Tag Archives: Influence

Air Time Matters: Speak Up in the First Five Minutes of a Meeting

More than thirty years ago, University of Florida’s Marvin Shaw observed that participation in small group approximates the 80/20 Principle:

Marvin Shaw

Marvin Shaw

In a 5 member team, 2 members make 70% of comments
In a  6 member team, 3 members make 70% of comments
In a  8 member team, 3 members make 67% of comments

Most of the comment contributors were men, and those who speak most are typically viewed as most influential, according to Melissa Thomas-Hunt of University of Virginia.
This suggests that women can be at a disadvantage in groups if they don’t speak up.

Melissa Thomas-Hunt

Melissa Thomas-Hunt

Thomas-Hunt found that women were less influential in small groups even when they possessed specific expertise in survival skills, a stereotypically male endeavor.
Further, women with elite knowledge were judged as less expert by others.

Conversely, men who possessed expertise were more influential than expert women.
Overall group task performance was affected by these dynamics:  Groups with a female expert made less accurate assessments than groups with a male expert, perhaps because females’ expertise was discounted or ignored due to gender-related expectations for specific competencies.

Christopher Karpowitz

Christopher Karpowitz

Women spoke less when there are fewer women in a group, but not when women predominated and decisions were made by majority rule, according to Christopher Karpowitz of Brigham Young University, Princeton University’s Tali Mendelberg and Lee Shaker of Portland State University.

Tali Mendelberg

Tali Mendelberg

They also found that women spoke equally in small groups when there were few women but the decision required unanimous vote.
One implication is that women benefit from building consensus when they are in the minority.

Powerful women who talk more than male counterparts incur backlash from both male and female observers, according to Victoria Brescoll of Yale.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

In an experimental study, both female and male volunteers read about a female CEO who talked longer than others.  They judged her as significantly less competent and less suitable for leadership than a male CEO who was reported to speak for the same amount of time.

A high-power woman who talked much less than others was judged as equally competent and capable of leading as a high-power man who talked much more than others.
Raters were less generous in their ratings of a high-power male who talked much less than others:  He was judged as equally incompetent and unsuitable for leadership as a high-power female who talked much more than expected.

This suggests that both men and women are punished for behaviors different from gender-role expectations.

Lee Shaker

Lee Shaker

Women’s tendency not to speak up in groups begins well before they enter the workplace, found Harvard’s Catherine Krupnick.
She and her team investigated differences between male and female students’ participation in classroom discussion and the impact of the instructor’s gender on students’ participation.

They reviewed videotapes of 12 women and 12 men instructors, and concluded that male students talked two and a half times longer than female students when the instructor was male and the majority of the students were male — a frequent situation in many educational and work organizations.
On the other hand, female students spoke almost three times longer when instructors were female.

Women students were interrupted more frequently than their male counterparts, most often by other women, and leading them to withdraw from the discussion for the remainder of the class.

Krupnick posited that women’s lower participation in classrooms – and perhaps in other small groups – may be explained by their:

  • Unwillingness to compete against men,
  • Vulnerability to interruption,
  • Unwillingness to interject into men’s and other women’s long uninterrupted statements, known as “discourse runs,”
  • Individual differences in assertiveness, confidence, and speed of formulating responses.
Elizabeth Aries

Elizabeth Aries

Amherst’s Elizabeth Aries noticed that groups composed entirely of women students tended to have a participatory style in which women took turns and spoke for about equal amounts of time throughout the class hour.

In contrast, male groups appeared more contest-like, with extremely uneven amounts of talk per man.
They competed by telling personal anecdotes or raising their voices to establish hierarchies of participation, and this competitive style persisted in mixed-gender groups.

Kathleen Welch-Torres, then of Yale, compared women’s and men’s assertiveness in class discussions at Yale and Brown (mixed-gender institution) with women’s class participation at Wellesley and Smith (single-gender).
She reported that women at both of the mixed-sex institutions were verbally less assertive than men, by using “hedges,” qualifiers and questioning intonations.
However, women at the single-gender institutions Smith and Wellesley were more assertive than women at Yale and Brown and more assertive than men at the coeducational institutions.

Larraine Zappert

Larraine Zappert

Kendyll Stansbury

Kendyll Stansbury

Welch-Torres linked these behaviors to measures of self-esteem and her findings are similar to those of Stanford’s Laraine Zappert and Kendyll Stansbury  who reported that female graduate students held lower self-esteem, less trust in their judgments, and greater fear of making mistakes than male graduate students.

