Persuasion – an essential tool in the 21st century workplace by John Hill

Persuasion – an essential tool in the 21st century workplaceThere are some things happening in our world which simply would not have occurred to us ten years ago. Here are three to begin with.

Farmers are now using drones to spray weed killer in places that are difficult to access. It is now possible to use a 3D printer to produce obsolete or spare parts for cars, appliances, and kitchen gadgets. Thousands of people study to gain qualifications by clicking their way through immersive online courses.

What does this mean for the world of work? It means that the work that used to be done by a farmer spraying weedkiller, the engineer who manufactured the spare part for the machine and the teacher who taught the course is now being done by a machine. The world of work is changing irreversibly. Add to that the migration of repetitive, simple jobs overseas to countries where labour is cheaper, and it’s not hard to work out that the work undertaken by those of us, at least in what we call developed countries relies more and more on a different set of skills. It calls on our interpersonal skills, our ability to adapt and innovate and our ability to persuade others.

We have become the ranks of persuaders. And this is not just the professional sales people.

Doctors persuade patients to live healthier lives, personal trainers persuade people to pursue their own fitness, parents persuade children to work hard at their schoolwork and be active, lawyers persuade juries to believe the case they are making, financial professionals persuade people to manage their finances responsibly and invest wisely and police officers persuade people to live safely and responsibly and to keep the laws of the land. Yet none of these people are categorised as salespeople.

As Daniel Pink, former White House staffer and now published author, puts it, ‘We are all in the moving business these days.’ – To Sell is Human, Canongate 2012

In research done with Qualtrics, a research and data analytics company, he discovered that 4!% of all the people surveyed counted convincing and persuading others as part of their job, and what is more they counted this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success.

We don’t just do it to meet some abstract and arbitrary sales figures, but because the work our organisations do strives to add value to the lives and businesses of those we serve, not just to take money from them but to leave them better off in the end.

Now some people are naturally better at these skills than others. We all know them, those of our friends who can get us to do things even when we feel least like it. But these skills can also be learned. And, believe it or not, it comes down to simple things that we can all do. For example, did you know that people are much more likely to listen to you and be prepared to co-operate with you if you are pleasant, if you smile at them, have a sense of humour and are encouraging and positive? Warmth and positivity disarms our automatic nervous system, helps us to relax and be prepare t consider alternatives, rather than retreat into resistance.

Did you know that people are much more likely to tell you what is important to them if you ask them? And then listen to what they have to say? Listen carefully and not just wait to speak your mind or give them your sales pitch. Did you know that people are much more likely to be persuaded if, rather than convince them that you are right or better informed, that you empathise with their point of view and as the late author and business guru, Stephen Covey, puts it ‘to seek first to understand and not to be understood’?

These are an invaluable set of skills, which can be categorised, which can be understood and which can be acquired through self-awareness, sustained effort and practice. Things like empathy, active listening, body language, the art of enquiry and trust building.

As the world of work evolves and continues to do so at ever increasing rates, these skills not only become more valuable and necessary, but they also transfer extremely well from job to job. These skills have become the new skillset of the person who stands out from the crowd, who makes a tangible difference in their workplace and who adds value to their organisation.

Is your Business struggling with Social MediaDo you want social media to perform better for your business, brand or organisation?

Wondering how other businesses seem to have gotten so far ahead with their own social media?

I’ve found one of the key issues and concerns for many businesses who want to improve social media is consistency. As someone who has worked in Digital Marketing and communications for over 18 years with businesses, brands and at consultancy level, I have seen it time and time again.   Businesses start their social media, run it for a few weeks – maybe months, then before long it starts to fall down the list of priorities.   Eventually activity stops.

Now as someone who is a massive social media evangelist and who has benefited greatly from it, I would urge tenacity – it will pay off. You will reap the rewards if you consistently put in the effort.   Don’t lose the opportunity to engage with potential customers on a local or global basis.

Frequently I come across such businesses who have given up – I always ask why and normally get some variation on the responses below:

  • Social Media doesn’t work for my business
  • We just don’t have the time
  • We don’t get Social Media
  • Our Customers aren’t on Social Media
  • Traditional advertising is working just fine for us

The above is a sample of some of the thinking still in 2016. There is no doubt in my mind or in the minds of any of the businesses I work with – that social media does work for business.   That being said, I do agree that it can be hard work.   It takes time, effort and investment – it’s most certainly not free. But if executed correctly can become a core part of your businesses marketing efforts.

So I’ve come up with 5 simple but effective ways for social media to work better for your business.

Training

It’s number one.   You need to start here.

