Monday, February 28, 2011

The importance of Pre-suasion before Persuasion

Robert Cialdini, one of the top experts on the art of Persuasion, recently wrote about the importance of a concept that he calls Pre-suasion. Pre-suasion includes all of the actions you engage in that precede your actual persuasion attempt.

According to Cialdini, all of the true masters at persuasion (those who are effective at getting others to comply with their requests) are those that spend more time on 'what' they do prior to making their requests. These masters create a psychological context, an environment, in which people are interested in hearing what they have to say. As a result, others are more predisposed and willing to support any requested actions. In essence, persuasion masters create a psychological state in which people are receptive to their message.

In general, if you have a good case to present or story to tell, you need to ensure that people are prepared to hear it. That is what Pre-suasion does for you. It sets the stage, heightening the effectiveness of your persuasion attempt. Two primary elements that are part of the Pre-suasion process are; the need to create positive relationships and the need to establish your credibility.

Creating Positive Relationships
In building more positive relationships, as part of the Pre-suasion process, you need to ensure that you focus time and attention on the other party. People get very tired, very quickly, of a relationship that is all one-sided. Showing a sincere interest in others, helping them to achieve some of their goals and desires, will predispose them to want to reciprocate and help you in future. If you want them to treat your future persuasion attempts with respect start by giving them their due and listening with respect to their requests.

Build Credibility
To create and build your credibility, you need to consider the interaction between four key elements.
  1. What is the level of integrity that you bring to your interactions? Bear in mind that the consistency of your actions across circumstances counts. If you mislead a customer to make a sale you can't be surprised when coworkers believe you may also mislead them to get what you want.
  2. What is your personal agenda for the interaction? Let's face facts here... my perception of your motives will always influence how 'genuine' I find your actions and behaviors.
  3. How relevant are your capabilities and skills, as they pertain to the issue at hand? Your perceived level of experience and expertise will go a long way toward establishing your credibility in any situation. This is why self-marketing is such an important skill to cultivate. The more people who know what your talents and skills are, the broader your credibility and the more effective your influence attempts.
  4. What have your accomplishments been to-date? Obviously, your results, both past and current, count toward establishing your credibility. You've got to deliver to be believed.

Few of us are in the position of not having to get work done with and through others.  Therefore, the ease and effectiveness with which we are able to do just that - work through others - will greatly enhance our accomplishments and success.   At the end of the day, how you treat people today will determine the effectiveness of your persuasion attempts of tomorrow.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just Do It!

Yep... I'm 'borrowing' a slogan made famous by Nike but...  with good intent and purpose.  Nike's 'Just Do It!' slogan is over 20 years old and still going strong.  Its longevity and appeal is largely due to the strength of those three words in conjuring up (for Nike) images of lacing on your runners, jumping on a bike, picking up your racket.  In short, those three words, when placed together, become a call to Action.  And for Nike, action is their business.

For each of us though, those magical three little words also have power.  Used together they speak of Attitude and Action.  It's a determination to go out and make things happen.  When coaching, I often run into clients that are 'stuck' in a cycle of inaction.  They don't have clarity over knowing exactly what they want to be, do or have in their lives and they therefore feel directionless.  'Without a direction or goal, how can I move forward?' one client questioned me.

Yes, most self-improvement books and guides are going to counsel you to uncover your passion, define your life goal and then go for it.  However, sometimes we struggle with trying to feel 'passionate' about anything.  The biggest feelings we have are depression over NOT having a goal and fear that we might never discover something we are passionate about.  These feelings can become overwhelming, leading to a cycle of inaction.  The belief that we are all meant to do 'one' thing with our lives can be a huge barrier to forward momentum if you can't seem to uncover what the heck it is!

Some people are lucky enough to just seem to know what they were meant to do with their lives.  Often they are clear about this from an early age.  For most of us though (me included!) much of our lives have been a journey of self-discovery.  Each new awareness has uncovered a greater understanding of our skills, abilities and interests, in turn opening new doors to us.  I could never have envisioned running my own business when I was 20... I didn't have the confidence or skills to do it back then.  My lack of belief in my abilities would never have allowed me to 'dream' that big.  However, other actions and wins opened me to the possibility, such that I now successfully own and operate two full-time businesses and am actually considering a third! 