Recommendations to help women move toward fuller participation in small groups from Melissa Thomas-Hunt and Margaret Neale of Stanford include:

Margaret Neale

Margaret Neale

  • Before a meeting:
    • Ask trusted attendees to:
      • Support your ideas during the meeting,
      • Solicit your input in the meeting,
    • Refer to your specific expertise during the meeting,
    • Set a goal for number of contributions in the first five minutes of a meeting.
    • In a meeting:
      • If interrupted: Restate, rephrase and provide specific evidence based on expertise,
      • Showcase  others’ expertise by soliciting their input,
      • Create environment in which  other participants have equal opportunity to participate,
      • Urge members to consider each alternative, rather than disregarding suggestions presented by “lower status” individual.

-*How do you ensure that your expertise is recognized and influential in small group settings?

*What “best practices” do you apply to ensure active participation by women and minority-group members?

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Most Effective “Calls to Action” Are Aligned to Audience “Construal Level”, Psychological Distance”

Nir Halevy

Nir Halevy

Leaders can elicit stronger commitment and willingness to follow requested actions when they deliver messages tailored to the audience’s “psychological distance” from them, according to Stanford’s Nir Halevy and Yair Berson of Bar-Ilan University.

Yaacov Trope

Yaacov Trope

Construal level theory” (CLT), developed by NYU’s Yaacov Trop and Nira Liberman of Tel Aviv University, posits that the “psychological distance” is related to differences in organizational hierarchy position as well as spatial and temporal distance.

Nira Liberman

Nira Liberman

Halevy and Berson found that greater psychological distance requires greater message abstractness, often characterized as “high level,” “visionary,” and “big picture” communications.

In contrast, communications with people who work closely with each other are more influential when messages are concrete and specific.

Yair Berson

Yair Berson

Halevy and Berson found that “construal fit” is associated with greater job satisfaction, commitment, and social bonding.

These findings add to other “fit” theories, pioneered by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership concepts, and suggest leadership behaviors are most effective when tailored to specific workplace situations,

Paul Hersey

Paul Hersey

Practical implications include:

  • Providing more specific messages to people working in different locations and time zones.
  • Pairing individuals at closer organizational levels for workplace mentoring rather than “executive shadowing” experiences.
Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard

*How do you tailor leadership communications based on the audience’s “psychological distance” and “construal level?”

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Laughter May Not Be “The Best Medicine”

Robin Ferner

Robin Ferner

Laughter has its serious side,” according to University of Birmingham’s Robin Ferner and Jeffrey Aronson of University of Oxford, despite author Norman Cousins’ anecdotal account of managing pain of his debilitating form of arthritis by watching Marx Brothers comedies, rest, and vitamin C.

Jeffrey Aronson

Jeffrey Aronson

Although laughter can feel good and has been advocated for its health benefits, Ferner and Aronson noted that “pathological” laughter can be caused by medical disorders including:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Cerebral tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis.
Norman Cousins

Norman Cousins

Similarly, they noted many medical disorders result from laughter, including

Laughter Literature ReviewThis last “side effect” they noted was “promoting brand preference,” in a study by Radboud University Nijmegen’s Madelijn Strick, Rob Holland, Rick van Baaren, and Ad van Knippenberg, who investigated “how humor breaks resistance to influence.”

Madelijn Strick

Madelijn Strick

Strick and team concluded that “resistance” causes negative brand associations, but humor in advertisements provides cognitive distraction that prevents negative brand associations and increases positive brand impressions due to positive emotional engagement.
Together, these cognitive and emotional effects promote brand preference.

Laughter’s health benefits in addition to its commercial value, have been documented for decades, and include reduced:

Rob Holland

Rob Holland

Other documented health benefits include increased:

Rick van Baaren

Rick van Baaren

Benefit have been documented across countries and cultures: Both Indians and Canadians reported greater emotional well-being when they laughed to moderate levels, according to Hunaid Hasan and Tasneem Fatema Hasan, then of Mahatma Gandhi Mission’s Medical College.

Team Hasan compared more than 350 adults from Aurangabad, India, with the same number of adults from Mississauga, Canada on demographics, typical amount of laughter, lifestyle, subjective well-being, life satisfaction, emotional well-being, and health dimensions.

Ad van Knippenberg

Ad van Knippenberg

In India, moderate levels of laughter were linked to greatest well-being and life satisfaction, with low levels and high levels showing no effect.

