Archive for April, 2011

We often hear, “People will believe what they want to believe,” the Henry Louis Mencken quote. We also find that people will tend to hold onto their perceptions once knowing the facts. A Special Report about Democracy in California by The Economist in its April 23, 2011 edition contained the article, “What Do You Know?” It seemed to confirm Mencken’s view.

The article mentioned, Kimberly Nalder, a professor at California State University, Sacramento. She studied the degree to which citizens were misinformed about Proposition 13. Often we assume less educated or younger people are the ones misinformed. However, Ms. Nalder found, older, more educated citizens who had lived in California the longest were.

The problem is how do we work with these people? Most of the time, we tend to leave them alone. However, if you need to change someone’s perspective, there are five approaches to remember:

  1. Do not argue facts; any kind of rationale is inferior to the power behind the emotions holding a person’s perspective in place
  2. Do not believe more education will solve the problem; it can help but not alone
  3. Most importantly, focus on strengthening your relationship with the person
  4. Learn to understand the emotions behind a person’s perspective no matter how wrong you think it is
  5. Accept that you will need to alter the person’s perception over time

As we saw in the post, People Follow Leaders Not Facts, people will tend to believe a credible leader over a fact even if the leader is incorrect. As we also saw in Change Management – Tactic #2, relationships are the primer for the paint of change. Thus, when it comes to changing perceptions, it’s not about facts, logic, education or statistics; it’s about leveraging relationships.

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Designer labels encourage us not only to believe that the wearer has status but also trustworthiness, talent and many other positive attributes. In fact, the label is more important than the clothes themselves.

In the article, “I’ve Got You Labelled”, appearing in the April 2, 2011 edition of The Economist, Rob Nelissen and Marijn Meijers of Tilburg University in the Netherlands reached this conclusion from their research. While initially far-fetched, we find that a piece of art can fluctuate enormously in value depending upon whom people think painted it even though the art itself does not change. It’s also why people persistently knowingly buy knockoffs; they want the label.

One of the needs labels address is security. As we saw in my posts, Is Freedom for Everybody? and People Follow Leaders Not Facts, not all people are comfortable making their own decisions; they want others to make them for them. Status labels do exactly that; they help people determine what is good. The attributes of what makes clothing good such as the material, stitching, design, fabric, dyes, thread, etc., can make a qualitative determination daunting.

What is fascinating from Nelissen and Meijers research, is that this qualitative stamp not only influences our perceptions of the clothes but also the wearer. The qualitative effect is transferable, and it occurs on a subconscious level.

From an intuitive perspective, this means we can upgrade ourselves simply by wearing the right labels. This is what politicians do when they try to tie themselves closely to their country’s flag. This is what manufacturers do when they invest huge amounts in the packaging of their products. Presentation strongly influences our evaluation of content; plating affects our food’s taste. Thus, this principle holds true for the presentation of our ideas.

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This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Leadership vs. Management: The Difference

In a comment about Leadership vs. Management: The Difference (Part III), the commenter described a situation in which she felt certain managers above her did not view her as a leader while her people did. This observation highlights three important aspects of the difference between leadership and management:

  1. Leadership is more subjective than management
  2. Tension can exist between leaders and managers
  3. The difference between the two is more than academic

Point #1 combines the concepts from Part II and III of this series, by first saying that leaders can exist outside of the formal organizational structure and by second showing that the connection between leaders and group members is an emotional one. Contrastingly, managers exist within the formal organizational hierarchy. Their relationships to members are pragmatic via the authority organizations give them. Again, leaders don’t need endorsement by the organization.

Point #2 describes the byproduct of these differences as tension between the two. Managers might resent the influence of leaders because they often have more informal organizational power than managers do. Subconsciously, managers might wonder, “If it weren’t for the authority granted to me by the organization, would anyone listen to me?” For example, an older experienced employee who’s valued by her peers might intimidate a young manager on a deeper level.

Point #3 reminds us that when we discuss the difference between leadership and management, we must ask, “How is the difference displayed and felt in the workplace?” This roots our discussion in the real world. Our commenter’s experience reminds us that the difference is more than academic.

In summary, the difference between leadership and management can be a source of tension among individuals in any organization. The emotional and informal aspects of leadership create the potential for it.


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This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Beauty as Power

My post, “Beauty as Power”, resulted in a commenter questioning, “Is beauty the same as attraction?” The short answer is, “No.” However, elaboration helps us to position beauty better as an attracting force by comparing and contrasting it to other attracting forces. Beauty is just one such force. Many things attract us not just beauty.

For instance, we can find ourselves attracted to low prices, flashing lights, accidents, disasters, loud noises, foods, water, statistics, designer labels, celebrities, power and many other things. On hot days, ice cold drinks attract us, on cold ones, hot beverages and soups attract us. Sporting events, musical performances, movies and plays attract some of us. Advertisers, merchandisers and politicians certainly work hard to attract us. News programs and publications attract us with bad news. Politicians attract us with negative advertisements. Some reality shows attract us by displaying personal conflict.

Some of us will find beauty in all and some of these things. Beauty is a higher form of attraction. Beauty is to attraction what skill is to work and what talent is to effort. It’s true that beauty attracts us, but not all things that attract us are beautiful. This also explains the difference between beautiful and attractive. Beauty is a far stronger attracting force than attractiveness alone. Beauty is the qualitative aspect of attraction in the same way a fine restaurant is of all eateries.