Invest in training for those staff within the business or organisation who are key to the daily management of your social media. Training needs to be delivered by the right training provider. At ISM we have a track record of delivering engaging practical social media training for businesses.   The key word here is ‘practical’. There are way too many digital marketing events and training which bring in speakers who talk about social media – but don’t actually show the delegates how to do anything. The staff within a business who are responsible for the social media need to be empowered and have the confidence to help build and grow the social media activity for the business or brand. It’s also highly recommended that other key members of the business avail of training even if just a 1 day introduction to social media for business so everyone has at least an understanding of its importance and impact. In my experience social media in many businesses can be a bottom up approach, though in rare occasions it has been top down. Buy-in from senior management to CEO level is important and a recommendation I give many businesses, is to consider a short half or full day introduction to digital marketing and social media for those key members of staff in which buy-in to develop ongoing social media is important.

Content

When it comes to social media no matter what the activity, email marketing platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or blogging content is at the heart of everything.

Many businesses struggle with content and end up churning out sales-related content which does not engage anyone. When it comes to starting to think about creating content, the bottom line is that the content you create needs to add value and it needs to be useful. Rather than rush the creation of content, sit down to plan how and what the content might look like, will it solve a problem for your current or future customers?. Remember customers are searching for answers to questions.   If you are lucky enough to have them click on a link to a piece of your content, does it answer a question or help solve a problem.

Scheduling Tools

Yes there are many available on the market – some with lots of features that can cost a small fortune each month and end up being poor value for money for a business especially if you are not getting the proper use out of the different features or the tool itself is so complicated that you avoid having anything to do with it and you simply don’t use it. My advice is to start small.   Buffer is my tool of choice when it comes to scheduling for social media (even it’s free version) it’s iideal for businesses just starting out and trying to get to grips with managing social media and scheduling content. Getting into the habit of scheduling a core base of content to flow out each and every day across your main platforms, – most likely Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn will increase engagement and help you have more time to focus on developing other areas of your digital marketing.

Have a Content Plan

With my own content I try to get at least 3 months of content in the pipeline. One of the key benefits I have found about having a content plan is that it helps me publish more. The setting up of a schedule forces me to commit time to creating a piece of content along with the actual production of the content it also needs to be researched which helps contribute towards my own learning development. Your content plan for your business will give you an overview of all the key holiday dates or other dates which might be relevant to your business. Remember holidays and events are important to your audience and provide an excellent opportunity for content creation. The content plan gives you the opportunity to plan the type of content which you want to create.   There are a number of different types but I would highly recommend a mixture of blog posts, video content and audio based in the form of podcasts and eBooks all have worked very well with clients I have worked with in the past.

Insights & Analytics

Ever try to go on a journey and not look at a map? I have but that may be a man thing :). Relying on my guess work didn’t work.

It’s not easy – you end up most of the time getting lost and keep taking the wrong directions while spending way longer than you needed to.

When it comes to social media many people operate their social media activity by a series of guesses. When it comes to the numbers you need to pay attention to these as they let you know what works and what dosent.   All of the major social media platforms offer their own insights or analytics which gives you an idea on how your content is working and also the type of audience which you have. Make sure you set up a Facebook Pixel on your website.   Once added, Facebook will start tracking visitors and running in conjunction with Facebook Ad conversation will provide you with indication to the cost of driving traffic across to your website from Facebook.   If you are using any third party applications such as Hootsuite, Buffer, Audiense or Social Bakers these will also give you insights and analytics.   All of which will help you make better informed decisions on what is working and what is not in terms of your social media efforts. And much of which you have control of o make changes in real time.

I hope by reading this article you are considering reinstating social media for your business. Remember as humans we are social beings.   As businesses and brands we need to understand that and humanise content for our audience – start to think like a customer and shape you efforts on social media around that. Remember what I covered in point one about the importance of training – it’s key and will help take social media for your business to the next level.

So my question to you…What are you waiting for?

Enrol for the next social media or digital marketing workshop with ISM and let me help you become empowered to successfully build your businesses social media community.

Emotional Intelligence

For decades the term IQ has been bandied about as a prerequisite for career and life success. You either have a high IQ which makes you an achiever, or you don’t and get by perfectly well in life as an average employee. However the newest buzz word, Emotional Intelligence (EI), is something we can all get on board with because as humans we each possess multiple emotions and these emotions can be controlled, moulded and channelled to help us evolve into more productive professionals at the workplace.

So what by definition is Emotional Intelligence? It’s the ability to identify and control your own emotions and the emotions of others through skilled manipulation of emotional awareness. This ability to harness and consequently manage emotions is what can make a powerful leader (think politician). Obviously not every profession demands a high level of people skills or a deep understanding of human behaviour. But where it is required, and where it becomes catalyst for career advancement, a mastery of emotional intelligence can contribute to a rapid climb up the corporate ladder, culminating in a successful and lucrative career.

