On Tuesday I was flying into Auckland from Melbourne. The plane had already been delayed and it also took ages to board. We had all settled in and there was a row of 4 seats next to me and only 3 of those seats were occupied. The air hostess approached the man sitting in the middle seat who had an empty seat beside him. She said ‘Sir would you mind moving to another seat at the back, also a middle seat?’. He looked at her with an incredulous expression and it looked like he had just got his TV settings the way he wanted, he had stowed away his things and got comfortable and now he was being asked to move. Really, could life get any harder?
She then quickly added ‘There is a couple on their honeymoon who are sitting separately, but if you moved into one of their seats, they could move here and sit together’. Everyone around him just went ahhh.. and he got up with smile and a shrug of his shoulders.
The simplest but sometimes most over looked way to influence, to move people is to give them a compelling ‘why’. So often we get stuck into the detail, the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ and forget to start with ‘Why’. Why this matters, why should anyone care. Simon Sinek in his TED talk ‘How leaders inspire action’ states people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it. So to move people start by giving them a ‘Why’. Would love to hear your thoughts.
When I was about eight, a fruit bat flew into our house. My brother, sister and I ran screaming from the room, but I was also delighted. Why? I finally shared something in common with my hero, Batman – a fear of bats!
So it was with complete joy and geek delight that I, a lifelong Batman fan, immersed myself in the entire Batman trilogy, shown back-to-back at the IMAX cinema recently. (No, I didn’t wear a bat suit, but that is only because I don’t have one!). I would contend that there is a lesson for all leaders, marketers, and business owners — anyone who communicates and influences on a daily basis, in the Batman trilogy.
Instead of carefully crafting your content, around purpose and audience, start with emotion. When watching the trilogy, I was feeling exactly what the British–American director, screenwriter and producer, Christopher Nolan, who directed the trilogy wanted me to feel: completely besotted by Batman.
If you decide what you want your audience to feel, and get that right, you will also create fans.
But why is this so hard?
Quite often we are shackled by the past, precedents that have been set. For example, when I work with CEOs designing their road-show content, quite often the biggest barrier to change is the mantra: ‘But this is how we have always done it’. Imagine the burden and gift of a legacy Nolan faced when he began the Batman trilogy. Batman movies have been done before, using stellar actors like Jack Nicholson playing The Joker.. Nolan had the challenging task of keeping fans happy, yet carving out new ground,.
Our challenge as influential communicators is how to use the shackles of the past as stepping stones to the future. Nolan did this by presenting Batman not as another comic book movie but an action / adventure movie and gave us a darker more human Batman loved by both critics and fans. You too can be respectful of the past without being chained to it.
So how are you going to start with emotion and use the past as stepping stones not shackles?
Just recently I was staying in a hotel in central Auckland on work. I was pleasantly surprised when logging on and a message popped up saying ‘Guests can enjoy FREE wifi with no data cap or time limit’ .
For me as a hotel guest this signalled that they trusted us the customers, to do the right thing and not to abuse wifi privileges.
Rachel Botsman in her TED talk discusses how trust is the currency of the new economy . In The Speed Of Trust, Stephen M.R.Covey points out that high trust equals high speed and low cost, whereas low trust means low speed and high cost.
We have all experienced this in our business and personal lives. When you trust someone, things are smoother and faster.
Covey cites the case of aviation security in the US. Prior to 9/11 one could reach the airport just 30 minutes before flight time and easily make it on board. Why? Because people had a high degree of trust in aviation security. Now it takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours. While the extra security measures have made flying safer, Covey points out that the added cost of security ultimately shows up on every airline ticket. On the other hand, he gives the example of Warren Buffet deciding to acquire McLane Distribution – a $23billion company – from Wal-Mart in just one two-hour meeting because of high trust. Besides the speedy conclusion of the deal, both companies saved millions of dollars in legal and investment banker fees.
Companies and organisations spend billions of dollars earning customer’s trust. But today the shoe is on the other foot and the challenge in the new economy is how do companies show customers that they trust them? Do you trust your customers and how have you shown them that you trust them? Free wifi will do it for me every time.
Do you love what you do? What about the people you work with, your co – workers, do you love your co – workers? Latest research shows that people who love their co-workers perform better and show up at work more. This is not romantic love but ‘companiate love’, based on warmth, affection and connection.
In a Longitudinal study titled ‘What’s love got to do with it’ researchers Barsade and O’Neill coined the term ‘Emotional culture’ to talk about workplaces where employees felt loved and cared for and how this had a positive measurable impact on performance and well being.
But it is not only love, which some of us might find hard to express at work, but making room for other positive emotions like pride in a job well done, joy and laughter. There is power in the small gestures, the hand written note, a thank you, taking time to ask after people all make for happier workplaces. A leader I know knocks it out of the ball park with engagement scores year after year. he makes it a point to connect personally every day with each and everyone on his large, geographically dispersed team, either through a phone call, face to face or via email and sometimes even text. As leaders we communicate daily on a professional level with people we work with, but to take the time to connect personally? The personal connection for this leader is asking after one person’s mother who has just come out hospital, asking how someone else went at their son’s soccer game etc. It’s genuine, comes from a deep sense of caring for his team, who in turn feel valued, connected and dare I say it loved?
So how you are you going to share the love… at work?