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April 22, 2009

Psychology of Persuasion

Today, during our presentation of leadership definitions, we stated that leaders need to know how to influence and motivate their team members. Nilakant and Ramnarayan, in their book 'Change Management: Altering Mindsets in a Global Context', mention the work done by Robert Cialdini who developed 6 principles of persuasion.

Cialdini stated that these principles work only if they are used for ethically acceptable and morally valid reasons. The 6 persuasion principles are:

  1. Liking
  2. Reciprocity
  3. Social Proof
  4. Consistency
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

The first principle asserts that we tend to like people who are similar to us and who praise us. Therefore, a leader can influence people by honestly praising them and showing interest about people's concerns. Leaders can also identify his/her supporters who are similar to those he/she trying to persuade and mobilise those supporters to gain the acceptance of others.

The second principle, reciprocity, leads people to repay in kind what they receive. As the saying goes - treat people the way you want to be treated. Therefore, if a leader wishes that his staff help him, he must help them first. Employees are more willing to trust managers who are perceived as helpful and benevolent.

The third principle states that individuals looks for clues in their surrounding environment and people to decide how to feel, think and act. Basically, people who surround us influence our thinking. This is in line with what Paul stated on Monday, motivate people by creating an appropriate environment. So an individual can be motivated if the team that he/she belong to is motivated, therefore, a leader can engage and motivate individuals by targeting the team as whole.

Consistency, the fourth principle is about a human need for consistent pattern of behaviour. People rely on others to be consistent, so a leader must be consistent in his/her behaviour to gain the trust of his team.  

The principle of authority claims that people tend to be influenced by people who they perceive to be 'experts'. Therefore, to be effective a leader must be competent and be able to demonstrate his/her competence through his/her actions.

The last and sixth principle - scarcity - claims that people want more of what we can have less of. So when things are made less available, their perceived value rises. The other implication of this principle is that we are more influenced by potential losses than by our potential gains. So if a leader makes the negative impact of not taking some action known, the team members are more likely to be influenced to act. Mind you this is not about coercion, but rather about how lack of action can impact the organisation e.g. making it less competitive or leading to it incurring a loss.


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