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Golden Oldies: Discriminating Leadership and Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Monday, May 8th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.

This week is a two-fer, the first post was written in 2009, while the second is from 2015. Both contain links to other relevant posts. And both address a pet peeve of mine involving words — what else — their use, misuse and baggage.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Discriminating Leadership

The ability to influence is not the sign of a leader; nor are visions, forceful opinions, board seats, titles or popularity. After all, if a high media profile was a sign of leadership then Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are leaders.

Millions of people are influenced and even inspired by writers and actors, but does that make them leaders? Angelina Jolie is considered a leader for her tireless charitable efforts as opposed to her screen credits; Rush Limbaugh may influence thousands, but I’ve never heard him called a leader.

It is the singular accomplishments; the unique actions that deserve the term, not the position you hold or just doing your job.

I knew a manager who thought his major accomplishment was managing his 100 person organization, but that wasn’t an accomplishment—that was his job. The accomplishment, and what qualified him as a leader, was doing it for four years with 3% turnover and every project finished on time and in budget.

Jim Stroup over at Managing Leadership (no longer available) wrote, “There is a strong and general instinct to ascribe positive values to what we have determined to be examples of leadership. In a world that so often confuses forcefulness with leadership, this can be – and frequently is, in fact, revealed to be – an exceedingly dangerous habit… There is a particularly frustrating – and increasing – tendency to characterize any practice or trait deemed “good” as “leadership.” When an executive exhibits behavior that is highly valued – or even expresses a perfectly ordinary one especially well – he or she is declared to be a “leader,” or to have demonstrated “leadership.”

Dozens of corporate chieftains who were held up for years as exemplifying visionary leadership now stand in line for bailout money—or dinner in jail.

There is no way to stop the word being used and abused, but you have the option to hear it for what it really is—a word with no baggage, no assumed meaning.

A word on which you focus your critical thinking instead of accepting it blindly, assuming that all its traits are positive or rejecting it based on nothing more than ideology.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aafromaa/4476152633Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Last week I had lunch with four managers, “Larry,” “Mandy,” “Paul” and “Ashish.” At one point the conversation turned to how the ability to influence people affected the ability to lead.

It was a lively conversation, but I stayed on the sidelines; noticing my silence, Ashish asked me what I thought.

Instead of responding I asked all of them what the difference was between influence, persuasion and manipulation.

This provoked another active discussion, with the upshot that while it was acceptable to influence people it was wrong to manipulate them. This time it was Mandy who asked what I thought.

I responded that I didn’t see a lot of difference between the three.

That shocked them all, but really upset Larry.

So I explained my thinking, which formed the basis of this post in 2011.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

leaders are not by definition “good;”

they aren’t always positive role models; and

one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do [whatever] who are you to say that both the short and long-term outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

In spite of the heated disagreement I saw no reason to change my thinking.

I was surprised at the end of the discussion when even Larry commented that while it made sense that the words didn’t actually signal intent he still didn’t like it and wasn’t about to use them interchangeably, which made sense to me, because language carries the meaning (and the baggage) of the time and place in which it’s used.

Image credit: Anne Adrian

Psychological Manipulation: The Popular New Management Tool

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/26173922@N06/12105796185/It’s likely you are too young to have heard of a book called The Hidden Persuaders.

Originally published in 1957 and now back in print to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, The Hidden Persuaders is Vance Packard’s pioneering and prescient work revealing how advertisers use psychological methods to tap into our unconscious desires in order to “persuade” us to buy the products they are selling.

A classic examination of how our thoughts and feelings are manipulated by business, media and politicians, The Hidden Persuaders was the first book to expose the hidden world of “motivation research,” the psychological technique that advertisers use to probe our minds in order to control our actions as consumers. Through analysis of products, political campaigns and television programs of the 1950s, Packard shows how the insidious manipulation practices that have come to dominate today’s corporate-driven world began.

It was considered highly unethical and, although there was no social media to spread the word, people were vocally upset enough that many companies stopped doing it.

Gone but not forgotten.

The behavioral social science behind Hidden Persuaders continued to grow and became a driving force underlying the deliberate addictiveness of video games.

60 years, continued research and a name change to “gamificaton” and it has become the basis of today’s management approach for gig economy companies like Uber.

