At the last ASCD conference, Daniel Pink spoke to 9000 educators. He used the ideas from his last book, To Sell Is Human, on moving people forward. It is what educators do, ‘selling’ ideas.
I don’t necessarily agree with this, but he did have some great points:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.”
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.”