Additionally, each of my existing businesses is in a completely different field.  I find that I never seem to have just one interest... I always have multiples, and am constantly uncovering new ones!  Could I have been more successful, by other people's standards, had I stayed with 'one'?  Perhaps.  Would I have been having as much fun?  No way!  My path is perhaps different from some, but the route will be similar to the one many need to take.

If you know you want 'different' in your life but you are unable to articulate the end goal then don't despair.  It will reveal itself to you, but in its own time.  Instead of sitting back and getting depressed waiting for 'it' to happen though, you need to take steps toward finding and uncovering it.  You know that doing nothing is not likely to create or drive the change you want.  In essence then, any action is better than no action.  This is where Nike comes in.  Just Do It!  Do something!  Even if it is the wrong thing, it has gotten you off of the couch, shifted you out of feeling stuck and into feeling like you have control.  That small step - in any direction - at least drove some kind of change.

When Edison was trying to discover the lightbulb, he had over 2,000 failed experiments before determining that Tungsten was the element needed.  When asked to comment about his failures, Edison said that he hadn't experienced any failures, he had simply crossed off 2,000 options on his way to determining the correct one.  The learning is in the doing.  Trying something, even if it is not the 'right' thing, can give you information you lack now that will help lead you toward your 'right' thing.  Often we need the life-lessons we get through experimentation, through trial-and-error, that better prepare us for ultimate success.

The Work:

  • So...  get out your pad of paper. 
  • Write down, very clearly, what your particular dilemma or roadblock is.  
  • What are your options?
  • Which one of the the options are you feeling a stronger leaning toward?  We're not concerned about whether we'd label it 'passion' or not.  Rather, which option has a slightly greater appeal to you right now, in this moment.  Define why.
  • You probably have a host of reasons as to 'why' you can't or aren't already following this path.  I don't want a list of them.  They are irrelevant.  Instead, I want you to create a list of actions that you 'can' do to move this option forward.  However small, it goes on your list.  These actions may not be the biggest or best way to make this goal happen, but they are actions and they will help you to test the waters.  If your inaction has been driven by an inability to commit fully to a particular direction, then simply create some smaller action steps.  What steps could you take that enable you to move forward along this path without having to commit all of your resources to its achievement?  Do one.  Do another.
  • Assess the results of these action steps.  How are you feeling?  Are you feeling a little more excited and invested in this option?  Then keep the momentum going and do more!  Are you finding that you are discovering that this was perhaps not the right path for you to take?  Then go back and assess your other options.  Are there others you would now add? (often taking some steps in one direction help us to learn more and to uncover options we wouldn't have known about otherwise)  Once you've expanded your options (if need be) determine which option you are now feeling stronger about and begin the process again. 
I liken this process to 'dating'.  You wouldn't marry someone you have never dated, why feel you have to commit to an idea you have never explored or checked out?  In essence then, the idea is for you to 'date' an idea for a while, check it out, to decide if it is right for you.  The key is to remember that nothing in your life will be different if you don't do something different.  In the end, action of some kind will get you out of your rut.  In the immortal words of Nike...  Just Do It!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Secrets to Great Presentations... The Steve Jobs Way

I just bought an iPad, so forgive me if I am in a 'Mac' frame of mind. My purchases aside though, I am a big fan of Steve Jobs and, in particular, his presentation style. His presentations are everything that a truly great presentation should be.  They are impactful, memorable and motivating. What then can we learn from the likes of Steve Jobs to help our presentations stand out?

  • Stop thinking of your presentations as simply an opportunity to share information, considering them instead as an opportunity to transform.  A chance to create and drive change. Start by thinking about what the true desired take-away message is for your audience and build the presentation out and around it.
  •  Having established clearly what your key message is, create your story. All presentations should have a clear, compelling message. Know what yours is and let it take center stage.
  • If your topic lends itself to it... Introduce a villain. Every great story has a great villain, an antagonist (problem) that unites your audience against a common element. A villain will always serve as your 'why' for your product or service.
  • Be passionate about what you are sharing, not just with your words but with your delivery style as well. If you are not passionate about your story/topic... Why would your audience be?
  • Make sure your message is sticky, that it is memorable. Use short and concise phrasing and even take a few lessons from the marketing department to help your message stand out. A few ideas? Use repetition, the Power of 3 (easy for the mind to picture and remember groups of 3 ideas), use Twitter-like headlines, use alliteration, use pictures and word images, create a memorable catch-phrase that captures the essence of your message.
  • Eliminate your dependence on bullet points. Text is generally the least effective way to deliver information -if you want it remembered and acted upon. Instead, use visual elements to connect with and engage your audience... To inspire.
  • Consider giving your audience a 'bonus' of some kind at the end of your presentation. Steve Jobs always concluded with his famous..."and one more thing...". What could you do or offer that ends your presentation cleanly, clearly and memorably?