What this means in terms of beauty as power is that beauty is more powerful than attractiveness. In other words, the attraction we have for certain things becomes more powerful if we also find them beautiful. It also means that as we discover the beauty in something or someone that thing or person will come to exert more attraction on us.

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This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Change Management Tactics

Change Management & Effecting ChangeThe Hot Spotters, by Atul Gawande in the January 24, 2011 issue of The New Yorker spoke primarily to minimizing medical costs but had much relevancy to my experiences in effecting change. It covered five tactics. This is the fifth and final part of that series.

Many times we teach people the change we want. We even repeat that training. However, we often don’t ask them to demonstrate the change at later times to see if they’ve learned from the training. Three important reasons exist for this.

First, we need to observe how they integrate the change with their other activities so we can advise them on prioritization. Frequently people say, “I don’t have enough time.” It’s only through observing them integrating the change that we will ways to save time on other aspects of their jobs.

Second, as any physical therapist will attest, people have difficulty doing therapy at home, alone. That’s why it’s important for the therapist to observe them doing the activities. This will ensure that the patient will pick up the habit correctly. Eventually, they won’t need the therapist.

Third, and more subtly, we emphasize the importance of the change by investing our time to ask for demonstrations of the change. The more we invest ourselves in encouraging the change, the more our people will see it as important. These interactions also give us the opportunity to resell the change and address any objections.

The key to making this work is ensuring we break the change down into small, simple observable steps. If we are experiencing difficulty with employees modeling the change, it will most likely be a result of not having the change broken down finely enough.


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I received a question about Emotional Intelligence and Leadership in a comment about Leadership vs. Management: The Difference (Part III):

What are your thoughts on Emotional Intelligence(EI) and whether you feel there is a way to objectively measure EI and if it is a measure of Leadership?

Essentially, EI is a head thing; my work is a heart thing. EI is about being “intelligent” about emotions; it’s not about feeling. If you look at EI’s definition of empathy, this becomes clear:

Ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people.

With intuition, I define empathy as:

Ability to feel what the other person is feeling.

Understand is a “head” term, not a “heart” one. Feel is about the heart not the head. EI helps people read the reactions of other people to understand their emotions. In contrast, a true empath (someone who is empathetic) will tend to feel what the other person is feeling even before needing to see a reaction.

Since EI is learnable and is all about understanding and not feeling, a psychopath could learn to become more emotionally intelligent because he can understand without feeling. Empathy, on the other hand is only developed from the emotional sensitivity given to us at birth. It’s analogous to us only being able to develop our athletic capabilities from our given physical attributes.

As for leadership, EI aids it, but it does not objectively measure it for two reasons. First, other personal attributes contribute to leadership which EI does not measure such as our ability to communicate and influence. Second, EI is not measured objectively. As with any personality assessment tool, EI is dependent upon the assumptions and benchmarks underlying it. Those are subjectively determined by the tools’ creators based upon what they feel will work best.

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This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Leadership vs. Management: The Difference

I received two related questions in a comment about Leadership vs. Management: The Difference (Part III). They help us refine the difference further, so I decided to answer them in a post of this continuing series. They are:

  1. How do you determine whether you are a manager or a leader?
  2. Is there an objective way to determine this?

Objectively, it’s much easier to determine if you are a manager than a leader because the former is a designated position in an organizational hierarchy. A leader isn’t necessarily so defined; it’s more subjective. Leadership is not determined objectively. This becomes easier to see if we remember two perspectives:

  1. A leader doesn’t have to be a manager.
  2. A leader can take on many forms.

My post about informal organizational power, which is also a supplement to Part II of this series, clarifies these two perspectives by showing where a non-management leader could derive her influencing power (i.e. expertise, achievements, personality, intelligence, experience). As a result, she could exhibit leadership by initiating a new service, growing an existing one, developing new markets, receiving high service ratings or having great sales.

Now, it’s often true that we describe managers as leaders, but it doesn’t mean they are. Part I of this series discusses this. A manager who is not a leader will have severe problems getting his employees to change behaviors; when they do, their behavior will be more compliant than inspired.

Still, sometimes the only way to know you’re a leader is to turn around and see if someone is following. It’s not unusual to be one and not know it. However, an organization chart clearly states if you’re a manager. This is a vital difference between leadership and management.


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This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Change Management Tactics

Change Management & Effecting ChangeThe Hot Spotters, by Atul Gawande in the January 24, 2011 issue of The New Yorker spoke primarily to minimizing medical costs but had much relevancy to my experiences in effecting change. It covered five tactics. This is the fourth of a five part series.

One of the biggest problems we have in promoting change is the assumption that people are light switches. We expect to say something once, and they will change. Advertisers learned long ago that running an advertisement just once doesn’t encourage behaviors of consumers and build brands inside their heads. Repetitively encouraging people to adopt change is a natural part of the change management process. Generally, we should expect to have to instruct and model the change three to four times, maybe more.

The problem is that we often position this more as following up to ensure people do what we told them. Typically, we code this as accountability in our business jargon. It’s better to position this repetitiveness more as a normal part of the instructional and modeling process; it’s a natural part of the change management process. We can do this by saying something like:

I don’t expect you to learn and perform these changes well overnight. There will be challenges. Therefore, I will commit to being available to you on a regular basis so we can help one another make these changes as easy and natural as possible for all of us.

This language establishes an expectation that our follow up is normal and not punitive. It indicates we’re in this together. Otherwise, they could easily construe our actions as micromanagement. The actual frequency of our repetitive instruction and modeling will depend upon the nature and scope of the change.


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