The problem with power, perks, and charisma is not that they never work or never should be used. The problem is that people turn to them too quickly, and there are almost always better methods . For instance, savvy parents and influential leaders use their ability to teach. They intuitively instruct by using part of the model we developed in Chapter 2.
When you watch people who have been singled out by their bosses, peers, and loved ones as the best at handling crucial confrontations , it should be no surprise to learn that they change people s hearts by changing their minds.
Savvy influencers recognize that they could propel people to action by using their leadership authority or offering perks. They also know that within the three domains of self, others, and things, there are other factors that are far better motivators, that propel action without the leader pulling strings or making threats.
What are these compelling factors? They are the natural consequences associated with any behavior. For example, if you don t manage your diabetes well, you are likely to face amputations later in life. That s a natural consequence. If you fail to follow up on commitments, you create extra stress for your boss, who has to guess what will get done. That s a natural consequence. If you make sarcastic and cutting comments when your spouse isn t feeling amorous, she will withdraw and feel less spontaneous affection for you despite what your lizard brain is telling you. That s a natural consequence.
All our social actions put into play a chain of events that affects anywhere from one person to millions of other people. This sequence of events makes up the consequence bundle. Among these consequences, there is a subset of natural consequences that exist independently of the intervention of an authority figure. These methods require no force, no chutzpah, and no charisma. No parent has to wag a finger; no boss has to write up a disciplinary action. Natural consequences are always present and always serve as a potential source of motivation.
Of course, not all natural consequences motivate people equally. Here is an example:
When you cut Jimmy off in midsentence, it hurt his feelings.
Good, I don t like him anyway.
Consequences make up the reasons behind all behavior, so savvy influencers motivate others with a consequence search: They explain natural consequences until they hit upon one or more that the other person cares about. As you start your own consequence search, your job is to make the invisible visible while maintaining a dialogue.
When it comes to exploring natural consequences, your primary job is to help others see consequences they aren t seeing (or remembering) on their own. That happens because many of the outcomes associated with a particular behavior are long- term or occur out of sight. Your job is to help make the invisible visible. Here are six methods for doing that.
As you consider all the consequences you could discuss with another person, turn your attention to that person s core values. What does he or she care about the most? This will be your point of greatest leverage. Then help the other person see how his or her values will be better realized through the course you are proposing . If you have created enough safety, you can talk frankly about any value issues. Let s look at an example of speaking with a spouse who has had two bypass surgeries and continues to gorge:
Dear, I honestly believe that if your eating habits don t change, you won t raise our children, I will. Do you have the same concern? What do you think?
Here you re trying to deal with your loved one s eating habits, and rather than nagging or attacking, you re linking to his or her core value of being around to help raise the kids .
Show how the short-term enjoyment the person currently is experiencing is inextricably connected to longer-term problems. This is essentially the central task of parenting:
If you continue to watch television and don t do your homework, you ll get bad grades, you won t get into a good school, you won t get a good job, you won t make lots of money, and you ll never drive your own Porsche.
You might not use these exact words, but this is at least part of the map you re carrying in your head and the map you d like your child to share eventually, except maybe the part about the fancy car.
This method of clarifying long-term or distant negative consequences is also applied at work dozens of times a day:
I m sure it s a hassle to double-check appointments when you enter them on my calendar, but our current error rate is so high that the assistants of the other vice presidents are calling me to ask for confirmation. I worry that your reputation here is going to be hurt if we can t solve this.
This is the other half of parenting. It s also the single best predictor of lifelong success. If a person can suffer a little now ”delaying gratification in order to serve a longer-term goal ”life gets better (think dieting, weight lifting , studying , etc.).
If you doubt this premise , consider a study conducted over a matter of decades. Researchers put a marshmallow in front of individual children and told them that they would get another one if they didn t eat the first one while the researcher stepped out. As the researchers tracked these children over the years , they found that those who had waited for the researchers to return did far better in life than those who ate the confection right away, and in almost every domain. [ 2] To help people stay the course, take the focus off the short-term challenge by placing it on the long-term benefit:
I know that putting up with some of the kids messiness is really hard for you. I also believe that your relationship with them is at risk if you can t learn to let some of the smaller things go.
