.

Connson Locke
Yeah, Amy Cuddy, power poses. And it’s only controversial because in her original research with her colleagues, what they found was that holding a power pose changes your hormones. It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases testosterone, makes you more confident. And other researchers that tried to replicate it did not find any effect on hormones. And so, it became this big thing, like, “Oh, we can’t replicate it. It’s a false study. You should stop talking about it.”

However, what they did replicate was that people who held a power pose for two minutes – and a power pose is not something you do in front of other people, you kind of do in the privacy of a bathroom or something – you do feel more confident as a result. And when they actually did things like they had people do a presentation. Half of them did a power pose before the presentation, and the other half didn’t, and the people who were judging the presentations didn’t know who had done a power pose, but they judged the presentations.

And the presentations that they found more engaging turned out to be the people who had done the power pose. So, I actually think it’s one of those things that it’s so easy, a two-minute power pose. I do it before a big presentation when I’m really nervous. It’s just one of those really easy practical things that, yeah, that’s what I love. I love those easy practical things that you can just work into your day and it doesn’t take much time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And a favorite book?

Connson Locke
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Connson Locke
It’s a 12-week course in rediscovering your creativity and it doesn’t take much time. I did it while I was working at the Boston Consulting Group, actually, so I didn’t have much time. But it took maybe half an hour a day, and then maybe a couple hours on the weekend, but, as a result of following that 12-week course chapter by chapter, it just kind of put me back in touch with, I don’t know, the joy of being alive, kind of put me in touch with rediscovering, like noticing colors and nature and all of these things that I had kind of lost touch with.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Connson Locke
A favorite tool I actually think is in my job I lecture so I’m using PowerPoint all the time, which I actually love PowerPoint if it’s used properly, if you’re not using it as a Word document, but you’re actually using it for visuals and shapes and all of that. But PowerPoint has this notes function which I really like using.

The other favorite tool, nowadays when I’m teaching online on Zoom, the polling function. I love polling and I found I can really get students, especially my undergrads who normally won’t…I’ve got like 200 to 300 undergrads at a lecture. In a lecture hall, they’re not going to raise their hands but if I give them a poll, it’s anonymous, and they’ll answer, and I get to know them that way as well. So, I love the polling function.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite nugget that you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Connson Locke
One thing that my students have said, they appreciate that I share, is how much I used to struggle when I was younger with my making my voice heard. And I often tell the story of when I was a teenager, I think I was about 15, when I was on vacation with my parents, and we were in a hotel, and my mother said, “Can you go downstairs and ask the front desk for a newspaper?” And I was so stressed out by that, I was like, “What? No, I can’t. You want me to ask a stranger about…? What? No.”

And my students laughed when I talk about that but I think they appreciate me kind of revealing how far I’ve come and how it is possible if you are painfully shy and introverted to evolve and to actually get your voice heard.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Connson Locke
I have a website ConnsonLocke.com, and that’s Connson, C-O, double N, S-O-N. C-O, double N because I was born in Connecticut, L-O-C-K-E.com.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Connson Locke
You know what, I think one of the most important things is to take time for yourself, is to really not just take time for yourself, but to take time to get to know yourself and to really understand, “What are your priorities? What are your values? What do you find important in life?” Because if you don’t understand that, you can’t bring your best self to work.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Connson, this has been a treat. Thank you and I wish you lots of luck in all the ways you make your voice heard.

Connson Locke
Thank you.

649: How to Persuade through Better Listening and Adapting with Brian Ahearn

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Brian Ahearn says: "The skill of listening starts with a choice, and when you make that choice... it becomes a habit."

Brian Ahearn shares how to improve your influence by listening well and adapting to different personality types.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What every professional can learn from insurance agents
  2. The 5 critical ingredients of listening STARS 
  3. How to DEAL with the four different types of people 

About Brian

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. A dynamic international keynote speaker, he specializes in applying the science of influence in everyday situations. 

Brian is one of only 20 individuals in the world who currently holds the Cialdini Method Certified Trainer designation. This specialization was earned directly from Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. – the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence. 

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, is an Amazon best-seller and his LinkedIn courses have been viewed by more than 75,000 people. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors! 

  • FSAstore.com. Use your flex spending account funds with the greatest of ease! Save $20 on a $150+ purchase with promo code AWESOME. 

Brian Ahearn Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Brian, welcome back to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Brian Ahearn
Thank you for having me back on. Third time is a charm, I think.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. Well, you’re in rare company there. That doesn’t happen very often. Maybe like three-ish times. Well, the listeners can’t see this but I’m charmed by your background. You have a screen which has the How to be Awesome at Your Job logo, cover art, and it says, “Hello, Pete.” And then you have a tasteful backdrop. I guess you got an Amazon, which looks pretty realistic. What’s the story here?

