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The power of influence.

The power of influence.

Believe it or not there are numerous methods that we can employ to increase the chance that we get the response we want from people.  It is not magic and it is not jedi mind tricks, but if used properly they can help you get the answer you want when dealing with people.  The fantastic thing about these influencing factors is that they can be applied in all areas of your life, work, home and play!

The video above provides an insight into some of the reasons that we say yes.


Human beings have a hardwired nature to repay acts of kindness.  This stems from the fact that in times gone by we all relied upon each other for survival.  Early humans cooperated a lot more than we do these days and it was a case of I do “this” for you and you do “that” for me, together we will have “this” and “that”.  The process of one good turn deserving another ensured that society flourished and eventually turned into bartering and nowadays, commerce.  Instead of returning the favour we now use currency to reciprocate.  When dealing with people, you can make sure that you use this hardwired nature to your advantage by offering a free service or sample.  A free sample or a seemingly random act of kindness can trigger this natural reaction to return the favour.


People will, believe it or not, pay more or buy more of products or services that are limited.  I expect that we have all seen a disaster movie where people are panic buying water and other life essential products.  Whilst the chances of an end of the world scenario are slim and pure fantasy, the psychology is very very real.  If you remember a few years back there was a potential for fuel tanker drivers to go on strike.  Then, there were queues of cars all over the areas likely to be most effected.   People want what is in scarce supply, this is tapping into our basic survival instincts.

When using this method, put a limited offer on the table, ensure it is exclusive and people will say yes!

Make sure that if you want to deploy this strategy that you limit what is available otherwise people will see straight through your efforts.


This influence is an interesting one as it has a lot of science and research behind it.  Basically the more authority that a person holds (or appears to hold) the more likely y0u are to comply with a request.  One of the most important pieces of work regarding the influence of authority would be the experiments of Stanley Milgram.  His famous experiment tested just how far people will go when responding to instruction from authority.  In summary he showed that people would inflict lethal levels of electric shock on others because an authority figure was saying it was ok to do so.  The reality was that the individuals being exposed to the shocks were in fact acting and no shocks were being administered.  What it proved was that authority was an extremely powerful influence.  To read more on Stanley Milgram click here.

What we can take from this experiment is that the more authority that you appear to hold the more likely that someone is going to do as you ask or indeed recommend.  I am sure that if you were going to buy something you would purchase it from a reputable, upstanding, experienced company/individual as they hold more authority.


Humans have a desire for consistency, we naturally seek stability and security.   However it is not only consistency we seek for ourselves, but we seek to appear consistent to others.  This stems from the fact that society views people that are consistent as stable, honest and trustworthy.  We all want to be perceived as such and so we adopt a consistent approach to our actions.  In fact, this desire to be seen in a good light can be a large influence on our decisions and actions.

As the video clip shows, when we make a small commitment to a cause then we are actually setting out our stall to support that cause.  When further requests for assistance follow it is in our own good to comply (even if we end up with a billboard in our gardens).  When we commit to something we don’t want to be seen as wrong and our brains even try and find ways to justify and support our choices.  Eventually even unwise decisions can grow their own legs and become a wise decision in our own mind.

Getting someone to agree to a small action will automatically mean that you have an in road for that next request (or sale).


This influence is quite obvious when you consider it.  When we like someone, we will be more likely to say yes to them.  Conversely, those we dislike we are more likely to say no to.  This principle is crystallised in the saying “people buy from people”.   For example, if you have a choice of buying something from someone you like you are going to choose them over another.

The interesting thing here is that “liking” comes in two parts, firstly there is the personality.  Secondly, attractiveness has a bearing on our likelihood to comply with the request of an individual.  Studies have even shown that politicians rated as more attractive get more votes!  This article from the Telegraph explains more.  Part of the reasoning could be due to the fact that our hardwiring is to seek out healthy people as they provide us with the best chance for survival.

To increase your chances of being successful when seeking compliance or sale, make sure you are likable and good looking.   One of these two are easier to achieve than the other.  This makes me think I really need to lose weight as that can even influence people when making decisions.


Do not underestimate the power of social influences!  I remember being at school and I remember that football was very big with the group of kids that I hung about with.  All of them supported Liverpool, and as I really wanted to be accepted by this group I became a big fan of Liverpool too.  This was not only about me wanting to fit in but was also because of the fact that “how could so many other people be wrong?” and so I supported the same team.

This influence is also seen a lot on the internet in the form of reviews.  When booking a holiday, how many of us have read the reviews on the internet?  I know I have.  Similarly, when you look at websites for companies you will see pages of testimonies and comments from previous customers.  This is all geared toward convincing us that everybody else uses or buys this and as such we should!


Be warned; just as you can deploy these tactics to assist you, others are using them for their advantage too.  The next time you are offered a free sample or are asked for a small committment then think twice, are you being influenced?


Employee voice is important; Leadership Skills 101

A short while ago, I talked about the importance of listening to your employees as a key element of leadership skills.  Employee voice is important, both for the health of your organisation and the well being of your people.