If you're still not too sure how these points would play out over the course of an actual presentation then hop on over to You Tube, type in a search for Steve Jobs and watch how a master does it! It is never a bad thing to learn by example and I can't think of a better example for you to follow!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Our Value Attribution

We all have heard, and been told, that the first impression we make upon others is incredibly important.  Recent research is now showing that our first impression is not only important in how others view us in the short term, but in the long term as well. 

It seems that once we form a first impression surrounding the perceived value of something or someone, the Value Attribution, it is difficult to shift the perception, regardless of the actual performance of the product or person.  Hmmm....  this means that once we have ascribed a certain value to something/someone, we rarely shift that perception, even in the face of contrary facts.  If we have determined that product X is amazing...  even though it doesn't prove to perform amazingly well in actual use, we are likely to continue to frame our experiences with the product in terms of how amazing it is, not relative to how it failed to meet our expectations.

In the book 'Sway: the Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior', authors Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman took a look at NBA draft picks.  Those chosen during the first round of picks, the early draft picks, had a perceived higher Value Attribution.  Because they were chosen early, they were perceived to be players that were 'better' and were likely to get snatched up quickly by others.  Therefore, their perceived value was higher.  As a result, they got more play time, more media attention, etc.  This all fits with the belief that the early picks are the better players.

What doesn't fit with this though were the perceptions that persisted, even in the face of actual performance statistics.  What the Brafmans determined was that the initial impression, the Value Attribution, of each player - which was created by being an early or late draft pick - stayed with a player for almost 5 years, despite their actual performance on the court.  The first impression set the perceived value bar and determined the future way in which we interpreted their performance and behaviour.

We have always been told that our first impressions are important, but these findings would imply that our first impressions are even more critically important to us and our careers than we might have previously believed.  If someone's first impression of us will serve to colour their ongoing perception of our performance and value, then we better get it right the first time.  We no longer can afford to leave those critical first few moments to chance!

In Executive Presence, Personal Branding and Impression Management seminars I have always emphasized the need to ensure that we use those first few moments to our advantage, helping to set the stage for how people will view us.  Never has this been more important than in today's overly competitive marketplace.  Couple this with people's seemingly shortened attention spans and the weighting on those first moments rises exponentially.
There are few times in your life when it isn't too melodramatic to say your destiny hangs on the impression you make.     Barbara Walters
The Work:

1.  Be clear about your message.  Who are you?  What do you represent?  You cannot be all things to all people so it is in your best interest to ensure that you represent what matters to you.  You must start with your message, the one that speaks to your authentic self.  Don't muddy the waters by trying to be what you believe others want to see.  If you are going to be 'labelled' in the minds of others, make sure it is with the label that you are handing to them.

2.  Conduct a Self-Evaluation.  Once you are clear about your personal message (consider this your Brand), it is necessary to evaluate how well you represent this.  Consider what behaviours would exemplify these messages and determine whether this is true of how you typically behave.  Videotape yourself and assess whether how you move, speak and sound help sell this message - or something different.

3.  Action Steps.  You likely have identified some gaps in number 2 above, areas in which there is some dissonance between how you are currently coming across and the branded message that you desire.  Take a moment to evaluate why.  One possible cause for a gap could rest in the brand you have established.  Ensure that it is truly reflective of what matters to you most and not of the brand that you expect others would want or prefer.  If the branded message is fine, then determine what behaviours are out of sinc with this brand and list them.  Consider which seems to be the biggest detractor from your desired Brand and start with it.  How might you 'do' different around this message?  What behaviours should you adopt, stop or modify?  Are there aspects of your voice or body movement that need to be modified to help you live to this message more believably and consistently?

We all have value.  Everyone.  The trick to creating a strong first impression is being honest enough with ourselves to discover what our true personal value is and confident enough to share it with others.