Brian Ahearn
So, in the COVID lockdown world that we’re in, I knew that I was going to need to do something to differentiate myself, and I saw a friend who’s a bigtime National Speaker Association speaker and he had put a studio in his house, and he was kind enough to spend about an hour with me one day to walk me through everything that he did, and we converted our daughter’s old bedroom.

And so, I’ve got a beautiful backdrop and a 55-inch TV and I can give standup presentations where I’m walking up to the camera and moving. It’s not just a face-on Zoom, and clients have loved it, and potential clients are blown away when they see their logo and their name up on the screen on a Zoom call.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, and it’s different I don’t know why but it is. It’s different than sharing your screen with an image of that with you like in a corner. It just is and I don’t know why or how it matters but it does.

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think clients are going to see me from like the waist up moving back and forth and turning towards, and getting a sense of, “Hey, this is a little bit what life was like prior to the pandemic. I’m seeing this person really interact with us.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it does. It’s more three-dimensional literally because it’s behind you in the third dimension. So, Brian, not that I had any doubts but this just reinforces that this was the right choice to have you on a third time.

So, you’ve got a fresh book. It’s funny, I was a little slow, as you may recall, to reply to your email because your book is called Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents. And I’m like, “Well, you know what, most of my listeners are not insurance agents.” But, nonetheless, I think you’ve really identified some universal skills and principles that benefit all professionals, and so we’re going to zoom into a couple of those.

You’ve got some good acronyms, kind of STARS and the DEAL model, we’re going to talk about. But, first, maybe you could just tee it up broadly, what can and should non-sales professionals learn from insurance agents?

Brian Ahearn
Well, everybody is selling all the time, and so when people say, “Well, this book is for insurance agents.” Well, it’s really for all salespeople because we look at the entire sales cycle and how the psychology of persuasion applies throughout each of the steps. But even somebody who might say, “I’m not in a formal sales role,” they’re still selling themselves, their ideas, and things, especially if they’re working in a large corporation. So, understanding the deal model of how to interact with people is critically important for those folks. So, I feel like anybody who knows that moving forward with getting a yes, selling themselves, their ideas and things, they’re all going to benefit from the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so you’ve got some great perspective on listening and a helpful acronym STARS, which is funny because I think of STAR for interviews: situation, tasks, action, result. But you’ve got a different STAR associated with listening and I think it makes a ton of sense. So, can you lay it out for us, when it comes to listening well, why should we do it and how should we do it?

Brian Ahearn
Well, when I worked in the corporate world and I was involved in sales training, a critical component of being a good salesperson is the ability to listen. And, unfortunately, a lot of people haven’t experienced this, but good salespeople only talk 25% to 30% of the time. They ask good questions and then they stop and they listen, and they ask more questions. But you have to be a good listener and you have to be confident in those skills. And while we are taught to read and write and speak, almost nobody goes through a class on how to be a more effective listener.

So, as I was interacting with our field sales team back in the day, I came up with this acronym to make it very easy for people to understand what it takes to be listening stars. And it’s simply this: stop everything you’re doing, that’s the first letter, the S; pay attention to tone of voice, T, because it conveys emotion; A is ask clarifying questions; R is restate your understanding of what you’ve heard; and then S is scribble, take notes.

And I think if everybody could do those five things and just work on doing those things better all the time, you would be blown away by how much more effective you could be as a listener. You’d become listening stars.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, I love this in that it makes a lot of sense. Those seem to be five critical ingredients and often overlooked ingredients. Help us out with some of them in terms of it sounds easy to do but most often people are not doing it. Maybe tell us, how can we do each of these better? Like, how can we stop excellently? What should we really look for in the tone, etc.?

Brian Ahearn
Okay. So, when it comes to stop, you cannot give your attention to more than one thing at a time. You could try to fool yourself, and you could say, “Well, I can finish this email while I’m listening,” but you’re never really giving your attention and, therefore, you’re missing things. And we saw this when we were running little workshops and experiments, and we saw that people who gave their full attention to listening, they weren’t distracted by a second task or taking too many notes. They were catching 75% more of the facts that were being shared as compared to other people.

So, if you think about that, if you are a salesperson, or any position you’re in, if you discipline yourself to stop so that you can fully pay attention, and you’re catching 75% more than your competitor, you have a huge advantage. So, I think anybody who is listening to this podcast will catch themselves doing other things, and that’s okay, that’s a slap on the hand like, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” That’s your first step in awareness. And if you keep that up, eventually you’ll find yourself stopping all those other things for longer and longer periods which is going to certainly help you be more effective in terms of what you’re receiving through your ears.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Brian, I love it when you drop a clear number like that. Boy, I’m thinking about there are just so many opportunities. Like, 75% more facts, I mean, that’s huge because someone might grab 10 facts, and then a listening star, could grab 18 facts, and those incremental 8 facts can make all the difference in terms of I’m thinking of it like in negotiation, like, “Huh, that thing I captured could surface a win-win opportunity that we could totally overlook had we not captured that upfront.”

