Persuade without Pushing* – Look Backward to Move Your People Forward
It may not be clear where you and your spouse want to go to eat,
but it’s certainly clear after the meal whether you loved or hated it.
Don’t ask a “reverse cognitive bias” thinker to come up with “goals.”
Not too long ago I spoke to Frank, the CEO of a $2 billion health products company, “How often do you use the word ‘goals’ in your management meetings?”
He answered with a revealing chuckle, “Always.”
I replied, “I take it from that chuckle that the room doesn’t exactly jump all over it with ‘when do we get started’ enthusiasm.”
“No. I don’t think any of them have that kind of enthusiasm. There are even several who have a ‘deer in the headlights’ look when I bring up the topic of goals,” he replied.
I explained: “Frank. You use the word ‘goals’ naturally, because as a successful CEO, your mind has a ‘forward cognitive bias’ that enables you to keep your eye on the horizon and articulate a compelling vision and then translate it into a strategy to get there. Most people in a company, who will never make it to CEO, have a ‘reverse cognitive bias’ in their thinking. That means that their minds are more comfortable reacting to something after someone else like you has laid it out. It also means that the word ‘goals’ doesn’t compute in these non-forward bias, reactive individuals.”
“That’s very true,” Frank interjected, “in fact I can tell those people with leadership potential by their ability to look forward. And I must admit, we’re challenged right now in having any such individuals. As you say, nearly all of them listen and then react to what I come up with. What do I do about that?”
“First, realize that you have a serious succession challenge if you have few if any who can look forward and you will need to address that,” I answered and then continued, “but second, you will probably gather more enthusiastic participation and possibly even innovation if you frame the way you begin a meeting to match their ‘reverse cognitive bias’ minds instead of expecting them to be naturally forward thinkers.
To do that, ask your managers at the beginning of the next meeting: ‘a) Imagine that our meeting to discuss x agenda is over and you’re returning to your desks, your emails and your other work; b) Then imagine your saying to yourself, ‘That was a very productive meeting. I now clearly understand what our strategic imperatives are and why they’re so important. Furthermore I have a clear idea of what my department and specifically I need to do to make that happen and I am really pumped up to do those things; c) Can you all imagine having that reaction when you leave this meeting in 90 minutes? (hopefully they will nod in agreement); d) If so, then tell me what happens during this meeting to cause that reaction to happen.’”
“Then use their responses to guide how you lead that meeting,” I concluded.
When you cause your people to imagine that positive end result and then ask them to react to it by detailing what would need to occur to make it happen, you not only tailor your directive communication to their “reverse cognitive bias” mind, you set the stage for them to participate more fully in the meeting.
And as we all know, the more you get a team to participate in defining a desired outcome and strategy, the more inclined they are to participate in its execution.
* The above is adapted from a brief TED-like talk I gave at Big Task Weekend on September 30, 2010. The essence of my comments are that to persuade people in these “resistant to being sold times” it’s not enough to “get where people are coming from,” you need to “get into their listening.” By that I mean not just what they listen to, but also how they listen.
If the above speaks to you, my partner, Dr. John Ullmen from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and I have developed the Persuade Without Pushing program to teach you and your people how to sell your ideas, products and services in a post-selling world. To find out more about our 2 – 4 hour presentation that will give you a taste as well as many immediately implementable takeaways contact either me at: email@example.com or Dr. Ullmen at: firstname.lastname@example.org.