This is perhaps the most widely used method of explaining consequences. You describe the unintended and often invisible effects an action is having on others. At work, leaders carefully and clearly explain the consequences to the company s various stakeholders: Here s what your failure to comply is doing to other employees , to the customer, to the shareowners, to the boss, and so forth.
At home, parents explain what s happening to other family members : Louisa, I know your little brother gets on your nerves a lot. But did you know that when you made fun of his weight, he sat in his room and cried for the rest of the evening? I know your goal was to get him to stop following you around and not to hurt him so deeply. Is that right?
To help introduce the social implications of a particular action, describe how a person s action is being viewed by others. It s starting to look like you don t care about the team s results. Remember, when it comes to the way we re coming across, we all live on the wrong side of our eyeballs. Help others gain a view from the other side.
This is typically not the best starting place, but eventually you may want to talk about rewards. Help others see how living up to an expectation advances their careers, enhances their influence, puts more money in the bank, or reduces their risks: You ve mentioned wanting to be the art director. In my view you will be much more successful in that position ”and more likely to get it ”if you have solid working relationships with both the editing staff and the video team.
Remember, as you re doing your best to make consequences more visible, stay in dialogue. Keep the information flowing honestly and freely in both directions.
There s a fine line between sharing natural consequences and threatening others. Well, in most cases it s not that fine a line. If your motives are wrong, sharing becomes threatening . If your motive is to punish or if you re taking pleasure in describing the awful things that will happen if someone s obnoxious behavior continues, you are the problem. Your motive must be to solve the problem in a way that benefits both of you. Anything less than that will provoke silence or violence, not gain willing compliance.
The line becomes finer when your motives are right but the other person mistakes your description of natural consequences for a threat. When you fail to complete your assignments on time, we start giving you less relevant assignments to protect ourselves from failure can sound like a personal attack or a job threat.
If the other person believes that he or she is in trouble, per- haps because of previous experience with other bosses, your best behavior may seem manipulative regardless of your skill or demeanor. If you notice that others appear nervous, step out of the conversation and restore safety by explaining your positive intentions. Explain that your goal is to solve an important problem. You simply want to share the consequences of what they re doing and then ask them for their view on the matter. When they start hearing natural consequences as threats, you should recognize it as a safety problem, not an insurmountable barrier to dialogue.
When it comes to other people s roles, you should be listening as they explain their view of the consequences. They may be aware of factors you know little or nothing about: Yeah, we can do it the way you want, but it ll blow up our lawn mower.
Your view of what should be done may change in the process of jointly discussing consequences. In the end, you may be convinced that they shouldn t do what you originally asked.
As you help others see consequences they didn t realize existed, explain those consequences only until you reach critical mass. Stop once you believe others will comply. Your job isn t to keep piling on information. It is to share consequences until the other person understands the overall effect and shares your view of what needs to be done. Don t sell past the close.
Let s look at the final element of making a task motivating. It has to do with the circumstances you re facing . Sometimes the person you re talking to is simply unaware of the consequences associated with his or her actions. Sometimes you yourself don t understand why the other person isn t motivated. Or perhaps he or she s partially motivated but the task just hasn t made it to the top of his or her priority list. Maybe the other person s openly resisting your efforts. Let s learn to match method to circumstance.
The methods for explaining natural consequences we ve just examined are easy to apply when we re first informing people about the reason behind a specific action. Employees want to know why they have to produce products and deliver services by using certain methods, particularly if what you re asking isn t going to be easy. What they really want to know is whether it s really worth it. As we suggested earlier, effective problem solvers are teachers , and much of their teaching is about the consequences to varying stakeholders: Here s why it s worth it. They make the invisible visible by whatever means work. They do this to avoid gaps.
When it comes to parenting, the younger the child, the greater the need to teach the child the relationship between behavior and outcome. Newborns do not understand consequences. Almost everything a parent does during the early stages of child rearing is to protect a child from invisible bad consequences and then to teach. As children grow older, methods change and resistance increases , at least until age 14, when your offspring actually know everything and you don t have to teach them anymore. Of course, when they turn 21, they become ignorant again.