Or, you can say, “Hmm, that little piece could really help me deepen my relationship with this person down the road.” It’s like, “Oh, hey, I remembered you liked flyfishing,” or whatever they like, and then you’ve got a cool opportunity to engage in subsequent conversations, build connection, camaraderie, etc. wow, 75% more facts from a conversation is just like 75% more opportunity, possibility, impact.

Brian Ahearn
And I would say, too, it’s not just the positive facts that you catch. Sometimes it’s the negative facts that might make you say, “Hmm, this isn’t a deal I want to go through with.” When I worked with an insurance company, a lot of the role of an underwriter is to get as many facts to make a determination, “Do we want to write this account or do we not? And if we do write it, at what price?” Catching those things, even the negative things, impacts the decision-making on behalf of the company, so it was critically important on the positive and the negative what are you going to catch or miss.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, decision-making in terms of making those decisions optimally and the facts are just the top of the funnel, so that’s huge. So, for stopping, you notice that you’re doing something else and then bring it back. And this kind of sounds like any number of mindful practices and exercises, like with your breath or whatnot. How else can we get better at stopping?

Brian Ahearn
Make an intentional effort to do it. Just to tell somebody, like, “Hey, hold me accountable here.” If you’re sitting in a meeting and you tell somebody, “I’m really trying to work on my listening skills and I don’t want to be distracted. If you see me kind of going off or something like that, just give me a nudge.” But that accountability is probably enough at that point just to get you to do something different versus if you never said anything to somebody else. So, it really starts with a commitment.

And what I want to say about this, Pete, every step in the STARS model, it’s a skill but it’s not a skill that people don’t possess and cannot get better at, and I’ll give you an example. I’m 5’9” and I weigh 210 pounds, I was always into weightlifting and things, but I was never able to dunk a basketball. And if somebody came to me tomorrow and said, “Hey, Brian, this contract that you’re looking at, it depends on your ability to dunk a basketball.” I’m like, “I’m out. Never been able to do it. It’s not a skill I ever possessed, and it’s not one I ever will, given my physical characteristics.”

But the skill of listening starts with a choice, and when you make that choice, the more often you make that choice, it becomes habit. And that’s where you, all of a sudden, you’re finding yourself stopping more and more, paying attention to tone more and more, asking those questions, etc.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s good. And if I may, I’m thinking about what distracts me from listening. It’s often my body in terms of like, “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty,” “I need to pee,” “I’ve been sitting for too long.” How do you recommend we address those in particular or is it all the same in terms of redirecting it right back to the person talking?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think the consciousness of it, like when you start thinking like, “Oh, I want to go to the bathroom,” or, “Oh, I’m getting so hungry,” it’s still like shake your head and say, “Well, wait a minute. There’s going to be time for me to get some food. I need to just bear down here a little bit more.” And give yourself some grace, too, because sheer willpower is like a muscle. It gets tired too. And as we are mentally tired, as we are physically tired, as we are hungry, all of those things will impact our ability to give focus and attention.

So, if you have an opportunity to do something different, like, say, “Hey, Pete, I’m loving this conversation but can I take a short break? I just need to get a little carbohydrate in me. I just need to get like a piece of candy or something.” And that person is probably going to say, “Sure, that’s fine.” They may be feeling the same way, and so that might be license for them to go do that thing too.

And I think that when you’re the person who’s engaging somebody to help them be more effective listeners, I always make sure, like when I’m doing training sessions, every hour, we have at least a 10-minute break. And I know that carves out time but if people can use the restroom, can get a refreshment, can stretch their legs, can clear their mind, that next 50 minutes that I have them, they are so much more focused than if I try to just plow through two hours.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s absolutely true. I’ve seen it many times on both sides of the presentation table there. Okay, so that’s stopping. So, tone, you say that there is a lot in it and we should pay attention to it. Expand on that, please.

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think everybody knows two people can say the same thing. Two people could make an apology, and one person can seem sincere and the other one doesn’t, and it’s not so…

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m sorry.”

Brian Ahearn
Exactly. We hear it all the time when people are caught, media figures are caught, and, all of a sudden, they’re issuing that standardized apology. But I always thought about the example that my wife called me one time, and I was at work, and I could hear the wind blowing, and I said, “Are you playing golf?” And she said, “Yes.” And that three-letter word, yes, just the way she said it, I said, “You’re not playing very well, are you?” And she goes, “No,” and then she started kind of unburdening herself.

But that’s a clear indication. Three letters, one simple word, and just by the tone, I could tell that she wasn’t playing well. You’ve been married now for a little while, I’m sure that you can hear some words like, “Fine.” When you say, “How are you doing?” “Fine.” You realize, “They’re not really doing fine. There’s more behind that. I can tell,” and that’s usually based on tone of voice.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay. And so, are there any tone things that people tend to overlook or a great sort of telltale indicators? Because I think that sometimes in my own tone or others, I notice…how do I say it? It’s like they’re energized and excited, and then they’re back into sort of like perfunctory, like, “Uh-oh, duty, responsibility, process, compliance.” I don’t know what words I would use for those tones but sometimes you could see they’re jazzed about this and not so jazzed about that. And so, I can pick up on that and I find that pretty handy. What are some other key dimensions of tone to look out for?

