How the Word “Because” Increases Your Influence


“Excuse me, I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine?”

“Excuse me, I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”

In a famous study by Ellen Langer and others appearing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, sixty percent of the persons in line complied with the first request.  Ninety-four percent complied with the second request.  Why?  The second request contained the magic word “because” which triggered giving the reason.

Best-selling author, Nancy Duarte, says that most do a good job of explaining what they want.  But they are pretty inept at explaining the “why.”

For example, “Could you complete this environmental audit, using the attached spreadsheet, by Friday?”  The “what” is clear (environmental audit) and the “how” is apparent (attached spreadsheet).  But the “why” is missing.

When asked about the missing “why”, the manager said, “The reason is obvious.  Failure to document could result in consequences.  The other party may or may not have been aware of the manager’s assumption.

Increase your persuasion by ensuring that the word “because” is part of the request.  For example, “Could you complete this environmental audit, using the attached spreadsheet, by Friday because we need the documentation to prove compliance to the auditors?”

 

Coaching Tone May Make A Difference


Elsie admitted that she had a tendency to procrastinate and get distracted. Her manager said, “Elsie, I expect you to verify all invoices, complete payments on time and enter data into the computer accurately.  Otherwise, there could be consequences.”

Elsie improved for about four weeks, then she drifted into carelessness—making mistakes and missing deadlines.

The manager said, “I like Elise but I get frustrated because I have to spend too much time micromanaging her.”

Eventually, Elise’s manager was transferred. Her new manager commented, “After observing Elsie’s performance for a couple of weeks, I sat down with her and in a friendly way worked out checklists and deadlines for completing her tasks.  At least weekly, I reviewed with Elsie her work.

The manager “thanked” Elsie for even her slightest improvements and patiently noted mistakes.  Elsie quickly apologized and immediately corrected the errors.

After about four months, Elsie’s performance, while not perfect, became much more reliable.  “Eventually,” her manager said, “I got acceptable performance from Elsie by asking her to give me weekly updates on her metrics.”

Elsie said, “My first manager made me very nervous.  I knew he didn’t like me, but I really like my current manager.  I don’t want to disappoint her.”

 

 

All Employees Are the Same; All Are Different


Eric’s manager said to me, “Eric will not take initiative. He knows his job but does only what I tell him to do.”

“What have you tried?” I asked.

“I’ve told him to do what he thinks needs to be done and don’t wait around for me to give him an assignment. He wasn’t responsive, so I started giving him detailed checklists.”

“How did that work?”

“Not so well.  Eric made a half-hearted effort to do a few things but mostly he just conjured up excuses.”

Effective leaders are attentive to each employees’ uniqueness.  Some like detailed instructions, some like broad guidance.   Some like public praise but public attention embarrasses others.  Pressure motivates some people to rise to the occasion, others buckle.

If your current way of dealing with an employee is not producing the desired results, then change your methods.

Since micromanaging did not work with Eric, maybe the leader could try giving him specific outcomes with deadlines and a lot of freedom in performing his tasks.

Of course, if a leader tries several ways to motivate an employee and none seem to work, it is likely that the employee just does not have the talent or commitment to perform.