Canadians also greatest benefits associated with moderate laughter, but higher levels of laughter were associated with negative effects.
The Hasan and Hasan team attributed this result to Canada’s higher prevalence of bronchial asthma, which may be precipitated or exacerbated by extreme laughter.

These research findings suggest that more laughter is “not always better” and may require “titrated doses” to extract benefits while minimizing documented “risks.”

-*How do you capitalize on laughter’s benefits while minimizing “the risks”?

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Ask for What You Want: You Have More Influence Than You Think – For Good or Ill

Most people underestimate the likelihood that requests for help will be granted, particularly after experiencing previous refusals, according to Stanford’s Daniel Newark.

Francis Flynn

Francis Flynn

He collaborated with Stanford colleague Francis Flynn and Vanessa Lake Bohns of University of Waterloo in four studies that examined help-seekers’ beliefs about how past refusals affect future compliance.

They showed that help-seekers were more likely to believe that a previous refusal would be followed by another refusal in response to a similar request in the future.
This seems a logical extension of “past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.”
However, this is not supported by Newark and team’s findings.

Help-seekers actually underestimated the actual compliance rate of potential helpers who had previously refused to help, suggesting most people agree with a subsequent request, often to reduce discomfort of rejecting others’ overture for help.

Vanessa Bohns

Vanessa Bohns

Participants estimated they would need to ask about 10 people in order to have three agree to lend their mobile phones for brief calls.
In fact, these volunteers needed to ask only six people for help, 40% fewer than expected, suggesting that most people have a cautious or pessimistic bias about the likelihood that others will provide assistance.

Volunteers requested two favors of strangers on the Stanford campus:  Complete a brief survey and take a letter to a nearby post office.
Help seekers predicted that people who refused the first request of completing the survey would be much less likely to take the letter to the post office.

More people agreed to the second request than to the first request, showing that after people refused a request, they were more likely to agree the second time.
Requestors tend to “anchor” on the first refusal, and hesitate to make a second request.
However, this finding suggests that requestors have a greater chance of success after initial refusal, and that this is the time to muster resilience and persistence.

Bohns and Flynn explained that requestors and potential help-seekers analyze help requests from different perspectives:  Requestors focus on the magnitude of the “ask,” whereas potential helpers consider the inconvenience costs of saying yes in relation to the interpersonal and self-image costs of saying no.

Newark and team suggest that requestors expand the pool of those they ask, not just those who reliably and consistently agree.
These individuals are typically overburdened by requests, and those who are more selective in their assistance are underutilized — and may be willing to assist.

Bohns and Flynn previously demonstrated that potential helpers tend to underestimate help-seekers’ discomfort and embarrassment in asking for assistance, so may be less willing to help underutilized formal support programs.
The researchers found that the most effective way to increase help-seeking is to encourage helpers to focus on reducing help-seekers’ subjective discomfort in asking rather than advocating the practical benefits of asking for help.

Mahdi Roghanizad

Mahdi Roghanizad

More recently, Bohns collaborated with University of Waterloo colleagues Mahdi Roghanizad and Amy Xu to extend this focus on the impact of interpersonal discomfort in non-altruistic situations such as deciding whether to commit an unethical or illegal act.

People who observe and influence the unethical act but don’t participate (“instigators”) underestimated their influence over those who actually commit the asocial acts, according to Bohns and team.

Volunteers enlisted people they didn’t know to tell a small untruth (“white lie”) or commit a small act of vandalism after predicting the ease of enlisting others in these acts.
In related investigations, online participants responded to hypothetical vignettes about buying alcohol for children, and taking office supplies home for personal use.

In all studies, influential bystanders underestimated their influence on others when they suggested engaging in unethical acts.
Further, interpersonal discomfort often caused participants to commit the suggested act to avoid a decision and action that contradicted the instigator’s suggestion.

These results suggest that most people inaccurately estimate their influence – for good or ill, particularly in situations that can evoke interpersonal discomfort.
At the same time, Bohns and Flynn reported on related finding that employees’ systematic underestimate their influence over others in the workplace.

This pessimistic bias can limit employees’ willingness to:

  • Lead business transformation initiatives
  • Recognize personal contributions to others’ performance issues
  • Voice concerns about unethical workplace practices or wrongdoing.

Most employees underestimate their potential influence on others and organizations, and expect their efforts to be futile.