Brian Ahearn
Well, where somebody emphasizes. You can have a sentence, “I didn’t steal that toy.” If you say that to a little kid or somebody, depending on where they put the emphasis, “I didn’t steal that toy,” or, “I DIDN’T steal that toy,” “I didn’t steal THAT toy. I stole another toy.” Right? So, paying attention to where that emphasis is and that tone is coming out, starts to become an indicator too. Because if somebody says, “I didn’t steal THAT toy,” then you might think, “Oh, the way you said that, you might’ve stolen some other toy,” or something like that.

But a lot of times people aren’t aware of it and they’re a leak, so to speak, and we do this with our body, too, and how we verbalize things and how we move. But there are leaks that will really let you know more about what somebody understands. And some of this goes back to the work of Dr. Albert Morabia and in his work on communication.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like the words and the tone and the gestures. It’s the proportion of…

Brian Ahearn
Yeah. And what they say, I think, is 55% body language, 38% tone, yeah, and 7% words. And speakers get up and all the time they tout that and they say, and I was guilty of this at one point, they’ll say, “People are going to remember your tie more than what you said.” That is not what his work was looking at. His work was looking at when the message and the messenger seem to be incongruent, people will focus a lot more on how somebody looks, their body language, and their tone of voice. Because, going back to that apology, two people can say the very same words. And if somebody says it in a way that doesn’t seem sincere, you start focusing on the body language and the tone. That’s what he was talking about in his research. Not a blanket, “People aren’t really listening to your words.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Thank you for setting the record straight there. And that sounds a lot more true, certainly, in terms of if they said, “Ah, ah, ah, I didn’t steal anything.” It’s like, “Well, your words say that you didn’t but there’s something. You’re very nervous for some reason, and that’s what I want to be keying in on.” Okay, so tone. And then how about some asking clarifying questions? What are some of your favorite clarifying questions?

Brian Ahearn
Well, let me say this about questions. First is I’m never an advocate of interrupting somebody when they’re speaking, but when you don’t understand and you recognize in the moment, “I don’t really understand something,” it shows that you’re engaged in the conversation. So, if you’re telling me a lot of stuff, and I say, “Hey, Pete, can you hang on a second? When you said this, did you mean that? I’m not really sure.” It gives you an opportunity to make sure that I do understand and clarify, but it also shows that I’m engaged in that conversation because if I just button up and don’t say a word, you might start even wondering, like, “Is he even paying attention? I mean, he hasn’t said a word. He hasn’t given me any gesture. I don’t know if he’s engaged in this conversation.”

And it’s even more difficult over the phone because you can’t see the person. So, I think utilizing clarifying questions is a great way to stay engaged in the conversation so your mind doesn’t wander. It lets the other person know that you are in that, and it just helps you clarify what it is that you’re hearing.

And to your question, too, a simple one is when you say what are some of the questions. It’s, “Help me understand,” or, “I’m not really sure. Could you explain it?” But it’s a question. So, you have to say, “Well, I don’t understand something,” “I’m not clear on what you said,” “I don’t think I hear what you’re saying,” “Can you explain?” “Can you expound?” “Can you do something to help me out here?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that’s grand. And I do like a 90-minute training on clarifying questions alone for like collaborators in terms of what you really need to understand before you embark upon a piece of work such that you don’t end up giving them something that they don’t want, in terms of like the deliverable, the timing, the process, the resources, the audience, and the motive.

Brian Ahearn
Well, I will say this, we talk about STARS in the book in the section on qualifying. So, in the sales process, when you finally have the opportunity to meet with a client, you want to assess, “Do we want to do business together?” Not all business is good business, “Can I do business? Do I have the capacity to fulfill your needs? And do I want to?” And you’re making the same assessment of me as the salesperson, “Do I want to do business with this guy? Can he meet my needs?” Questions are what help us determine that, and that’s why we talk about the STARS model in the qualifying part of the sales process.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, we’ve asked some clarifying questions. And then restating, how should we do that?

Brian Ahearn
So, whatever it is that you understand somebody to say. Pete, I know your listeners can’t see this but if I ask you, for example, about your business. You’re proud of your business and you know all this, and I’m putting my arms out really wide. You have this vast wealth of knowledge. If I’m working, for example, with insurance agents, they don’t need to know all of that. There are certain key things that they want to understand and so they’re going to hone in on those.

And as they do, those are the things that they’re going to probably come back and say, “So, Pete, your business sounds awesome. And if I understand you right…” and then I kind of come through and I lay out a few critical things about what it is that you need in your insurance protection. “If I hear you right, Pete…” and then I clarify that. And you may come back and go, “That’s exactly it, Brian. Thank you.” Or, you might come back and go, “No, you’re missing it. It’s the claim that I had. That’s why I’m upset.” And so, we can circle back and make sure that we’re both on the same page.

