One Surprising Influence That Can Derail Your Decisions

Patrick McDaniel is the founder of WiseInsights.net, which combines practical research and timeless wisdom to help you keep moving forward despite the challenges of life. Want to learn about 49 other decision making distortions? Download the infographic: 50 Hidden Influences That Can Wreck Your Decisions.

Why do you aspire to be a leader?

Let’s be honest. We want to be leaders because we like leading and influencing people and organizations toward better things. We like impacting lives.

But impacting lives can also be risky.

If you are a leader (in any context like work, family, ministries/organizations), one thing that is unavoidable—

Your decisions WILL impact the lives of others. For good…or for bad.

That is a sobering reality.

 

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” –Roy Disney.

 

Making Decisions as a Leader – An Unseen Danger

Here’s where it gets downright scary: There are factors at play in any decision you make that are often hidden and frequently mess up your best intentions.

These factors are like little gremlins that hijack your ability to make an unbiased decision. That can mess up not only your life but also those you lead.

Let me show you how just one of these distortion factors (technically known as “cognitive biases”) can screw up even your best efforts to make sound decisions…and how to combat it.

 

“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.” –Ken Levine

 

One Common Corrupting Influence You Can’t See

One common decision making influencer is called priming. Just like the proverbial “priming the pump,” we are influenced in certain directions when we are first “primed” by another variable.

Here are some bizarre-but-true examples of the priming effect. You can find these discussed in detail in the brilliant book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman.

 

“It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” –Tony Robbins

 

The Surprising Results of One Research Study

In a test performed by Psychology Professor John Bargh, participants were asked to do a word puzzle. One group received random words to work on while the second group got random words that were sprinkled with words associated with the elderly.

The words sprinkled in did NOT contain any explicit words like “old” or “elderly.” Instead, they were things like: Florida, forgetful, bald, gray, wrinkle.

When each group was done, they were asked to go down the hall to participate in a second experiment. In truth, the whole point of the experiment was found in that hallway.

What did the researchers discover?

  • The group that had the elderly related words walked down the hallway “significantly more slowly” than the other group.
  • This test group was subconsciously conditioned (primed!) to increase their awareness of the state of being elderly. Unknown to them, they were sort of identifying with this topic.
  • None of the participants were even aware of the elderly related words or of their slower walk. Instead, they insisted the earlier word puzzle had no effect on their subsequent behavior.

This is very common with these hidden influencers–you insist you are not influenced by them. This is one reason they are such a problem for us…they pull us off course while we insist that they haven’t.

Were the results of the above experiment a fluke? Read on.

 

“Not to decide is to decide.” -Harvey Cox

 

More Revealing Results from a Second Research Study

In another experiment with two different groups of study participants, one group was unknowingly primed with rude words and concepts while the other group was primed with politeness-type stimuli. They then recorded how participants in each group interacted with a neutral party on an unrelated topic.

You don’t need me to tell you how this turned out.

Researchers found that the individuals who had been primed with rude stimuli interrupted the experimenter and their peers three times more frequently than the participants who had been primed with polite stimuli.

 

This unseen influence can impact your behavior positively or negatively by a magnitude of 3X.

 

Hmmm… another coincidence?

Keep reading.

How To Create A Positive and Contagious Culture

How To Create A Positive and Contagious Culture

 

“For better or worse, your presence has impact. It is contagious.” -Anese Cavanaugh

 

You’re contagious.

No, I’m not talking about a virus. But I am talking about the fact that you influence people in a way that you may not realize.

Anese Cavanaugh’s new book, Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization that Thrives, is one of the best guides to understanding this influence and showing up in a way that generates positive energy. When a leader creates this positive presence, everything changes.

You can be that leader. You can be positively contagious.

Anese is a speaker, advisor, teacher, and thinking partner to some of today’s most innovative organizations. We recently talked about her book on creating a contagious culture.

 

“To create impact you need people, purpose, and personal nourishment.” -Anese Cavanaugh

 

Leaders Are Contagious

Let’s start with the first word in the title of your book, Contagious Culture. How are leaders contagious?

In so many ways: our mindset, our regard for others, our attitude, our energy – it’s all contagious. Going a bit deeper, I look at “contagious” in two ways: 1) how a leader makes others feel, and 2) how he or she influences how others show up by how he or she shows up.

A leader’s intention, energy, and presence has a big impact and huge influence on the people around her. It’s felt in her presence, how she shows up in a room, how she regards others. People respond to that and are either inspired and uplifted by it or demotivated and deflated by it. The minute a leader walks into a room he or she is setting the tone – if they’re in a good mood, people feel it. If they’re in a bad mood, people feel it. If they’re optimistic, people feel it. If they’re worried, people feel it. We are always having an impact with our presence and how we show up. This impact is felt by those around us and is often paid forward.

Just think of the last time you were in a conversation and in a good mood, and the person you’re talking to starts complaining or gossiping or their energy is just negative, and all of a sudden you start to find yourself complaining, gossiping, feeling negative. Or, you have a positive regard for someone in your company, and a leader in the company starts to “bad mouth” them – even in a lightly nuanced manner, and you start to feel your regard shift. You’ve “caught” that person’s state. We do it all the time. It’s easy to match a “low vibe” or “negative state.” We’re driving our kids to school and we’re in a funk, all of a sudden the whole car is in a funk. You’re in a great mood, your teenager is giving you grief, and slowly but surely you feel your energy start to drop and that good mood turns bad. The company is going through a challenging time, and the energy of doom and gloom starts to take over. Fortunately it works both ways… An executive with great energy and presence walks into a room, and all of a sudden the room feels lighter, creative, more alive. You’re in a funk, you have a quick chat with a colleague who’s got great energy, or meet a random stranger in an elevator who feels nice to be around, and voila, your state starts to shift. You’re feeling “ick” about one of your colleagues and someone shares positive regard for them, and you get a glimpse into another possibility.

