"Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What's in it for me?’” — Brian Tracy
If you listen to HR directors or marketers, they will tell you that the starting point — or at least a key — to influencing your stakeholders is to address the question, “What’s in it for me?” Often referred to in corporate speak as WIIFM, this is a legitimate question.
We all have an interest in ensuring that we have our needs met. Every interaction or relationship has a degree of self-interest that doesn’t qualify as selfishness. To ignore that is to guarantee our failure as leaders. But it’s not enough.
As leaders we need to recognize that people yearn for benefits for others as well. It is in our nature to be relational. In his book, “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others,” Daniel Pink suggests three qualities and three abilities that can enhance our influence in ways that are consistent with human nature and recognize that desire to make a positive difference in the world.
He first posits the following three qualitiesas the new ABCs of selling.
Attunement is described as the “capacity to take someone else’s perspective and calibrate your words and actions to another’s point of view.” It’s the challenge of communicating and delivering services and messages so others can understand them and receive them.
Buoyancy is defined as the “capacity to stay afloat on what one salesman calls ‘an ocean of rejection.’” What person hasn’t seen the value of persistence in the face of continual opposition?
Clarity is described by Pink as the “capacity to make sense of murky situations … and to move from problem-solving to problem-finding.”
Whether you’re selling a service, a product or serving on a school board, being able to see the factors contributing to the problem at hand is essential to helping others and moving them to effective solutions.
It is on the abilities side where an inappropriate focus on WIIFM falls short. The third ability that Pink points to is Service (the other two are Pitch and Improvise). He calls this “the final secret to moving others.”
Service is the foundation from which the other principles flow: If your sales force or you as a leader are not perceived as helpful, all the improvising, pitching, clarity, buoyancy and attunement won’t help you build a sustainable business. However, when people can see that you truly want to help them, these other principles can help you.
Pink breaks this ability down into two parts: make it personal and make it purposeful. One aspect of the value of making it personal is in recognizing those you’re seeking to influence as people.
Making it purposeful is seen in Pink’s examples of “emotionally intelligent signage,” such as a sign in a church lawn that says, “Children play here. Pick up after your dog,” rather than just “Pick up after your dog.”
Adding “Children play here” reminds people that it’s more than a rule. It moves from being a regulatory requirement to a reasonable request.
Finally, Pink proposes a philosophy of “servant selling.” Applying a “servant selling” framework to your need to influence your employees could lead to questions like,
“Will my employees’ lives be better if they do what I’m asking? When we accomplish our shared goals, will the world be a better place than when we began?”
So for organizational leaders, our three tips are as follows:
Make it personal. Move beyond solving a puzzle to serving a person.
Make it purposeful. How will this decision or business deal make the world a better place?
Make it possible. When leading employees make sure you give them the resources to get the job done.
Following these three principals will increase the probability that fewer people will ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Andy Kanefield is the founder of Dialect Inc. and co-author of “Uncommon Sense: One CEO’s Tale of Getting in Sync.” Dialect helps organizations improve alignment and translation of organizational identity. To explore how to align your efforts to move others to your organizational identity, reach Kanefield at (314) 863-4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.