But no matter how well I do with listening, I will never know everything going on in your mind and so I don’t want to make that assumption that I do, so I, therefore, am going to try to restate to the best of my ability, “Here’s how it boils down for me.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Excellent. And then note-taking, I mean?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I use S for scribbling because N would’ve been STARN and that would’ve blown the whole model, right? So, I always encourage people to take some notes, but this is not writing the great American novel. It’s not trying to get down every word that people say. And while we can use certain tools like laptops to get a lot of information, that actually can hurt your listening because they say a lot of times students are trying to take down everything the professor is saying and they’re missing context and other things.

I encourage people to just bullet point things that they’re going to need to circle back on. So, I might’ve heard you say you had a car accident. I don’t need to stop you right in the middle of your story to say, “Tell me the details,” because you might. But if you don’t, I‘ve got that little bullet point and I can say, “Hey, Pete, you mentioned you had a car accident. Can you tell me a little bit more?” And I start asking, “When was it?” “What happened,” and all those things but it’s because I have that bullet point to remind me.

It also maybe just a few quick bullet points so there are things that I can fill out after our conversation is over. So, maybe I catch the name of your pet, I catch the name of your wife, or other things that I think will be important for me to remember down the road. And so, I bullet point those and it triggers my mind, and then I start going back, “Oh, yeah,” and I remember the type of dog that you said you had, and how long. Certain other things are triggered by that bullet point. So, that’s what I mean by scribble.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. So, there we got the listening, STARS, cool. And we’ve got another perspective, you called it the DEAL model, and you’re thinking specifically about four personality types. Well, first, lay this on us in terms of what are the types? Where do they come from? And how do we identify them?

Brian Ahearn
Okay. People are probably pretty familiar with DiSC, the DiSC model. And when I was working with the insurance company, and this was probably ten years ago, a training organization came in and used something that was similar to that. I don’t remember exactly what it was but it was similar to that, as a way to try to identify yourself, and it was a little more self-reflective than others.

And a guy I worked with came up and said, “Man, it’d be really cool if we could tie the principles of influence that you teach to the different personality styles. Are there some that are more effective than others?” So, I did a survey with my blog readers, and I took some very generic descriptions and said, “Read these and choose what you think you are,” and then that kind of funneled them in. And then I was asking them all the same questions, but I could look at the results then, and say, “Wow, people in one category seem to be different than people in these other categories.”

So, through the course of that, I came up with driver, expressive, amiable, and logical. And I like that because it’s spells DEAL and we deal with people, and the people I worked with, the salespeople, want to close deals, so it becomes very easy for them to remember. And it’s focused on, not self, not that it’s unimportant. It’s very important to understand ourselves, but it’s other-focused. I wanted to try to determine, Pete, are you a driver, that person who’s more focused on getting things done than relationships, and you like to be in control? Or, are you the expressive, the person who’s really relationship-driven but also really likes being in control?

And then that amiable, which is the relationship-oriented person who is more about self-focus and self-control. And the logical person is a task-driven individual but they’re not focused on controlling others or situations. They’re more focused on themselves, their own thinking, their own self-control. So, that’s a very basic model but it’s good because salespeople don’t always…I mean, I’m not going to go up and say, “What’s your Myers-Briggs, Pete?” And I wouldn’t be able to figure that out.

But this is a pretty simple model to assess people, and once you feel like you’ve got a handle on the type of personality, then we talk about the principles that are most effective in terms of being able to ethically influence them.

Pete Mockaitis 
Okay. So, it sounds like it’s, if I were to stick them in into a two-by-two, the dimensions we’re looking at are their level of task focus and their desire to control others?

Brian Ahearn
And situations, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, with the driver, being high-high; the expressive being, I don’t know, low-high, they care about the relationship.

Brian Ahearn
Well, I just say that, yeah, there’s a demarcation and the bottom of it is the person is very relationship-driven.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Brian Ahearn
And I would say good examples of that that I used in the book, Steve Jobs would’ve been a driver, right? That guy doesn’t care about being your friend. It is just about the work and get the stuff done. Oprah Winfrey, I think, is a great example of an expressive. She wants to know your story. She wants to get to know you and help you, but yet she is completely in control of her media kingdom just like Steve Jobs was in control. So, in the respect, they’re very alike but they’re very different in terms of their interactions with people on an individual level.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. And so, how about examples for amiable and logical then?

Brian Ahearn
Amiable is always a little bit tougher in terms of coming up with examples because they’re not necessarily limelight people, and a lot of the occupations that they tend to move into aren’t ones that are necessarily in the limelight because they’re very relationship-focused and a little bit more self-control, self-focused than other in terms of control. They tend to be things more like counselors and teachers and nurses and social workers, and those aren’t always positions that are in the limelight. Now, that’s not to say that because you’re an amiable you can’t lead a company. You absolutely can. But what we tend to see is people move more into those positions that are not as much in the limelight.