The theory of EI was proposed in 1990 by Peter Salovey (now Provost of Yale University) and John D Mayer, Professor of Psychology at the University of New Hampshire. According to Mayer, “People with high EI, we believed, could solve a variety of emotion-related problems accurately and quickly. High EI people, for example, can accurately perceive emotions in faces. Such individuals also know how to use emotional episodes in their lives to promote specific types of thinking. They know, for example, that sadness promotes analytical thought and so they may prefer to analyze things when they are in a sad mood (given the choice). High EI people also understand the meanings that emotions convey: They know that angry people can be dangerous, that happiness means that someone wants to join with others, and that some sad people may prefer to be alone.”

Emotional intelligence skills are typically divided into four categories: Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness and Relationship management. These skills when mastered and used in conjunction with conflict resolution tools can prove a potent armoury for the modern day corporate warrior.

“Naturally, people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money—an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world. We haven’t yet been able to find a job in which performance and pay aren’t tied closely to emotional intelligence.”

FedEx Express, the world largest cargo airline with over 290,000 employees and one of Fortune’s top 20 “Most Admired” companies for a decade, has implemented EI assessment and development into a six-month on-boarding process for new managers with remarkable results. “The program is yielding an 8-11% increase in core leadership competencies, with over half the participants experiencing very large (10-50%) improvements in certain key emotional intelligence skills and leadership outcomes:  72% of the program participants experience very large increases in decision making; 60% in Quality of Life, and 58% show major improvements in Influence.”

Most companies still tend to focus their hiring process and consequent training on hard skills. Typically little attention has been placed on soft skill competencies such as stress/conflict management, assertiveness, empathy, and social aptitude. In the real world these are vital skills that build strong competency in employees and management and are reflected in a company’s success.

Conflict and stress are ever present in our lives and we learn to deal with the unpleasant and negative side effects the best way we can. Now with the availability of EI training courses the good news is that you can learn how to deal with difficult people, how not to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation, when to take a step back, how to listen and communicate with empathy and a ton of other traits you never thought you could acquire. With some guidance and practice we can reprogram ourselves to don many facial masks, with accompanying body language and tone of voice, as the situation requires.

On Sunday 26th June ISM will be conducting a Summer Short Course titled “Self-Smart, People Smart – An Introduction to Emotional Intelligence”. This is an opportunity to explore and gain insight into your own level of emotional intelligence amidst a selected group of 18 participants. Contact ISM for more details.

 

Today’s rapidly changing knowledge economy has caused a seismic shift in career development. No longer can we passively follow pre-destined career paths. We have to become active participants – developing personal, as well as commercial skills outside our original educational sphere.

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” Helen Keller

Our career choices are often based on childhood experiences. Through growing up in Africa and South America, I wanted to become a Doctor of Tropical Medicine. However, after achieving my bachelors in Microbiology, I went on to obtain a Master’s in Education.

Today I work as a marketing manager. Next year, who knows? With a career spanning 15 years in secondary and adult education, I view a working life as a dynamic, constantly evolving journey; influenced by shifting personal events, and the constantly changing economic environment.

If, like me, you have changed careers, have teenagers that have no idea what to do with their lives, or an employee who lacks direction; you may find yourself nodding in agreement.

Career development is dynamic, whether it meanders or is a clearly defined, linear progression. It concerns the whole person, not just their role, and their concepts of self, as well as changing, external factors.

Many things will influence the path of a career. Gender, family, social class, ethnicity and cultural, as well as changes in macro level policies, environment and economy. A career integrates work as well as the impact of social, familial, technological and political aspects on an individual’s life.

Interlacing between these factors is a series of coping behaviours we adopt during our career journey. The highly regarded career psychologist, Donald Super, deeply influenced the modern day approach to career development. An early proponent of lifelong learning, his behavioural theories (where he moved away from traditional career theories, which fit traits to career and are somewhat static) resonate significantly with today’s fast moving job market.

In Super’s research into young adults he found clearly defined types of behaviour: drifting (just moving with the tides), stagnating (where there’s no internal drive or external circumstances), floundering (lacking a good method to get where we want to be), exploring (having an objective with an idea of how to achieve it), systematic (taking steps to achieve a goal), and stabilising (cementing a career).

In each of our roles in life we may be in any one of these different stages. What’s important is recognising which stage we’re in, and understanding how we can move forward to the next stage.

With the constantly changing advances in technology, even the most rigid roles demand a more diverse range of skills. Employees are not necessarily looking for purely knowledge-based skills either. Literacy is obviously still relevant, but high on the employer’s list are creativity, adaptability, flexibility and an innovative mindset. After all, as a company they have to sustain their business in the future as much as you need to sustain your career and employability. Embrace learning, it’s your friend for life.

The article above appeared on the front page of the Gulf News educational section on July 14th. Since there is no online version I thought you may like to see it here too.