Recently I was President of my Toastmasters Club.
As the President, my job was to motivate the club members to aim high to reach their goals. I would regularly ask each member how she was progressing through her manual. Then I would encourage her to make a speech, lead Table Topics, or evaluate someone else’s speech.
I remember one lady who joined the club. She was a bit nervous about giving her Icebreaker Speech. She had given good responses to Table Topics in previous meetings, so I felt she would do fine. I did my best to assure her that she could really do her first speech, and do it well.
That night she signed up to do her speech. And as I expected, she did a great job!
By the way, if you’re not familiar with Table Topics, let me explain. In the Table Topics portion of a Toastmasters meeting, one member asks questions of the group. There is no prior preparation for this, so all answers come off the cuff. Most of the time, everybody has some life experience she can bring to bear in her answer. If not, she can bridge to something she does know about and all is well.
This is excellent preparation for real life in the business world.
But Here’s the Problem
Sometimes what you’re asking someone to do is something that scares her to death. In fact, on most lists of people’s greatest fears, public speaking is a greater fear than death. That’s why Jerry Seinfeld said that people would rather be in the casket than give the eulogy at a funeral.
Maybe you have some other distasteful job like asking people for money who have done their best to avoid paying you. Or perhaps you are in a position that requires you to be the kind listening ear that gets filled with customer complaints. Either way, it’s an uphill battle to smooth things over.
Trying to encourage someone who’s afraid to give a speech to cast aside their fear and do so is like trying to convince someone who’s afraid of heights to jump out of an airplane.
Would you like some tools to make that hard job easier?
Let’s take a look at some ways you can make that happen.
If you want to be a great motivator in hard times, you’ve got to look at what you might be doing wrong.
First, you think primarily about what you want.
You need to collect that money. So you focus your efforts on that end.
You need your team to cooperate. So you spend all your time reminding them, watching them, and generally letting them know you don’t trust them.
You want to make the metrics. So you find ways to link to those objectives whenever you talk about work.
Second, you decide you’ll use force if necessary.
John Maxwell says this is what positional leaders do – use their position to require obedience.
But let’s face it, nobody really likes to be under a dictator’s power, does she?
Of course, you justify your use of force because you need to produce results.
Third, you’ll run into resistance.
When you force people to do things against their wills, they’ll put up walls.
They won’t listen to what you have to say if you’re trying to pressure them to buy something.
They’ll do the minimum if you’re a totalitarian supervisor.
And then when someone offers them 45 cents more an hour, they’ll leave you without a day’s notice.
Jumping the Hurdles or Better Yet, Lowering Them
Dale Carnegie has an excellent principle you can apply to hard situations. When you want to convince someone to do what they should but may not want to do, appeal to the nobler motives.
Let’s take a look at 3 ways you can put this principle into practice.
1. Give her a high standard to live up to.
If someone wants to break her lease, you might confront her like this:
“Mary, you’ve always paid your rent on time. Now I know you’ll come through again. That’s why I’m not worried that you’ll do what’s best. Why don’t you think about this over the weekend? If you still want to leave, then I’ll understand. Fair enough?”
You’ve done a few things here worth noting. You’ve given her the benefit of the doubt. You’ve expressed faith that she’ll do the right thing. You’ve given her a chance to fulfill her obligation. And who knows? Since you’ve done it in a friendly way, she might just stay.
2. Appeal to her desire to be consistent.
We all have a deep desire to do what we believe is the right thing. If you’ve done someone a favor, they probably feel a sense of obligation. To fulfill that need, she’ll want to reciprocate in some way.
3. Assume she’ll live up the wonderful picture you’ve painted of her.
After you’ve given her a high standard to live up to and appealed to her desire to be consistent, then it’s reasonable to assume she’ll come through. But be careful. Some people will take advantage of you. But the odds are good that most of the people you treat this way will honor you by doing what you’ve asked.
When you appeal to someone’s nobler motives, you’ve done 3 important things.
1. You’ve taken the high road. It’s much better and more lasting to use influence rather than force.
2. You’ve made your appeal in a friendly way. Only the cruelest person can resist the power of kindness.
3. You’ve made it easy for her to cooperate. If you’ve been nice, you’ve given her a sense of obligation. She’ll then feel compelled to be nice to you. By doing that, she’ll satisfy her own need to be consistent in her behavior.
If you’ll do this, you’ll find that you’ll be a great motivator in hard times!
What have you done to encourage someone to do something they needed to do but didn’t want to do? Did it work? Why or why not? What can you use from what you’ve learned today to do it differently next time?