Brian Ahearn
Mother Teresa would be an awesome example.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And logical?

Brian Ahearn
Logical person, again, very, very task-focused but not about controlling others or situations, more on the self-focused. And a great example here would be a Bill Gates or an Albert Einstein. And I would hope that you’d agree and your listeners would agree, if you have five minutes to try to sell an idea to each of these people, I hope you would go about doing it very differently with Steve Jobs versus Oprah Winfrey versus Mother Teresa or an Albert Einstein because they’re going to respond to different things and for different reasons.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. In terms of like Bill Gates doesn’t care much about your story most likely. If you’re talking about he’s trying to save the world in some dimension, I don’t know, climate change or vaccines or something, and then you say, “You know, Bill, let me tell you how I got interested in malaria,” I have a feeling Bill doesn’t want to hear, and maybe he does. I don’t know. But I would imagine he’d be more intrigued by, “Here’s the innovative cool thing that we’ve got going on here and why it’s different than what’s ever been used before, and why it’s way more cost-effective at saving lives than the previously existing technology available,” versus, Oprah would probably not be as into that. She wants to hear the story about how you got into malaria.

Brian Ahearn
Well, here’s a really good example, I think, for the logical versus the driver. According to the research, the survey that I did with blog readers, both of those personalities responded to the principle of consistency. And that principle says that we feel an internal psychological pressure and an external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and what we do.

I would think that somebody like Albert Einstein or Bill Gates, when they say something, they believe they’re right because they trust their intellect, they’ve thought it through, they’ve been methodical, and they’ve come up with a decision, and that’s why they believe what they believe. And if you can tie your request into that, then it makes very logical sense for them to say, “Absolutely.”

You go to the driver who is also driven by that principle of consistency but it’s a lot more ego-based. When Donald Trump was on “The Apprentice,” when he said something, he believed it. Even as president, when he said something, he barred the door on the facts just because he uttered it, he believed it. And I think to a great degree, a lot of people who are in that driver situation, they trust their gut, and so when they say something, they believe they’re right but it’s not for the same reason as the logical. But, nonetheless, if I can tap into what they’ve said, what they’ve done, or what they believe, it becomes easier for them to say yes. So, same principle, but very different reason on why it’s so compelling for each of those personalities.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s interesting. I’m reminded of I heard there’s like a legendary story, and I believe it’s true, the person doing the interview wasn’t lying, about Bill Gates, Microsoft, the XBOX, like they’re having a meeting about this thing. And, at first, Bill says, “What you’re proposing is an insult to everything I’ve done in my career in terms of like how it’s going to work and how it didn’t utilize the DOS/Windows, whatever stuff that he built up.”

And so, the meeting wasn’t going well for a long time until someone said, “Well, what about Sony?” He’s like, “Yeah, what about Sony?” And then it sort of totally changed his thinking associated with dominance and market share and influence and being in the living room, and how Microsoft and Sony were both kind of growing on these dimensions, and Sony has got this PlayStation, and they’re like, “Yes, we’ll give you everything you’ve asked for. Go for it and do the XBOX.” And so, that’s interesting in terms of like the set of facts that he’s focused on, logical, sure enough, was the persuasive thing that got it done when those were brought front and center for him.

Brian Ahearn
And I would say, too, that contrast phenomenon, right? He’s being compared to Sony, somebody that he looks at as a peer, a competitor, somebody he doesn’t want to be beaten by. If they had made the wrong comparison, maybe there was a little upstart company that was doing something, and he might’ve looked at it and said, “Who cares?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, or like Nintendo. Like, “Yeah, okay, Nintendo has got Mario. I don’t care.” But Sony, “Oh, that’s a different story.”

Brian Ahearn
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well so then, maybe if you could give us an example of some things that you might hear out of someone’s mouth that would make you go, “Hmm, driver,” “Oh, yeah, expressive.” Just a couple of telltale words, phrases, sentences that kind of cue you in to thinking, “It sounds like this is where you’re landing here.”

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think a lot of times, and I don’t like always making generalities, generalizations, because they’re always exceptions, and I absolutely recognize this. But I think a telltale, a lot of times, for drivers is they don’t stop talking.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Brian Ahearn
You really have a hard time getting a word in, edgewise, because they want to be in control of the situation, they have an opinion on everything, and, therefore, they’re continually going. And so, that can be a clue right there that, “I’m dealing with somebody who’s not giving me any space to step in and share what I need to share.”

If you’re going to try to influence somebody like that, you have to be okay with that. You have to recognize, you have to pick and choose the battles, and then step in where you get that opportunity or ask a question that might make them go, “Hmm, what do you mean? Tell me more.” Now, you’ve kind of got the platform back. But I think that’s the big telltale for a lot of drivers is it becomes kind of hard to get a word in edgewise.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And expressive?

