Category Archives: Influence
I recommend this blog post from Jessica Gross summarising a TED talk from Dan Ariely. It’s a succinct capture of his key points about internal motivation and how we can tap into that (or at least avoid conflicting with that.) There’s some evidence that cute internet kitten photos can actually enhance your sense of focus on a proximate task and I’m definitely going to try the hand-washing motivation technique with my family!
His key points were:
- Seeing the fruits of our labor may make us more productive
- The less appreciated we feel our work is, the more money we want to do it
- The harder a project is, the prouder we feel of it
- Knowing that our work helps others may increase our unconscious motivation
- The promise of helping others makes us more likely to follow rules
- Positive reinforcement about our abilities may increase performance
- Images that trigger positive emotions may actually help us focus
Here’s a blog post about the dangers of non-specific feedback. The blogger references the work of psychologist Carol Dweck who I also quote in my book ‘The Brain-Based Boss’ on the subject of fixed versus growth mindsets. Here’s an excerpt:
The work of psychologist Carol Dweck is germane here. What she’s found is that, when children are praised in abstract–”You’re so smart” or “You’re so creative”–rather than concretely about how they improved their performance–”You put in an enormous amount of work, and it paid off”–the feedback is diminished. How come? Because the child takes from the teacher or parent the idea that she is innately smart or creative, and that she doesn’t need to work at it–so she doesn’t.
On the other hand, very specific feedback–especially about something an individual can control–can work wonders.
Quite rightly, the blogger points out that general statements such as ‘Good job’ might make you feel better and make you think that you’re dishing out some positive feedback but it needs to be more than merely positive to be useful and conducive to enhanced productivity. That phrase would need to:
- be said at the time the specific action warranting praise occurred or as immediately afterwards as possible.
- be said to the specific individual performing and controlling the praiseworthy action that you’d like to see more of.
- contain a few more details and expectations than 2 words of generality (what exactly was the bit that was good?)
- some connection to a greater goal, the wider team or higher purpose.
So, here’s some specific feedback to several new Twitter followers I’ve gotten recently – If you’ve only got 17 Twitter followers yourself, best not describe yourself as a ‘social media guru.’
UnderArmour’s founder Kevin Plank’s got some views on what motivates employees. Here’s an article about them. I don’t agree with everything in it, especially the bit about “happiness,” but otherwise, with emphasis on autonomy and connecting business success to employee success, it’s very sound.
The articles key points are:
- Set a good example
- Focus on employee happiness* rather than employee motivation
- Make sure employees share in the company’s success
- Create a culture of autonomy and agency
- Encourage workers to voice complaints
- Take on fun volunteer assignments
- Get in touch with your inner start-up
* (I think they mean culture rather than happiness really. There’s no evidence linking happiness in its literal sense to productivity one way or the other. That said, I like happiness personally.)
There’s some ‘meat n potatoes’ engagement stuff in there but there’s some clever and original thinking too. I love the ‘anti-fan club’ concept to proactively create a medium in which beefs can be aired and sorted early. This links nicely with my ‘Go ugly early’ philosophy in my book ‘The Brain-Based Boss’ being released next Thursday.
The ‘controlled chaos’ referred to in the article is engagement in action. Scary to conservative managers, it’s accepted and sought after by genuine leaders. And it’s coming up to Christmas where controlled chaos is, apparently, what we all want on the roads the shops and our homes.
Here are some studies that show that reminders about money led consumers to react against people who would normally influence their decisions.
For all the talk and research about the extent to which money motivates people, I”m certain its very important. My personal stance is that people get a job for money but, unless they have a routine, linear and unthinking job, money doesn’t motivate them to do any more or better work. Money gets people to show up and it’s a control mechanism. Calling the carrot or stick of money a motivator is giving it too much credit. And if there’s one thing money doesn’t like, it’s credit.
My new book ‘The Brain-Based Boss’ has a section on how physical environment can influence people’s workplace behaviour and choices. Here’s a great little article on the same topic from someone whose job title is ‘Chief Happiness Officer.” (What’s the emoticon for rolling your eyes again?)
