If you work alone, completely independent from any other human being and you don’t need to influence others – then these 3 books are not relevant to you at all.
For the remaining 99.9% of us – these 3 are pretty useful.
The first one will tell you how to get what you want the nice way, the second will give you some hints how not to be tricked by others (especially the evil salespeople!) and the third – well, if Machiavelli is your role model, chances are you will love it.
Let’s start with the one for the nice guys!
To Sell Is Human (Daniel Pink)
As Mr. Pink puts it: “We’re all in sales now”. It doesn’t really matter that you’re not a car dealer or an insurance broker. I bet you have tons of ideas. And probably you found out already – you just can’t make them happen all by yourself. In other words: “Most of us are movers; some of us are super-movers.”
So what? So you’d better learn how to sell those ideas to others!
A good start is to understand that the way we sell stuff (and ideas) has changed tremendously in the past couple of years. With internet available in a smartphone, the information advantage on the side of the seller is no more.
Once you accept this paradigm, it’s time to get the following basic skills:
1. Learn to attune yourself to your customers and be able to take their perspective. Why? Oh, because it works! “Waitresses who repeated diners’ orders word for word earned 70 more tips than those who paraphrased orders”. There’s real money in it!
2. Eliminate the fear of failure. A no brainer, you might say – asking someone always poses the risk of being rejected. But do you still find yourself fighting it? Asking yourself such a simple question as “What are the 5 reasons that the people should comply with my request” is a good start.
3. Learn how to solve problems of others with what you’re offering. And it’s not just about problem solving anymore. “If I know my problem, I can likely solve it. If I don’t know my problem, I might need some help finding it.” Like when I visited a physiotherapist with pain in my wrist and she told me that my problem actually is in my back.
Once you’ll get those – it will be time to craft the pitch for your ideas!
What surprised me:
- “People often find potential more interesting than accomplishment because it’s more uncertain” – that’s why an artist who is Potentially the next big thing will get more attention than one who already is The next big thing
- “The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the typical American hears or reads more than one hundred thousand words every day”
- “Making your partner look good doesn’t make you look worse; it actually makes you look better”
- Discussion Map (who talks all the time during a meeting and who stays quiet? Who talks to whom?)
- Tools to fight fear of rejection
- Enumerate “By the end of the week, yo umight be surprised by just how many nos the world has delivered to your doorstep. However, you might be more surprised by something else: You’re still around.”
- Embrace “How you see rejection often depends on how you frame it”
- Sending yourself a rejection letter (if you manage to be really harsh with yourself, you will make the potential real rejection letter look like a compliment)
- Twitter pitch: Boil your idea down to 140 characters. Tweeting optional.
After reading this book:
- You will make sure that you make others part of your decision:“To move people fully and deeply requires something more – not looking at the student or the patient as a pawn on a chessboard but as a full participant in the game.”
- You will check out an improv class near you – and maybe you’ll start attending. Because it’s not just fun, but also an amazing communication training.
- You will start paying more attention to how others are pitching their ideas – and you’ll learn from them to improve pitching of your own.
Daniel Pink is nice – and will all his techniques, he means to do good to others. But, there are many people in sales who are not as nice him. To get what they want, some may try to manipulate you a little. Or a lot.
If you want to know how they’re doing it (and how to prevent it) – you might want to read the following book.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert Cialdini)
This must stop! This was a thought that was ringing in my head for the whole time I was reading this book. I’m manipulated a thousand times a day – and I found out only now!
We live in a complex world. When making decisions, we can’t really evaluate all the information that is available. That’s why we don’t. So what do we do? There are shortcuts that help us make those decisions faster.
We return a favor to someone who did a favor to us previously. When we’re in a new environment, we observe how others behave to decide on our own actions. We tend to trust people we like. And we execute orders given by people of authority without thinking whether they make sense or not.
These shortcuts work really well in most cases.
But sometimes they don’t. Especially when someone finds a way how to exploit them.
Mr. Cialdini picked the 6 most important ones:
- Commitment and Consistency
- Social Proof
- and Scarcity
Once you read about them, you’ll be able to find many situations from your own life when others have used those tricks on you.
