Daniel Pink: Perfecting Your Power to Move Others
Educators teach, lead, and are learners, themselves. But there's a big piece of every profession that often gets overlooked. In his 2014 ASCD Annual Conference opening general session, author Daniel Pink argued that, in a significant way, educators are also persuaders.
"A big part of what you do is try to move people," said Pink.
Pink surveyed 7,000 full-time, adult workers and found that American professionals spend 41 percent of the work day, or 24 minutes of every hour, persuading people to give up something they value for something you can offer.
As educators, this may mean trying to make a convincing appeal for certain state or district policies, persuasively leading your teachers to adopt a new curriculum or instructional approach, or motivating your students to practice close reading.
For many, this is a whole new way to think about work. What's more, says Pink, this phenomenon is happening in an utterly new landscape—where both persuader and persuadee have similar amounts of information. Pink says this relatively recent state of "information parity" requires new mind-sets and techniques for motivating others.
Pushy or aggressive methods are less effective when well-informed customers have a way to talk back to your persuasive appeals. Instead, Pink recommended building your persuasive techniques on three core qualities: attunement, buoyancy, and clarity.
Attunement means seeking others' perspectives and finding common ground. Buoyancy implies adapting strategies that allow you to stay afloat amidst an "ocean of rejection." And clarity means grounding your approach to persuasion in the understanding that access to information doesn’t give you a competitive advantage, the ability to synthesize and make sense of it does, said Pink.
These three qualities form a foundation for six evidence-based strategies Pink recommends for moving others to your cause.
- Recalibrate feelings of power. Studies show that the more powerful you feel, the worse you are at perspective taking. Yet leadership in an age of information parity requires the ability to honor multiple perspectives and find common ground. As leaders, it's important to remind ourselves that we need others more than they need us, noted Pink. Doing this recalibrates your feelings of power and increases the acuity of your perspective taking and influence, he adds.
- Be an ambivert. You don’t have to be a glad-handing sales person to be a good persuader; in fact, research shows that the best persuaders are a little bit extrovert and a little bit introvert—or an "ambivert." Most of us have the native capacity to hit this sweet spot; it just requires us to be our best selves.
- Practice interrogative self-talk. Even better than pumping yourself up as you go into a challenge is asking yourself questions like, "Can I do this?" Questions elicit an active response, and this gives you an opportunity to prepare and rehearse. "Let Bob the Builder be your leadership role model," joked Pink. "His refrain is, 'Can we fix it?' Be like Bob."
- Apply motivational interviewing. Similarly, motivational interviewing uses questions to unlock people’s self-direction and intrinsic motivation. For example, Pink described asking his daughter, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to clean your room?" In her response and explanation, she begins to surface her own reasons for doing something. Pink follows up by asking her what it would take to move her higher on the scale. Again, self-reflection transfers ownership of the task to the person doing it, not the motivator.
- Look for off-ramps (or build them). When trying to influence others, Pink says we tend to overstate the influence of personality and understate the influence of the person's context. By making a task more accessible, we increase the likelihood of completion. Pink calls this looking for, or building, "off-ramps." Don’t try to change people’s minds; just make it easier for them to act.
- Why. "When we try to teach or lead a behavior, we often talk about how to do it, but give short shrift on why to do it," said Pink. "Explaining why is the cheapest performance enhancer you have."
Pink closed noting that, of all professional groups, educators especially have a strong sense of why they do their work. To move others to the cause of educating the whole child, Pink implored educators to share their why more widely. "We on the outside look at the why of what you’re doing with admiration, awe, and gratitude."
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