Bohns and Flynn argue that this underestimation bias may be mitigated or reduced by five moderating variables:

  • Comparative judgments
  • Objectification of an influence target
  • Actual degree of personal influence in contrast to perceived influence
  • Means of influence, ranging across incentives, suggestions, reinforcements, punishments
  • Organizational culture. 

These findings provide encouragement to ask for what you want, even after rejection.
In addition, they suggest that you have more influence over others than you expect, whether when asking for help, a sale, or collusion in a questionable act: “Use with caution.”

-*How do you assess your likelihood of getting what you want when you ask?
-*How likely are others to influence you by evoking social discomfort to increase your compliance?

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Spreading Good News Feels Good, Especially When It’s About You

Christian Science Monitor has long provided a counterpoint to mainstream media’s “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to providing shocking, scandalous, depressing, or scary news.

Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

Wharton’s Jonah Berger and Katharine Milkman found that the Christian Science Monitor might have a savvy business model:  they found that good news spreads more widely than bad.

Word of Mouth Marketing AssociationMembers of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Take note…

Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman

Berger and Milkman evaluated a random sample of 3,000 of more than 7,500 articles published in the New York Times online from August 2008 to February 2009.

They judged each article’s “popularity” based on number of times it was forwarded to others, after controlling for online publication time, section, and degree of promotion on the home page.
Independent readers rated each article for practical value or surprise, and ratio of positive vs negative emotion words in each news item.

Most-forwarded posts were positive, funny, exciting and featuring intellectually challenging topics, like science, that “inspire awe” (“admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self”).

Readers shared articles that typically provoke negative emotions like anger and anxiety, but not sadness.
-*Why this bias against sending “downer” messages?

Emily Falk

Emily Falk

Michigan’s Emily Falk, with UCLA colleagues Sylvia Morelli, B. Locke Welborn, Karl Dambacher,and Matthew Lieberman found that people consider what appeals to others, possibly as a means of building relationships, indicated by increased activation in brain regions (temporoparietal junction, or TPJ and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) associated with “social cognition,” or thoughts about other people, measured by fMRI.

When those regions were activated, people were more likely to talk about the idea with enthusiasm, and the idea would spread by word-of-mouth.

Falk noted that the team mapped  brain regions “associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good ‘idea salesperson.'”
She plans to use these brain maps “to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them.”

Diana Tamir

Diana Tamir

People also like to spread good news about themselves.
Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell, then of Harvard, illustrated that brain regions associated with reward (mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area) are activated when people share information about themselves.

Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell

Self-disclosure is so pleasurable that people will sacrifice monetary rewards for this opportunity.

Mor Naaman

Mor Naaman

In fact, Rutgers’ Mor Naaman with Jeffrey Boase, now at Ryerson University and Chih-Hui Lai, now of University of Akron found that 80 percent of Twitter users tweet primarily about themselves.
One reason may be that people say more positive things when they’re talking to a bigger audience, like Twitter followers, according to Berger’s research suggests. As a result, social media users are likely to convey positive information about themselves.

Jeffrey Boase

Jeffrey Boase

However, this positive self-presentation may not result in a positive mood if communicators spend longer on social media platforms like Facebook.
Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge of Utah Valley University found that those with longer visits to Facebook say they are less happy than their Facebook Friends.

They found that Facebook users tend to form biased judgment based on easily-recalled examples (availability heuristic) and erroneously attribute positive Facebook content to others’ personality, rather than situational factors (correspondence bias), especially for those they do not know personally.

Hanna Krasnova

Hanna Krasnova

Corroborated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Hanna Krasnova and her team from Technische Universität Darmstadt, these researchers observed “invidious emotions” and “envy” among people who spend longer time on Facebook.

These findings have relevance to members of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Spread the good word – or at least the emotional word – and spend less time on Facebook and other social media that might invite social comparison and the potential for envious dissatisfaction.

-*How you build “buzz” via “Word of Mouth”?

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Mastering the Power Sandwich with Skillful Upward Influence

David Bradford

David Bradford

Employees’ advancement in organizations is based on preventing problems before they develop, and pre-emptively uncovering opportunities to add value, according to Stanford’s David Bradford and Allan R. Cohen of Babson College in Influencing Up.

Allan Cohen

Allan Cohen

Complementing their Influence without Authority, they distilled common-sense win-win approaches to influence those over whom one has no formal authority or control: one’s manager and others higher in the hierarchy.