This circumstance comes up more often than you might imagine. The other person isn t exactly motivated, and neither of you is quite sure why. Perhaps the other person knows why but isn t saying. In either case, you can t figure out why the other person isn t motivated, and you ll need to examine the motivational role of self, others, and things to determine which ones are making the task undesirable.
The idea here is to examine each area with simple questions: Is the job hard to do? Is it repetitive, boring, uncomfortable, and so on? Is that why you don t want to do it? Are others encouraging you not to do it? Finally, is the task at odds with what the other person is getting rewarded for?
The goal of exploring consequences is to bring to the surface the issues that make the task undesirable. If it s not immediately clear, this could take some work. Once you re both aware of the factors that are at play, decide if you still want the other person to continue (you may change your mind). If you decide that the task still makes sense, use any combination of the methods we ve described for making the consequences visible.
What if the other person has different priorities? It s not that people don t want to do the task; it s just not at the top of their list. Priorities can differ for several reasons. Maybe other tasks came up out of nowhere, or perhaps that person enjoys doing other jobs more. Maybe the people who have let you down have forgotten what they were supposed to do or, more likely, why they were supposed to do it. Here s a big one: Perhaps they were hoping that nobody would care if they dropped that part of the job. They eliminated it and watched to see what would happen.
Whatever the reason, people know what to do but choose something else. Let s be honest: More often than not they already know what the consequences will be. Under these circumstances, explaining why certain parts of the job are necessary can sound quite different from routine instruction. You re now doing your best to remind people without haranguing them. Consider the following:
Are you sure that I need to explain safety procedures to everyone walking in here? Some of the visitors have been here before.
Remember when we had that discussion a couple of months back about government regulations? If people get hurt, they can sue us if we haven t talked to them every time. I know it can seem redundant, but it s the law.
Reminding people is the tactic you take with hard-working, reliable individuals who are caught in a priority battle.
Let s consider a more challenging case. Individuals are openly resisting your efforts. They really don t want to do the task, they need to be convinced, and you need to be careful not to create resistance. That means you ll need to know how to explain why something has to be done without jumping straight to power or discipline. Now what?
This is the discussion people have in mind when they say that those they work and live with are hard to motivate: Others fight me at every turn. Fortunately, the basic principle is the same: Explain natural consequences until the person genuinely agrees to comply. In this case it s a delicate search . You keep searching for consequences until you find one the other person values. Here are examples:
Come on. I have better things to do than get my expense reports in the day I get back.
We ve found that the longer people drag it out, the less accurate their reports are. They often forget small expenses, and it costs them money. (Consequences to the employee)
I ve got a good memory.
It also causes trouble for the people in accounting. They have their own deadlines and goals. If we wait too long, it throws them off. (Consequences to coworkers)
Big deal. Let them suffer once in a while. I m the one on the road half my life.
When you don t get your bills in, we don t bill our clients as quickly. Last year we figure late billing cost the com-pany over $200,000. (Consequences to shareholders)
We made a bazillion dollars last year.
When you drag out your reports for a couple of weeks, I get a call, and I have to track you down and hold these kinds of conversations. It s not how I want to spend my time. (Consequences to the boss)
Hmmm. I didn t realize I was making more work for you. Sorry. From now on I ll put a reminder in my electronic calendar, and it ll keep me on track.
This conversation calls for both patience and skill. The person really doesn t want do what you re asking, and it takes a genuine consequence search to come up with something that motivates him or her. You have to search because not every consequence matters to everyone. In this example the employee didn t care about anything until the boss talked about how it was inconveniencing him or her (which, by the way, implies the use of power).
Despite your best efforts, sometimes you still have to start down the path of discipline. Perhaps the other person has done something that requires immediate action. Maybe your son crossed the line from resisting your efforts to being disrespectful and insulting. Maybe you ve explained consequences and the other person isn t going to do what you ask no matter what you say.
Perhaps you ve had multiple conversations ”describing content, pattern, and relationship ”but the employee is still violating every agreement you make. It s time to change tactics. It s time to move away from natural consequences and start imposing consequences of your own (discipline). As you start down this precarious path, keep the following in mind.
