We’re learning from current events that the will to succeed can overcome many obstacles. But how do you create that desire in someone? How do you inspire them to excel?
People need to know their leaders are in the trenches with them. When I worked in a large call center, we introduced an “upsell” program to our 400 representatives. (Think: “Would you like fries with that?”) During the first few weeks of the campaign, supervisors sat side-by-side with representatives and took customer orders over the phone. Our purpose was to: 1) show the representative how easy the upsell process could be, 2) help them better understand the offer process, 3) identify the road bumps and 4) explain how each individual could be more successful.
It mattered to our reps that supervisors went through the same process we had asked them to do. We had been in the trenches with them. But also, the more they watched their co-workers make the offer, complete the sale, and achieve ever-increasing upsell revenue, the easier it became.
Why Social Proof Matters
The word soon spread that supervisors weren’t afraid to also tackle the task. Peer-to-peer reinforcement reduced their hesitancy to adopt the new procedure. As Robert B. Cialdini writes in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Behavior, “…one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”
- A few forms of social proof:
- Laugh tracks on television shows
- Bartenders who “salt” their tip jars
- Charity telethons that announce viewers who already pledged contributions
“Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.” —Sales and motivation consultant Cavett Robert
If you find a few folks with strong personal power who are willing to be an early adopter, it’s more likely the rest will follow. However, this strategy can work in reverse too.
The Power of Negative Talk
Negative talk is also powerful. Words like, “It’ll never work” or “The odds are against us,” drains confidence and diminishes the will to succeed. When people tackle something they’ve never done before, they need to feel like they are capable of carrying out the task. Working for a leader (friend, loved one or team-mate) who says, “You can do it! I have confidence in you!” can overcome self-doubt and make all the difference in the success of any endeavor.
I recently noticed a change in my own level of hope for the underdog after watching two guest “experts” on TV explain why a campaign ultimately wouldn’t succeed. But my hope was restored after a subsequent guest presented a passionate argument on why success was still possible. Emotions are catchy and it is that which powers the will to succeed. However, there is another factor that can also impact positive outcomes.
Create a Will to Succeed With a Strong “Why”
People need to know the reason why something is important. When we instituted the new upsell program, success was critical, otherwise the call center would move to New Jersey and take all the jobs with it. That gave our people enough of a “why” to embrace the new program, even though asking for a sale was uncomfortable for many of them. (Look up Simon Sinek’s The Golden Circle for more on this concept.)
In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl explained how he survived not just one, but four Nazi concentration camps. He learned that the search for a life’s meaning (the “why”) was a central human motivational force. He desperately wanted to finish the work he had started before the war, so despite his suffering, that purpose helped Frankl survive. And he was able to see the horrific experience more objectively because of it.
“Responsibility. That’s what gives life meaning.” —Jordan Peterson
Frankl discovered there are two kinds of people — those who lose faith, meaning and hope vs those who see life as a challenge and have a strong “why.” Watch this video or get his book, Man’s Search for Meaning to learn more.
Finally, buy-in is important. People can find ways to sabotage the effort if they’re not on board with the “why.” It’s even worse if they discover the purpose has changed mid-stream. The odds of demoralizing someone increase dramatically if a “bait and switch” is in play without notifying people of the change in advance. They will be much less cooperative than if they’d been dealt with honestly from the beginning. You would be mistaken to think they’ll get with the program once the effort has begun, when it’s not what they originally signed up for.
It’s been said that having all the resources, time and physical ability mean nothing unless there is a strong desire for success, regardless of whether it applies to financial aspirations, workplace goals or war. The will to succeed is the engine that drives the spirit!
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” —Stephen King, author
“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” —Elbert Hubbard, writer and philosopher
“Happiness is having a large, caring, close-knit family in another city.” —George Burns
“The only time some fellows are ever seen with their wives is after they’ve been indicted.” —Kin Hubbard, American cartoonist, humorist and journalist
“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died. —Erma Bombeck