At the end of the day when you want to look at how you feel walking away or walking into something (a conversation, a meeting, a room) – do you feel good, big, fuller, awake, expansive? Or do you feel exhausted, small, drained, yucky, constrictive? That’s energy – and it’s contagious. It works for the positive (it’s a super power) and it also works for the negative. Gossip, complaining, making stories up, regarding other people poorly, negative energy, these are all contagious and highly influential. Fortunately it works the other way too: accountability, seeing the good in people, optimism, and positive energy. We can choose which way we want it to go and that takes leadership.

 

“You become what you believe, decide, and act upon.” -Anese Cavanaugh

 

5 Components of Showing Up With Intentional Energetic Presence (IEP)

You developed the 5 Components of Showing Up With Intentional Energetic Presence. How’d you develop this model?

ContagiousCultureThis came from experiencing for myself and watching over and over again with clients and our program participants the cycle of how I notice “impact” and “showing up” really happens – and what’s necessary to make it sustainable and effective. When I broke it down, I could see these 5 components forming a cycle. You can enter at any point, but you need all five. Some days, depending on where you’re at and what you need (and what the room, project, your team, or the other person needs), the entry point might be different.

I find that intention and impact are really good book ends or anchors – what’s your intention for the impact you want to create? Your energy, your presence, and your actions & skills are going to help make it so. I noticed years ago that people often would go really heavy on one or two of these components, but they’d leave out the others and it would cost them – impact, relationships, peace, results – so I put them all together. These work with the IEP Leadership Model shared in the book, in that each level of the model helps strengthen and nourish these 5 components.

 

“Your meetings and agreements are where culture shows up.” -Anese Cavanaugh

 

Choose Your Impact

5 Principles of Ultimate Influence

All of us must learn to influence others. Whether persuading your child to eat broccoli or supervising a team, the ability to influence is important to working with others.

In those situations, do you see the other person as an adversary? Do you resort to manipulation or coercion to try to get what you want?  Or do you understand how to influence and win that person over?

The World’s Greatest Influencers

The greatest influencers are not manipulators. They aren’t pushy. They don’t create animosity. Instead, they seem to win people naturally, effortlessly, making everyone happy with the outcome.

How they do it is the subject of this post.

 

BobBurg

Bob Burg is a speaker, a blogger, and a best selling author. He’s perhaps best known from his many stage appearances as a speaker for large organizations.  You may also know him by his runaway best selling book, The Go-Giver.  I have read all of his books and learned from all of his work.

His latest book is Adversaries into Allies: Win People Over Without Manipulation or Coercion.  It’s one of those books that you cannot stop reading.  I have dog-eared and underlined so much of the book that he likely wouldn’t recognize it if he saw my copy.

There are so many lessons in this book, which reads like a modern day version of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Reading it, I realized that there are dozens of questions to ask Bob.  I chose to focus on the five principles of ultimate influence shared throughout the book.

 

Sometimes the most influential thing we can do is listen. –Bob Burg

 1. Control your own emotions

Bob, I want to ask you a question about each of your five principles to influence and move people to a different thought or action.

The first is to control your own emotions.  Why is controlling your emotions the very first step and why is it harder for some people than others?

Skip, as human beings we are emotional creatures. Sure, in certain ways we are logical, but we are basically driven by our emotions. That’s often very counterproductive. The problem isn’t that we have emotions (emotions are a wonderful part of life), it’s being “controlled by our emotions.” When this is the case we are simply not in a position to think clearly, to think logically and be able to take a negative situation or person and elicit a positive outcome. When we are in control of ourselves and of our emotions, the opposite is true.

For example: If a person says or does something you find offensive, it’s important that you be in control of your emotions and – as Zig Ziglar taught – “respond” rather than “react.” When you react, you are allowing that person (and your emotions) to control you; when you respond, you are in control of yourself and your emotions and are now ready to create an environment for a winning result for everyone involved.

bob-burg-scentsy

2. Understand the clash of belief systems

 

Your second principle is to understand the clash of belief systems.  This one may not be as intuitive so please tell me more about it.

A belief is a subjective truth. It’s the truth as we understand the truth to be. But that doesn’t mean it’s “the truth” (though we are usually certain it is). While our belief systems are a combination of upbringing, environment, schooling, news media, television shows, movies, popular culture, societal mores, etc., it is pretty much formed by the time we’re six or seven years old. Some of these beliefs work for us, are productive and helpful, and keep us safe. Most are counterproductive and serve no constructive purpose.

 

Tact is the language of strength. –Mike Burg

 

So, we are pretty much controlled by a belief system we are not even aware we possess. Add on top of that, the person with whom we’re about to have a difficult interpersonal transaction is also controlled by a belief system that they are not even aware they possess. Now add to the mix that as human beings we tend to believe that others think as we think, and you’ve got the makings of a huge clash of belief systems.

We don’t need to understand their belief system; what we do need to understand is that their belief system is most likely much different from ours. Only when we consciously understand that are we in a position to proceed in a way that a mutually beneficial result can occur.

3. Acknowledge their ego

The third principle is to acknowledge their ego.  You say that the “ego is the ultimate driving force in everything people do.”  Give me an example of how to acknowledge ego in a legitimate way with sincerity.