Every organization has its own discipline steps and policies. Study them carefully. If you fail to follow procedure, your efforts may be thrown out when they are reviewed, undermining your credibility. Families should create their own clear disciplinary steps as well. If they do not, everything comes as a surprise.
If you re in a situation in which you don t know the person s total history and details, explain why the action was wrong, state that you re going to move to discipline, and say that you ll get back to him or her later. Then check with specialists to learn what the actual steps should be. Otherwise you may suggest that you re going to send the person home without pay and then find out that he or she was only due for a warning. You ll have to eat your words. The home version of this should be obvious: Parents must be unified in their actions.
Discipline isn t something you impose with a sense of pleasure regardless of what the other person may have done. Keep the tone serious and speak about what has to be done, not what you now get to do . This is not a time for a smug in-your-face celebration . You re moving from partnering to policing, and that s hardly a victory.
As you explain what will happen as a result of the infraction, cover what will happen if the person does the same thing again. Explaining the next level of consequences informs and motivates. It also helps eliminate surprises : Nobody said I was going to be fired !
Don t play favorites. If you re working with an employee who gives you fits at every turn, you can t discipline that person for something you wouldn t discipline everyone for simply as a means of getting even. When discipline falls under review, the first thing third parties examine is equity. Did the person get fair treatment? Don t single people out.
Once you ve started the process, stick to it. Follow the steps and don t be dissuaded simply because the person puts up a fight. If discipline is called for, stay the course. If you waffle, you ll gain a reputation for making hollow threats.
Let s look at one final issue. What if you ve explained the natural consequences associated with an action but others still aren t motivated and you can t or shouldn t impose consequences to increase their motivation? Let s say your boss realizes he should stop yelling at you and others but says the following: I know it s wrong, I know it frustrates people, but I m high-strung and under a lot of pressure, and it s just going to happen sometimes!
Now what? You re not likely to impose consequences on your boss.
Or let s say your business partner has been unreliable in getting assignments in on time and after a lengthy discussion you still believe it s likely she ll get them in late. What do you do?
When you ve decided not to administer discipline as a way of compelling someone to change his or her actions, develop a coping strategy and then candidly share it. That way, as the other person observes and experiences the consequences of the work-around, he or she can choose to act differently if he or she wants to avoid the pain, waste, and inefficiency you ve talked about.
For instance, from this point on you will not give your unreliable partner critical path assignments. She may not be happy about this choice because she wants to be involved with the hottest assignments. Nevertheless, at least she understands why you re doing what you re doing.
With an emotionally explosive boss who refuses to change, you might suggest that when he blows off steam , you ll eventually withdraw, allow time for him to calm down, and then return for a healthier and more complete discussion. You might also share that you are likely to be reluctant to challenge some of his more vigorous arguments. You ll do your best to be candid, but his defensive actions will continue to make that difficult for you. By being candid about your coping strategy, you empower your boss to choose whether he wants this consequence bundle.
This point is so important that we want to expand it a bit. For people to behave badly over the long haul, we have to do two things. First, we have to avoid crucial confrontations. By doing that, we avoid helping others see the consequences of their behavior. If we don t alter their expectations, why should they change what they do? Second, we create a work-around that enables others to continue doing what they re doing, unaware and guilt-free. For example, our boss never returns calls, and so we secretly assign someone to do it for her. A doctor is incompetent, and so we discreetly schedule complicated surgeries for when he s off shift. Our dad is grumpy and abusive , and so we buy him his own wide-screen TV and build him a den.
The reason others aren t motivated to change is often because of us. We re conspirators. Either we misuse power and mobilize others resistance or we withhold honest feedback and then take great pains to create clever and secret work-arounds that continue to keep others blind to the consequences they re causing .
Even if you don t have the power to impose your will on an unwilling person, you can avoid being part of the problem by being candid about your coping strategy.
[ 2] Yuichi Shoda, W. Mischel, and P.K. Peake, Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Social Competence from Preschool Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions, Developmental Psychology 26 (1990), 978 “986.