In the video above we see a very humorous scenario that comes from an advert for  It has a very serious message, that we as leaders would benefit from hearing. That message is, listen to your people!  It was only a short while ago, I was blogging about the alleged situation at MidStaffs NHS trust.  It appears that people were not listened to, or were fearful of the outcome of being the one to give bad news.

I have previously stated that as a manager and leader it is healthy to hear the bad news today to create the good news of tomorrow and I stand by this.  If the situation with the culture in MidStaffs NHS Trust was one where leaders and managers did not want to hear the bad news, then I fear that it is not the only place that this is occurring.  I have experience of other public and private sector organisations where this is common.

My view and that of Performance Works is that a good leader has the humility to recognise when they have got things wrong and the wisdom to actively seek feedback to improve their own personal performance and that of the organisation.   Being open to feedback is critical to leadership skills.

How many of you have seen your managers or leaders behaving in the way demonstrated in the video?

Performance Works can provide Leadership Training to enable your leaders be the best they can be.


Performance Measures, “keep it real”

Having worked within a large public sector organisation of over 12,000 individuals and had the pleasure of moving departments several times, I have seen a plethora of performance measures.

Some of these have been good and some of these have been bad, but all of them have been the ‘priority’.  I have been tasked to deliver against at least 6 ‘priorities’ at one time.   Now, call me a cynic but last time I checked the Collins Online Dictionary priority meant :

If something is a priority, it is the most important thing you have to achieve or deal with before everything else. (  accessed 30/01/2013)

So having to deal with 6 priorities I was finding it a little frustrating and confusing.  Where was I supposed to start?  What was the most important of the 6 priorities? How was I to prioritise if the senior managers didn’t or couldn’t want to be bothered?

Thankfully I have experience, knowledge and a keen grasp of the english language.  The reality was that there was no actual priority, but rather a set of desireable outcomes calling themselves priorities.  What I decided to do was look at what these outcomes were all building towards and create my own priority.  Then using various tools examine which of these outcomes would contribute most to the priority.  The outcome was that I could communicate the priority to the team, and the outcomes that we needed to achieve to realise this priority.  No longer was I stressing over meeting all six priorities at one time and my teams were able to get on with their work without worrying about everything being the one thing they had to do.

Performance Management Hint

A priority is a singular item, the one overarching goal of the organisation,  in a private company it is more often than not to make money.  How do they make money?  Setting desired outcomes (customer service, quality of product etc etc).  To those in a customer service role, their priority may be to provide excellent service as judged by feedback, this is achieved through setting outcomes (answering calls within X seconds, resolving customer queries at source etc etc).

As you can see, you can have a set of outcomes that your people need to achieve, but please, they are not all priorities!  You would not believe the stress that is caused by setting people multiple priorities.  Remember, keep it real.

Performance works can assist you with performance management and frameworks.




Communication : Sending, Receiving and Checking

The reality of every communication is that there are always two sides to the story.

  • Firstly the encoding and sending of the information (what do we need to communicate, how best to communicate and the actual transmission of the information).
  • Secondly and equally as important is the receiving and decoding of the information, (how do we interpret the information being sent and what do we add in our own minds).

This dual aspect to communication can often be forgotten, how many times have you been asked to do something by the boss, done as you were told to only find this wasn’t what they wanted?

I suspect many of us have encountered the above in our work and home lives.

This miscommunication can easily be solved by either or both parties checking the requirements back with the other to ensure that the desired outcome is realised.  Nothing is worse that toiling for hours on a project or piece of work to only find out it was not what was asked for.

Communication Skill

It may seem simple but many people forget the below.

To be effective and efficient in the workplace it is good practice to make sure you communicate instructions clearly, and that they are received clearly.

As the sender, get the receiver to repeat back the instructions and clarify anything that is not understood.  Ensuring clear and understood instructions can save time effort and disappointment!

As the receiver, repeat the instructions back to the person instructing you.  This can and will save a lot of wasted time and effort along with being a successful leader.  For further leadership development why not take a look at the courses we offer.



Change management: Succesful change in organisations

The above video, whilst funny, highlights a failure to express the need for change.

Many organisations change, in fact it is healthy for them to do so.  An organisation that does not change cannot respond to threats or exploit opportunities.  Sometimes things happen within or external to the organisation that necessitate change and not to respond would be commercially unhealthy.

During a change process communication skills are critical in the successful transition from one state to another.  Relentless communication ensures people know what to do and when.  However there is one area that organisations and leaders can neglect.  This is the “WHY”.

Why we do things is as important to some of the members of an organisation as the what and when.  It is the why that gains the buy in from the employees not the what and when.  Understanding why can allevieate some of the confusion, gain support and reassure some individuals.

The above video is a perfect example of two people demanding change but neither explaining it till the last minute.  How much time was wasted?  Did you see how frustrated the Captain of the ship was?  All of this was caused by neither explaining WHY.

Managing Change Tip

Always ensure your people know why change is needed.  This can calm the waves somewhat in a stormy sea.  How much easier would the conversation in the above video have been if the lighthouse had just said WHY the ship had to change course.  Of course, if it had, we wouldn’t have that wonderful clip or advert for Silva compasses.

Don’t make the mistakes of others, ensure individuals know why change is happening.

Change management is one of the courses available from Performance Works.


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