Uber helps solve this fundamental problem by using psychological inducements and other techniques unearthed by social science to influence when, where and how long drivers work. It’s a quest for a perfectly efficient system: a balance between rider demand and driver supply at the lowest cost to passengers and the company.

Employing hundreds of social scientists and data scientists, Uber has experimented with video game techniques, graphics and noncash rewards of little value that can prod drivers into working longer and harder — and sometimes at hours and locations that are less lucrative for them.

Is it ethical to manipulate a workforce to produce more work at less cost to their non-employer?

Of course, Uber and “ethical action” seems an oxymoron, but psychological manipulation does appear to be on the uptick in many companies.

This article should be required reading for anyone who works in the “gig economy” or is thinking about doing so.

Hat tip to KG for pointing it out.

Image credit: Geoff Simon

Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aafromaa/4476152633

Last week I had lunch with four managers, “Larry,” “Mandy,” “Paul” and “Ashish.” At one point the conversation turned to how the ability to influence people affected the ability to lead.

It was a lively conversation, but I stayed on the sidelines; noticing my silence, Ashish asked me what I thought.

Instead of responding I asked all of them what the difference was between influence, persuasion and manipulation.

This provoked another active discussion, with the upshot that while it was acceptable to influence people it was wrong to manipulate them. This time it was Mandy who asked what I thought.

I responded that I didn’t see a lot of difference between the three.

That shocked them all, but really upset Larry.

So I explained my thinking, which formed the basis of this post in 2011.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

  • leaders are not by definition “good;”
  • they aren’t always positive role models; and
  • one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do [whatever] who are you to say that both the short and long-term outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

In spite of the heated disagreement I saw no reason to change my thinking.

I was surprised at the end of the discussion when even Larry commented that while it made sense that the words didn’t actually signal intent he still didn’t like it and wasn’t about to use them interchangeably, which made sense to me, because language carries the meaning (and the baggage) of the time and place in which it’s used.

Image credit: Anne Adrian

Things Are Not Always What They Seem: Influence

Monday, August 11th, 2014

illusion

As someone who has lived more decades than most of my readers I can remember when having influence wasn’t considered a viable life goal.

But that was then…

Not only is it an acceptable goal, there are sites like Klout that track your influence and even companies and managers dumb enough to hire based on a candidate’s Klout score.

These days, influence is measured based on important criteria, such as number of friends and followers, tweets and other commenting and web presence—an impressive way to measure, to be sure.

As influencers become more intentional and influencees less discerning I thought this was a good time to repost something I wrote several years ago.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

  • leaders are not by definition “good;”
  • they aren’t always positive role models; and
  • one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes that they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do whatever who are you to say that the outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

And if you are on the receiving end of influence, be it active or passive, you’ll see a higher ROI by paying attention and being mindful of intent.

Image credit: Anonymous

Quotable Quotes: Words

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/suecline/2766531962/I love words. They are one of my very favorite things, so I thought it would be interesting so see what others thought of them.

Edward Thorndike believes words are for the long term, “Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.” Sadly, it’s not just the wise ones that last through time.

Rudyard Kipling thinks they are addictive, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” (I agree.)

Long before I wrote this, Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought, and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used.”

Americans point proudly to the words contained in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, but as Ralph Ellison reminds us, “If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to bind, imprison and destroy.”

Philip K. Dick explains that further, “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.” (Manipulation was our focus Friday.)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe hit the nail on the head when he said, “When ideas fail, words come in very handy.” Just ask any politician, parent or, for that matter entrepreneur.

Common wisdom, AKA anonymous, offers critical advice that is too often ignored, “Don’t use a big word where a diminutive one will suffice.”

Finally, smart people, as well as the wise, keep Adlai Stevenson’s words firmly in mind every time they open their mouths to speak, “Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.” Obviously politicians are neither smart nor wise.

Flickr image credit: AuthenticEccentric

If the Shoe Fits: the Manipulation Matrix

Friday, July 6th, 2012

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mNir Eyal is a guy who has been there and done that when it comes to entrepreneurial efforts.

What caught my eye first were his thoughts on manipulation (similar to my own), but what really grabbed me was his view on its morality, especially the morality of creating addictive products.

Eyal provides a “Manipulation Matrix” that requires you to respond to just two questions.

