As best-selling author Dan Pink often writes, science and business often operate in separate universes. This disconnect hurts their ability to optimize performance and credibility.
To bridge the gap, I’m vowing to be more mindful about taking change actions that are grounded in the social sciences. In particular, I will focus on regularly adopting five principles. (Supposedly there’s a scientific reason why five things are manageable to remember and act on, but I can’t find the source! Does anyone know or remember?)
My five actions are:
1. Influence in multiple ways. To improve your influence tenfold when you’re trying to change things, you need to use at least four or more influence strategies in combination. One alone doesn’t work nearly as well. The authors of the report and study, How to 10X Your Influence, have built the foundation of their six-source model around motivation and ability. They then subdivide this into three categories: personal, social, and structural. The key to better influence is to combine what you do personally with how you relate to others and provide them help.
2. Remember reciprocity rules. The work world is made up of two-way streets. Traffic runs smoother if you do unto others first. Most people will be more responsive to you when you make the first move, as Social Psychologist Robert Cialdini explains in Influence: Science and Practice . So to paraphrase US President John Kennedy and his late Presidential speechwriter Ted Sorensen, “Ask not what your colleagues can do for you. Ask what you can do for your colleagues.”
3. Make clear and compelling asks and reinforce. With ADD running rampant in the business world, you can’t expect anyone to pay attention to any of your proclamations, especially if you want them to take action—even if you’ve provided something for them and expect them to reciprocate. You need to formulate a clear, compelling ask. It’s even better if the ask appeals to their self interest. (If that’s impossible, at least include the powerful word “because” in your request. See a description of social psychologist Ellen Langer’s classic study of photocopying.)
4. Recognize and give feedback more often. Appreciating people for doing the right things is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reinforce appropriate behaviors. Yet, we often forget or neglect to do it—except when we’re training our dogs who relish tiny treats as rewards for good behavior. However, if we have a growth mindset and want others to have one too, we need to catch people doing the right things and praise them for their actions, being as specific as possible. Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success writes about how everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets consider their situation as established and they go through life preferring to avoid challenges and failure. By comparison, those with a growth mindset see themselves as a work in progress bettering themselves. They crave the recognition and feedback that help them improve.
5. Be sure to follow up. Has “FU” become a foul thing to do? Or are we just so crazy, frazzled and snowed under that we can’t remember to follow through on our commitments? Or do we have challenges psyching ourselves up to keep focused and stay the course? (In my opinion, many of us are worse at follow up than at appreciating others.) Whatever, if we don’t keep our promises, we hurt our integrity and become less trustworthy, which Cornell Professor Tony Simons writes about in The Integrity Dividend: The Power of Credibility at Work.
By taking these actions, I’m hoping that I can merge the lessons from science to change practices to make change initiatives more persuasive and sticky.
Also, by making these resolutions public, I’m showing my commitment. That should help me stay more focused, which also will keep me honest and on track. By the way, I’m taking the warning of neuroscientist Brian Knutson seriously. He’s wondering that with the Internet and all of its interesting interruptions whether the survival of the fittest means the survival of the most focused.
What do you think?
And what are your resolutions for 2011?