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Increasing Your Chances
or being manipulative?

An important meeting is about to happen, where you need to get your point across and maybe even persuade someone. You're going to do everything you can to give yourself the best shot.
  • Because the room is warm you offer them a nice chilled drink - not a good idea!
  • You reach for your briefcase and leave it on view - not a good idea!
  • To be courteous you turn off your mobile but leave it on view on the desk - not a good idea!
All these small actions seem pretty innocuous on the surface but there has been quit a bit of research recently looking at a whole range of unconscious influences on our reactions to other people.

It perhaps started with an experiment  in the late 70s when a stooge pushed to the front of a photocopier que. When he simply used the excuse 'Because I have to make copies' he experienced more cooperation than when he offered no excuse. In fact this lame excuse (its pretty obvious he had to make copies!) was just as effective as when he said 'Because I'm in a rush'; a more sensible excuse.

This prompted the researchers at Harvard to conclude that we often perform seemingly thoughtful actions mindlessly. In this case we respond to the basic structure of the sentence unconsciously; any 'Because....' is as good as any other!

This started other researchers looking into various other ways we are influenced unconsciously and we've reported on many of them in the side bar. Now we thought it might be time for a review to give you further 'Food for Thought' about your reactions to others' cues.

Coffee or Chilled drinks
People were given either a hot coffee or an iced one to hold whilst answering some innocuous questions before going into a room to chat with a stooge. Afterward they were asked if they would be able to recommend the person they'd met for a job. Those that had held hot coffee beforehand they said they would, whereas those that held the cold one wouldn't.

Could the temperature of the drinks you offer people before your meetings have an effect on their judgments about your warmth?

Briefcases
Subjects were asked to take part in a financial game. Those who were placed at a table where a briefcase was on view (just casually placed, not particularly prominently) played the game much more competitively and selfishly than those who played at a table where a rucksack was on view.

Do you want to encourage cooperation at your meetings? Could those briefcases have been influencing things?

Mobile phones
Researchers asked 34 pairs of strangers to have a brief conversation with each other about "an interesting event that occurred to you over the past month". They were then taken to a private area for the chat.

For half of the pairs there was a mobile phone in view (not in direct sight but visible) on the table. For the other half a notebook (real paper, not a laptop!) was put in place of the phone.

Those who chatted with a phone on view, instead of a notebook, were much less positive about the other person, doubting for example that they could become friends in time. They also felt less 'close' to their partner.

This was conducted in a social setting so we have to be cautious about extrapolating to business meetings. The explanation was suggested the phone was an unconscious cue that your partner is constantly connected to a wide network of people and you are therefore a lesser part of their world.

With that caveat, what difference could it make to your meetings if you keep mobiles out of sight?

P.S.
Oh by the way, just drinking caffeine has been found to make people more open to persuasion. So take care before you talk to sales people or, if you are in sales make sure you offer a coffee to your prospect!
How Managers Become Leaders
This summer the Harvard Business Review published an interesting article about making the transition from Manager to Leader.

A lot has been said about the difference but this article lists what the author believes to be the 'Seven Seismic Shifts' that someone has to make when they make the transition:
  1. Specialist to Generalist
  2. Analyst to Integrator
  3. Tactician to Strategist
  4. Bricklayer to Architect
  5. Problem Solver to Agenda Setter
  6. Warrior to Diplomat
  7. Supporting Cast Member to Lead Role
None of them surprised me much - but I do like a list!

Read more.........


Seeing IS believing
Marketeers take heart; all the money invested in those images to accompany key sales points in your literature have been worth it.

This research from the University of Wellington tested whether a simple photo accompanying a statement would make the statement more believable. It seems that even if the photo gives no real information about the statement, it still makes it more likely to be judged as true.
One test involved statements about relatively obscure celebrities: "this person is dead" or "this person is alive". When accompanied by a photo of the person either statement was more likely to be rated as true.

It should be said hat the effect was not restricted to photos; so uninformative text 'blurb' also had a similar effect on the believability of the statements - but it does suggest that just showing those photos of the product next to your message does help!

Read more.........


Guilt-Prone People Make Best Leaders
You might assume that we like our leaders to express positive emotions  - pride; enthusiasm etc. Indeed we do and they seem to be effective. However, negative emotions such as anger are not always as bad as you might expect for leadership effectiveness.

These researchers at Stanford measured 'guilt-proneness' in groups of people who then went on to get involved in one of the leadership exercises you'll be familiar with - such as surviving a crash in the dessert.

A tendency to feel guilty about your actions correlated with high leadership scores. It seems that "People who are emotionally involved in redressing bad situations are seen as better leaders."

They conclude "being driven by guilt to be conscious and caring about how your actions affect the well being of others can help people to be perceived as leaders, emerge as leaders, and have an impact as leaders". However they also point out that theses people are likely to be more hesitant about stepping forward for leadership and easily overlooked - unless organisations coax them out!

Read more.........


Coaching for Success
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