I shouldn’t knock the guy for his job title. I admire the sentiment. I’m generally pro-happiness. I am very aware however that happy workers are not necessarily productive, nor are unhappy ones necessarily unproductive and that there is way too much use of engagement as a synonym for happiness.
That aside, I’m also in favour of distinctive and changing physical work environments. I find them stimulating both mentally and physically. That’s useful for us creative types but also for people working in routine or linear processes who have to maintain alertness and awareness. Try driving straight for miles and miles as in the US or Australia and see what that does to your alertness and awareness. Lots of little variations keep us on our toes.
I must search out one of those desks that enables you to stand whilst working. ‘Get moving’ is a great and proven way of adding quality and quantity to your life. Here’s a recent blog of mine citing a Dutch desk / bicycle combo.
Check out Kjerulf’s article. I personally love the bibliochaise. I want one, no, two. Great to share with a friend the simple act of sitting and reading…then… tweeting about the books… But then there is also the meeting bed… perhaps just being practical about how most meetings put people to sleep!
This ComputerWorld article refers to businesses that have used online games to stimulate customer interest, involvement and eventually revenue for the business. “The Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s home loans division has employed gamification to boost revenue. It’s ‘Investorville’ app lets consumers go through a simulated process of property investment, with the aim of making people feel more comfortable about signing up for a CBA home loan.”
The article then goes on to ask the question – Can the same approach rekindle or kindle employee interest, participation, focus and effectiveness? I think I recall reading somewhere that some spy agencies are recruiting using online games. More for the nerd roles than the James Bond roles.
Certainly when you watch gamers, even non-obese ones with reasonable skin conditions, they seem very very focused. If that’s what you’re looking for in an employee then maybe consider gamification. But focus is a double-edged sword. Strong focus on one thing makes the brain very susceptible to not noticing anything else. I heard a radio interview yesterday with adventure racer Steve Gurney who, amongst his many adrenalin-fuelled experiences, had been hit by a train in the middle of a race. He had stopped on the crossing to look for the next marker. He was very competitive and focused on winning what was, in effect, a game. Very focused on one thing. The interviewer asked him how he had come to be hit by the noisy train. “I didn’t notice it…”
That quote might not be exact. Check out the whole interview here. He is an awesome achiever and I’m keen to check out his new book ‘Eating Dirt.’ Here’s the blurb: For adventurer Steve Gurney, life is about taking risks and he fears that New Zealand society has become over-regulated, risk-averse, and wrapped in cotton wool. His challenge is to let children make mistakes, climb trees and play bullrush – to help them learn how to find their limits in later life.
I also highly recommend the book ‘The Invisible Gorilla’ which expands on ‘Inattentional Blindness.’ Gurney’s train incident might be better labelled ‘Over-attentional Blindness.’ It wasn’t that he wasn’t paying attention. He was. It was just that the game blinkered that attention extremely narrowly. And that’s what happens in workplaces where the total focus is limited. Be it money or whatever, if workplace leaders using incentives or gamification to redirect or narrow the focus, just be aware of unintended consequences or the light at the end of your tunnel might be the headlamp of an oncoming train.
And, for banks, it shouldn’t be too hard for a game designer to make a version of Angry Birds called ‘Angry Investors.’
This blog post by Kevin Herring kicks off by referencing the popular definition of insanity often credited to Einstein – that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. (If I’m going to write a blog called ‘The Brain-Based Boss’, it’s only fair that I entertain some metaphors and allegories on mental illness.)
Kevin supplies a great case study from his work with one manager and one high-potential / under-achieving employee. Years of repeated and ineffective ‘pep talks’ took place. They did the same thing over and over again and expected a different result. The boss chose to break the cycle and got a different (and better) result. If you want the details of the happy ending, go read Kevin’s post.