Brian Ahearn
I think expressive is a lot of times people, and these are entertainers and politicians, people who know the importance of having a relationship, they’re probably a lot more of the storyteller, somebody who’s got a, “I met somebody and here’s a story and here’s another story.” So, they may do a lot of talking too. They’re expressive, they’re very outward, but they also allow you that space to ask about you, and you feel a little more connected to them, and some of it may just be because of the stories, but you’re like, “Hey, that’s funny. I like that person.” You don’t feel like you’re necessarily being talked to or talked at as much as maybe you will from that driver, who’s kind of tell you what it’s got to be like.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And amiable?

Brian Ahearn
Amiable is a lot of times are going to be the ones where you have to pull a little bit out of them. I’ve always pictured an amiable, if you’re going to go to the movies and you’ve got six people, and you say, “Hey, what do you guys want to see?” Amiable is probably like, “No, anything is cool with me,” because they’re very laid back, very relational. They’re just happy that they’re hanging out with everybody, and they’re cool doing whatever.

The driver would be the person who might say, “Well, if you guys are going to see that, I’m going to head home. I don’t want to see that movie,” and they’d be okay heading off by themselves. So, I think with the amiable, you’re going to see people who are very relational, very laid back, not looking to be the life of the party. You may have to do a little bit more to draw them out. You’re probably are going to get into much deeper conversations with somebody like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And logical?

Brian Ahearn
Logical person is going to be somebody, obviously, who’s very analytical and they’re thinking they’re going to be very fact-oriented. They’re going to be the people who don’t just share an opinion. They will do some research so that they can speak intelligently on something. Before they open their mouth, they want to really understand what they believe and why they believe it so that they can feel comfortable in terms of sharing it.

And that one, I would say from experience, people will say that I am an expressive just because of what I do, but I am absolutely a logical person. I’m a deep thinker about things, and I always tell my daughter, when she asked me a question, I’m like, “I don’t have an opinion on that because I haven’t really looked into it and I’m not going to just say something.”

Pete Mockaitis
I feel the same way, and particularly, in business-y situations. I remember, talking about insurance, I was buying some insurance once and it had some absurd clause, I was like, “Wait. And this kind of make it sound like you don’t pay any claims ever. So, what’s the deal here?” “Oh, no, one has ever asked that question before.” It’s like, “Well, so can you share with me some evidence that you sometimes pay out claims because this kind of reads like you never have to?”

And so, when I’m in sort of a business conversation, that’s kind of what I want, it’s like, “I want a profoundly compelling evidence that proves that you got the stuff. Like, you’re going to deliver what I’m seeking to be delivered.” And so, I think that often makes people feel very uncomfortable because usually they don’t have the evidence that I want. And so, they need to kind of like try to be compassionate, it’s like, “Well, okay, if you don’t have that set of facts, can you give me some alternative sets of facts that maybe I can plug into my spreadsheet and deal with how I need to deal with to prove it out?” But, still, it’s logical, like got to have it.

Brian Ahearn
Well, this can be a shortcoming when you’re the one trying to persuade. Let’s say you’re really good at building relationships. That’s an awesome skill to have but if you get into that situation with a logical like you, if you make a friend, okay, that’s cool. But if you don’t, that’s cool, too. You just want to buy the insurance.

So, if a person only is able to lean on what their strength is, that strength ends up being a negative, a weakness with certain people. And this is why I try to emphasize in looking at this model. It’s not about you, it’s not about what you’re good at, it’s not about your strengths; it’s about the other person. Learn what the psychology is and then understand what the psychology is that applies to them, and get good at that.

So, in a sense, be a little bit of a chameleon in terms of how you interact with people, not being a false person, but just recognizing that just because you like having these great relationships, you’re going to have some clients, and they could be great clients, but they’re just not into the relationship part. That’s okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, maybe since insurances is your specialty, maybe I’ll just put you on the spot. Let’s say you’re trying to sell auto insurance to these four different types of people. Can I hear a sentence or two of a custom verbiage that might be very appropriate when you’re making that pitch to a driver versus an expressive versus an amiable versus a logical?

Brian Ahearn
Okay. Well, if you’re talking to a driver, then scarcity is something that comes into play a lot. The mistake that people would make is talking about all the things that somebody might gain or save, but what you really want to talk about is what they might lose.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Brian Ahearn
So, going in and having that conversation and framing something instead of gain, like they don’t care so much about saving as what they may be losing, and framing it that way, “You’re overpaying,” instead of, “Well, I can save you a bunch of money.” That would be a particular approach.

When you move down and you’re talking to somebody who’s an expressive, understanding that they’re going to be more relationship-oriented, you’re going to want to tap a little bit more into like, “You’re going to want to make that connection.” They’re going to want to look at you and say, “That’s a person that I really like and I want to do business with people that I like.”