“Will I use the product myself?” and second, “Will the product help users materially improve their lives?”

Whether you’ve started a company, work for a startup or are thinking about doing either, answer the questions, find yourself on the Matrix and then read Eyal’s descriptions of each one.

And if you run or work for an already going concern or even a large corporation the questions are still worth answering.

It’s always useful to know if your work and moral code match.

If not, you may want to change one of them.

Option Sanity™ was designed for Facilitators.
Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation system.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.
Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist and NirAndFar

If the Shoe Fits: Gaming Issues with Words

Friday, June 29th, 2012

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

2391747442_eaedaa1ff4_mIs changing your settings without permission in order to display your email address a privacy issue?

Not according to Facebook.

“Um, isn’t changing the visibility of something actually changing the privacy setting?” I [reporter] asked.

“No,” Ms. Schopflin said, explaining that they are two different things.

You know the old saying that a rose by any other name?

Gaming words, no matter how you do it, is manipulation—if not an outright lie.

People aren’t stupid; you will get caught.

Whether you play word games internally with your employees or externally with your investors, vendors or customers eventually the result is the same.

They will leave.

Option Sanity™ inhibits gaming the system.

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation system.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.
Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Everyone is a Salesman

Monday, January 9th, 2012

“It’s all about sales. I’ve never seen an entrepreneur who wasn’t a salesman. I always feel like, with an entrepreneur, it’s not just about convincing someone to come in but it’s really about getting them to see life the way you see it through your eyes.” —Barbara Corcoran, Shark Tank

Corcoran is right, but it isn’t just entrepreneurs; it applies to everyone.

“See it through your eyes.”

Isn’t that what everyone wants?

From convincing investors to give you their money to selling yourself to a potential boss (or selling the company to a candidate), to making the case to your boss for a new piece of equipment to deciding what movie to see, it’s all sales.

Persuade, influence, blandishment, brainwash, cajole, con, conversion, enticement, exhortation, force, induce, inveigle, sweet talk, wheedle, preach, manipulate—call it what you will it’s still sales.

Folks do tend to get upset when “negative” words—manipulate, brainwash, con—are included in a discussion of sales, but then, there are people who think ‘sales’ is a negative action.

Which is ridiculous.4785507679_8645692a92

Without all the myriad ways we sell every day not only commerce, but religion, relationships and most of life would grind to a halt.

The actions that are termed sales or any of its synonyms aren’t good or bad; as with any tool it is how you choose to use it that defines whether it’s positive or negative.

Or, to paraphrase, sell to others how and what you would want sold to yourself.

See, is that so hard?

Flickr image credit: PR_Springer_Fachmedien_Wiesbaden

Influence = Manipulation

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

  • leaders are not by definition “good;”
  • they aren’t always positive role models; and
  • one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes that they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do whatever who are you to say that the outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/363547

The Power Of Words

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Do words really make a difference? Can just one word change people’s perception of a person or event?

I’ve read several items lately on the importance of influence in leadership. Several even make the point that it’s the ability to influence that marks a person as a leader.

Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation.

Both influence and manipulation seek to produce an effect without any apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.

But if you say someone has a lot of influence it’s a compliment; call the same person a master manipulator and you’d better duck.

It’s a good example of the real power that words have to inspire or crush even if their meaning is the same.

And it’s important to remember that words come with baggage that goes well beyond their actual definition.

That baggage was one of the main reasons corporate marketing departments made so many mistakes when moving from one culture to another.

  • Braniff translated its slogan relating to seat upholstery, “Fly in leather” to Spanish; only it came out as “Fly naked.”
  • Coors slogan, “Turn it loose,” means “Suffer from diarrhea” in Spanish.
  • Clairol, introduced a curling iron called the “Mist Stick” in Germany and learned the hard way that mist is slang for manure.
  • Gerber started selling baby food in Africa using US packaging with the baby on the label until they found out that in Africa the picture on the label indicates what’s inside since most people can’t read.

There are hundreds of similar mishaps. They made marketing departments a laughing stock, forced companies to hire locally, helped change the headquarters mindset and encourage global companies to be truly global.

The point of all this is to encourage you to take a few extra minutes to think through not only what you want to say, but also what your audience will hear when you say it.

That effort can make the difference between going up like a rocket or down like a falling star.

Your comments—priceless

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