Influencing UpOrganizational power discrepancies can be accentuated when the employee is female or a member of a minority group.
Cohen and Bradford’s suggest six elements to reduce power differences, and improve influence and negotiation outcomes:

  • Clarify needs and priorities
  • Consider others as potential partners rather than adversaries
  • Establish trustworthiness by sharing information and develop understanding of the other’s perspective, concerns, and “care-abouts” — empathy in a business setting
  • Determine reciprocal value exchange in “currencies” that matter to others: information, budget, removing obstacles, brokering agreements, support
  • Gain access to others by showcasing your potential value exchange
  • Negotiate a win-win outcome
Robert Cialdini

Robert Cialdini

Bradford and Cohen’s work complements influential research by Stanford colleagues Margaret Neale and Deborah Gruenberg, as well as Robert Cialdini’s classic investigation of influence.

Roger Fisher

Roger Fisher

William Ury

William Ury

Their emphasis on crafting a win-win negotiated outcome echoes earlier work by Roger Fisher and William Ury in Getting to Yes and Linda Babcock’s consideration of negotiation challenges faced by women and minority group members in the workplace.

-*How do you manage the Power Sandwich, requiring skillful 360 degree influence in your organization?

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Extract More Value from Meetings with Effective Questions

Shane Snow

Shane Snow

Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently.com  advocates asking incisive questions to extract more value from meetings, mentors’ guidance, and chance encounters with thought leaders and influencers.

He notes that expert journalists, researchers, innovators, and therapists are trained to ask effective questions, and their common “best practices” include:

  • Listening more than talking
  • Asking open-ended questions to avoid suggesting responses: “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, “Where?”, “How?”, “Why?”
    They use closed-ended questions sparingly: “Is?”, “Would?” and “Do?”
  • Posing one concise question at a time.
    They avoid multiple choice questions
  • Waiting for an answer without interjecting more questions or comments.
    They rarely interrupt themselves or others
  • Tolerating the other person’s silence for several seconds before talking
  • Directly, repeatedly probing for insightful, revealing replies
  • Nodding only when the response is intelligible, logical, and understandable
  • Interjecting questions or rephrasing the original question to redirect tangential responses
  • Cross-checking information and following up possible inconsistencies with more probing questions
Sakichi Toyoda

Sakichi Toyoda

Nearly a century earlier, Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries introduced an iterative problem-solving approach based on posing “Five Whys” to uncover the root cause of an issue.

The Lean StartupThis technique is now-widely applied in Lean Manufacturing, and is advocated by Eric Reis in The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses .

‘”Five Whys” were reduced to “Three Whys” to uncover customer objections in sales situations, and was modified Judith Beck in cognitive therapy to identify underlying Core Beliefs that lead to negative automatic thoughts.

Judith Beck

Judith Beck

Beck softens the “Five Whys” by repeatedly asking “If that were true, what would it mean?”
Her model that suggest connections among:

Early experience->Core beliefs (schemas) ->Underlying assumptions (if/then – conditional) ->Automatic thoughts-> Physical Experiences->Self-Limiting Behaviors

Five Whys to Uncover Core Beliefs

Lois Frankel

Lois Frankel

Therapist and writer Lois Frankel illustrated the similarity of effective questions in psychotherapy sessions with those used to spur inquiry and innovative breakthroughs.
She advises interviewers and consultants to:

  • Use questions to define your purpose:
    What do you want to gain from this conversation?

    • Help
    • Advice
    • Information
    • Commitment
    • New ideas
    • Clarification of opinions or attitudes
    • Decision
      Overcoming your strengths
    • What is the “real” problem? Engineers and business people answer this question using a “Root Cause Analysis”
      • What are the options?
      • What are the likely consequences?
      • What results will justify the invested time, effort or money?
      • Ask specific questions:
        • What could we do differently?
        • Why is this important?
        • How can we best meet our objective?
        • What do you want to happen?
          • What don’t you want to happen?
          • What is the best thing that could happen?
          • What is the worst thing that could happen?
          • How will you react if you don’t follow this course of action?

Frankel advises to

  • Maintain eye contact:
  • Focus full attention on the interviewee
  • Repeat and summarize important points to verify accurate understanding
  • Listen for:
  • Content (facts)
  • Intent (feelings)
  • The way these are expressed (process).
    Warren Berger

    Warren Berger

    Journalist Warren Berger applied refined questioning in Design Thinking processes to produce innovative solutions in Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your World .

    He advocates continued exploration of meaningful “big” questions in his blog, A More Beautiful Question.

-*What effective questioning practices have you found most helpful in achieving business results?

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