Maybe it’s a potentially great quote or maybe it’s something wise I actually thought of myself but I find myself saying sometimes that the two best times to change how things are done is when things are going badly and when things are going great. I am not a big fan of the ‘if things aint broke, don’t try and fix ‘em’ school of thinking. The rate of change and the level of interdependence are such these days that to expect the external marketplace to keep on some hopeful status quo path is pretty unrealistic. Change when you choose to before you have to change when you’re forced to.
Kevin calls it a ‘conversation inventory’ – a deliberate, proactive and scheduled effort to catch yourself falling into these tickbox patterns of management behaviour, repeated cycles of failed attempts to influence the behaviour of others.
Worth a go. Be crazy not to.
I read this New York Times’ article about how it is supposed to be harder to make friends once you pass the age of 30 and it reminded me of some old Gallup surveys I saw on employee engagement citing “having a best friend at work” as an indicator of employee engagement.
The article itself is quite interesting as someone myself who recently nudged over the line of [SPOILER ALERT] being closer to 60 than 30. Just. Recently.
“Gallup also observed that employees who report having a best friend at work were:
- 43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days.
- 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development.
- 35% more likely to report coworker commitment to quality.
- 28% more likely to report that in the last six months, someone at work has talked to them about their progress.
- 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important.
- 27% more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work.
- 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.”
I don’t know if ‘having a best friend at work’ really is a major driver of employee engagement. It stirs up conversations for sure whenever I bring it up in workshops. Even Gallup referred to it as “controversial” but they stuck by it. I guess I can see it as symptomatic of a workplace culture that allows trust, belonging, contribution, support and all those good things that do definitely drive engagement. Certainly, on the flipside, those without employment at any time also lose a massive chunk of chance to interact socially which us humans definitely need. Losing a job isn’t just losing a pay-cheque.
So, what does work provide that potentially generates and builds friendships?
“As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other…”
Where these days (or ever) do those conditions occur? Schools and workplaces. And if you’re over 30, you’re probably not at school anymore. (Maybe we all should be?) Unless you’re a teacher. But then, that also counts a workplace. Teachers must have lots of friends.
Here’s a Freakonomics blog post about the advantages of looking trustworthy. They reference a, perhaps not unsurprising, piece of research which found that, “… people are more likely to invest money in someone whose face is generally perceived as trustworthy, even when they are given negative information about this person’s reputation.”
In researching my current book, I came across one so-called research finding that concluded that people with assymetrical faces made better leaders. The reasoning behind this was that beautiful people have it easy their whole lives so they don’t have to put in the effort with people to influence them, whereas not-so-beautiful people had to develop influencing skills their whole life because nature didn’t give them any natural advantages. This does seem to contradict books like ‘Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.’
Both are interesting possibly but is either of any use to a leader in the workplace trying to be a Brain-Based Boss and get better results by applying this thinking in the real world of work?
I suggest that while it may be possible to change how symmetrical your face is in order to enjoy any supposed benefits, that’s a tad crazy. (Crazy isn’t like pregnant. No one’s ever a “tad pregnant.” You either are or you aren’t. With crazy however, there is an abundance of shades.)
My point, surreal as it was getting, is that the face-shape research might be amusing but it isn’t usefully applicable in the real world of work.
Looking trustworthy has more potential usefulness. I couldn’t tell with just a skim read of the article but I hope that whatever trustworthy looks like isn’t something you’re born with but is a set of behaviours you can learn and use. And by “use”, I don’t mean “fake and manipulate.” And I don’t just mean raised eyebrows and a smile. There must be a combination of micro body language movements that reflect a genuine trustworthiness.Straight posture, open gestures, eye contact and many more that a mere still image in a lab test cannot hope to portray.
If you are trustworthy, it’ll enhance your professional communication and leadership effectiveness if you can also look trustworthy. Here are some clues:
No disrespect to the follically challenged, and I get that these are simple computer generated images, but I think the +3SD guy would look even more trustworthy if he added some hair (though not not in beard or mustache form) and lost the black t-shirt…