Like the last time when I was shopping in electronics store Alza.cz and asked the sales guy for advice regarding a wireless keyboard. He spent about 5 minutes with me, didn’t really tell me anything useful, but when I was leaving, he said that if I wanted to reward him for his time, I might consider buying the keyboard right away. I felt bad (as I do in similar situations) and considered making that purchase to repay my “debt” to the sales guy. Then I realized he’s just playing this reciprocation trick on me.
Better luck next time Mr. salesperson!
What surprised me:
- Others can make you do what they want by providing a very small favor to you a moment before (and yes, it will be hard for you not to comply with their request!)
- Initiation ceremony works. “The more electric shock a woman received as part of the initiation ceremony, the more she later persuaded herself that her new group and its activities were interesting, intelligent and desirable.”
- “Groups of bystanders fail to help because the bystanders are unsure rather than unkind”
- Address an individual: The next time I need help from a crowd, I’ll address a particular person to empower him or her to help me (and relieve them from the uncertainty whether it should be them helping me). Like this: “You sir, in the blue jacket, I need help. Call an ambulance.”
- Challenge thinking of others: Keep critical thinking on even when executing orders from an authority. Nobody is always right.
- Effort into commitment: When getting commitment from someone – make them do it in writing – and in public in the best case. The more effort is put into it, the better the consistency rule will work in favor of keeping the commitment.
After reading this book:
You will be aware of numerous situations when others use your automatic reactions to their advantage. And awareness is the first step towards correction.
I’m not sure if you’re ready for this, but the last book is not like most other ones. It won’t tell you that you will reach success by putting your superior skills to work and selflessly serve your community.
It will actually tell you that reading autobiographies of famous ex-CEOs might be harmful for your career, because what you can read in these books is not entirely true – as those ex-CEOs are more interested in painting themselves in the best colors, rather than telling the full truth about their road to the top.
I’m not saying that I agree with everything that is written in this book – however, I can still fully recommend you reading it. Here’s why:
Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t (Jeffrey Pfeffer)
What do you think of when you hear the word Power? For me it has many negative associations. Politics, corruption, egoism. House of Cards, perhaps. So when I started reading this book, I was rather skeptical.
I imagine Mr. Pfeiffer counts on that – and that’s why on one of the first pages of his book he presents that “Evidence showed that (…) managers primarily interested in power, were the most effective, not only in achieving positions of influence inside companies but also in accomplishing their jobs.”
Aha, it gets the job done! Now, that’s interesting!
“If you are going to do good – for educational systems, public works, breast cancer or shareholders – you are going to need to be in power.”
In other words, the person with the best intentions and with no power to make them come true simply won’t make the world a better place.
The author will try to build the case to make us “stop thinking the world is a just place”. I guess it depends on personal experience of each of us – but maybe you can remember a situation when the most qualified colleague was not promoted and when the politician with the best political program and highest personal integrity was not elected.
Once you’re convinced that studying of the mechanics of power is worth your time, the book takes you through your potential way to the top – from choosing your starting point, building effective social networks, building your reputation – and also discusses the price of power, which may make you reconsider your ambitions.
What surprised me:
- “In the stories told either directly in autobiographies or indirectly in the case studies found in leadership books, leaders overemphasize their positive attributes and leave out the negative qualities and behaviors.”
- “Those in power get to write history.” – I know, this shouldn’t be such a surprise. Maybe it surprised me because it is so surprisingly simple.
- “Being memorable equals getting picked – because you can’t select what you can’t recall.”
- Realistic fairness expectations: Stop being surprised when something unjust happens (because the world is not a just place)
- Self-handicapping: Actually concept what not to do, self-handicapping is making up reasons why you will probably fail anyway in order to avoid disappointment from failure (I didn’t really have time to prepare for the competition, so of course I won’t win)
- Create your own rules: “When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win.”
- Act like you have the authority: “Authority is 20 percent given, 80 percent taken.”
After reading this book:
You will stop relying on the idea that your efforts will be justly rewarded. You will stop looking at power struggles as something wrong, but will look at them as part of life instead. A part of life in which you’d better get good at – if you ever want your contributions to be significant. Because the world needs not only your intentions – but also your capability to deliver.
If you’re trying to find ways how to get what you want from others – you can be sure you’ll find lots of inspiration in those 3 pieces.
Are there any other ones that you’d like to add to this list?
Featured image by reynermedia, taken from Flickr, under Creative Commons licence. Brightness of the image adjusted.
Quotation marks in this post mark quotes from the respective books discussed.