Another effective principle in terms of interacting with folks like that is consensus. What are other people who are like them doing? And by bringing that in, that becomes a strong decision factor. Whereas, again, the driver, they don’t care what everybody else is doing. They think of themselves as completely different and unique. So, that’s a little bit about how you’d be different with this person who’s the expressive.

When you move over to the amiable, also very big on relationship, so you’re going to want to certainly make sure that you tap into liking because they’re probably not going to want to do business with somebody that they don’t like. So, connecting on what you have in common, talking about those things, being complimentary where genuine compliments are due. But they also surprisingly respond really well to the principle of authority.

And so, by really showing that you know what you’re talking about, that’s not challenging to them; that’s comforting to them. And so, by deferring to something like, I might say, “You know, Pete, I’ve been in this business now for more than 30 years. And something that I found is really important.” That little tidbit about, “I’ve been in business for 30 years,” isn’t coming across like a bragger to them. It’s giving them a sense of comfort that, “Wow, okay, I like this guy and he knows what he’s talking about.” And so, that becomes a little bit more of the tact that I take with that person.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then the logical?

Brian Ahearn
So, the logical, obviously they’re going to be fact-driven so you’re going to need to be able to show authority not only that you have some personal authority that you’re good at what you’re doing but bring in data, bring in information from respected individuals or organizations that would support your claim. If you don’t do that, then you come across to the logical person as just somebody who thinks they know everything. Much better to bring in that support of the information, “Where did you hear that quote?” “What did this particular report say?” That’s what’s going to give somebody, who’s a logical individual, a sense of comfort.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Well, Brian, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Brian Ahearn
As I said at the beginning, I wrote this book for a specific market. I wrote it for insurance agents, and that was because trying to write a sales book can get super generic. When you keep talking about products or services, and people start reading it, “That doesn’t apply to me. Well, that’s…” So, just on the counsel of somebody I really respect, I thought, “You know what, I’m going to tighten this up. I’m going to make it specific to insurance. It’s what I know.”

But then I realized, as I got into it, that every step in the sales cycle, if somebody is in sales, they’re going to benefit from understanding the psychology that applies. And that even people who aren’t selling are going to benefit from learning how to be a listening star, how to deal with different personalities so that they can sell themselves and their ideas. So, I would just encourage anybody, if you see yourself in any capacity as selling, check the book out.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And, now, a favorite quote?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think the one I find myself referring to more than ever now is something that my high school football coach said, and I attributed it to him for a long time, until somebody said, “No, that was the Roman philosopher Seneca.” But it is, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” And ever since I was a sophomore in high school and heard coach say that, and recognized that if I worked really hard, good things would happen.

And even when the good thing that I want doesn’t come about, it’s amazing, Pete, how all that preparation comes in in a different way, and, all of a sudden, I’m like, “Hey, that preparation is helping me now over here.” So, it never goes untapped.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Brian Ahearn
One of my favorites, was Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. And just reading about what he and all those other people in those concentration camps endured was unimaginable. But the takeaway for me was towards the end of the book when he said, something to the effect that, “Every freedom can be taken away from a man except for the last freedom; where to place your thoughts, what you’re going to think about.”

Nobody. And he said, basically, it didn’t matter how much the guards beat them, threaten them, or do anything, they could never ever make them think what they didn’t want to. And that is incredibly powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Brian Ahearn
It’s called Voice Dream, and it’s an app that I downloaded on the advice of a friend on my iPhone. And when I write something, I have it up usually in Google Docs, and I just pull it into that app, and then I can listen to it. And it’s amazing what you catch. You write it and you think it’s good, and then you hear it, and you’re like, “Eh, it’s not exactly how I wanted it to come across.” So, it has helped my writing immensely. I’m working on two more books so I use it all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Brian Ahearn
First will be LinkedIn. I connect with everybody and I guarantee your listeners, if you reach out to connect and you don’t put a reason, I will come back and say, “How did you find me? I’d like to understand why people are reaching out.” And if you do put in a reason, I will still respond because, as my most recent blogpost said, “Social media is supposed to be social.” And the way that we do that is by having conversations with people. And so, I will absolutely respond to you on LinkedIn.

The other place, Pete, would be my website which is InfluencePeople.biz. Just a tremendous amount of resources out there if they want to learn more about this topic.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Brian Ahearn
I think it would be to start dedicating time to understand the influence process. Influence, in some respects, is like listening. Very few people learn how to do it well and yet we use it every single day, I say from womb to tomb. As soon as a baby is born, he or she cries. They’ve got a need they’re trying to get met.

Some of us learn how to do it well and it helps immensely with our professional success and personal happiness. So, I hope people who are listening will say, “You know what, maybe I need to dig into this a little bit more. I could use the ability to have more people saying yes. That would be helpful in my life.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Brian, this has been a treat. Thank you and I wish you lots of luck in all your influencing.

Brian Ahearn
Thank you. I appreciate it, Pete.