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Effortless influence

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5 minutes to design the logo.

2 years to convince her clients to use it.

In 1998, as renowned graphic designer Paula Scher sat listening to her clients discuss what the identity of newly merged Citicorp and Travellers Group should be, she doodled the new Citibank logo on a napkin.

“The design of the logo is not the hard part of the job”, said Scher, “it’s persuading a million people to use it”.

Whatever your role, I’m willing to guess your success relies on your ability to work with and through others. To influence.

I’m also willing to guess that the biggest frustration you have, why some days you feel worn down, exhausted and depleted, is when you can’t cut through.

Imagine a workday that felt effortless? Where your talents could shine and every traffic light turned green. Where stress melted away.

Imagine a world of business where people were smiling as they commuted because they couldn’t wait to get to work and ply their influencing skills?

That’s what I want for you. Effortless influence.

What’s the path to effortless influence?

1.  Make your environment do the heavy lifting

Just having a meeting in the right room can help productivity. Priming, which I write a lot about because it is so critical to your success, means people are influenced by environmental cues. Some supermarkets, for example, play the sound of thunder in the fresh produce section to remind their customers of nature and freshness.

Aside from the environment, how you contextualise your message is as important as what your message is. The behavioural principle of framing means you need to choose your images, typeface and words carefully. An email with “feel free” to get in touch is better than “don’t hesitate”, for example.

2. Anticipate resistance to design your effortless approach

Conceptualising the logo was the easy part for Scher. The hard part was convincing layers of management that the logo was the right one. We could explore dozens of behavioural principles underpinning client resistance, but all roads lead back to three core barriers

  • Apathy, they can't bothered;
  • Paralysis, they are confused; and
  • Anxiety, they are worried about proceeding.

Know that the natural human state is status quo. Even if a client thinks they want change, you still need to convince them to move. That means the bulk of your work is getting people to move away from something rather than move towards it.

3.  It’s not them at fault, it’s you

You can’t control another person, but you can control your approach. If you are getting frustrated, then change how you engage, starting with empathy.  Just like a tennis umpire who wears sneakers so they can feel how the players experience the court, you have to see the situation from your customer’s perspective. By doing so you can work back to modify how you act and communicate. 

Effortless influence isn’t actually effortless

Is effortless influence actually effortless? Clearly the answer is no. But it’s good effort rather than bad. By skilling yourself in behavioural influence you gain efficiencies every day, in every interaction, turning your traffic lights green.

This article also appeared in Smartcompany.

Sources: Paula Scher's work was profiled in the Netflix series "Abstract".

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