How do you build influence and engagement? Try this…!

Would you like to have more influence on the people around you?  How much impact would it have on you (or your business) if your employees completely engaged with you?

How much more effective would you be when negotiating with a client or vendor if you could quickly help them to trust you and to see that you’re all on the same side?

It turns out having high levels of engagement and trust makes a huge impact on a business – according to a recent Harvard Business Review article on The Neuroscience of Trust, when compared to low trust companies, people at high trust companies report the following:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives and
  • 40% less burnout

And that’s likely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits of having the people around you who trust you and feel secure.

It all boils down to science…!

The human brain is an amazing thing. Going back to the caveman days, we collectively evolved with a brain that is subconsciously scanning for danger 5 times a second.  This is important because it turns out that our brains function very differently depending on how safe we feel.  It’s only when you feel completely safe and secure that your brain can really open up to the highest levels of processing. Creative thinking, being able to understand the big picture, strategy – all of those things are only possible when you (and your brain) feels ‘safe’.

Contrast that with how your brain operates when it senses danger (or stress).  Sometimes referred to as an ‘amgydala hijack’, your brain will go into a ‘fight or flight’ mode and will literally shut down your higher levels of thinking. Things become much more black and white and you start to assume that others are out to get you.  It’s not a mindset that will help you get a lot done with a group (or otherwise).

Clearly, if you want to influence others, get them engaged and have them trust you, you need everyone operating in a ‘safe’ environment.  But how do you do that?  According to Michael Bungay Stanier – author of The Coaching Habit, there are 4 primary drivers that influence how the brain reads a situation when you are interacting with someone else.  It’s the combination of these 4 things that will lead me to either feeling safer or more at risk during our interaction.

Focus on TERA to influence engagement

He uses the acronym TERA to help remember these 4 drivers:

T – Tribe:  The brain is trying to figure out if you’re with me or against me. Are you on my team?  Do I recognize myself in you?

E – Expectation:  Do I know what’s going to happen next or not?  If I’m comfortable with what’s going on and what’s going to happen, I’ll feel safer – if it’s an unknown, I’m much less comfortable.

R – Rank: How do I stack up to you from a personal power basis?  Are you more important than me or less important? If you’ve diminished my status in some way, I feel less safe.

A – Autonomy: Do I have a say in what’s going on or don’t I?  Are you giving me options or telling me what to do?  The more autonomy I have, the safer I feel.

If you want to have more influence on others, if you want to build up trust, then you need to work on increasing the TERA quotient as much as possible.  There are literally dozens of ways to put these ideas into play, but here are a few key things you should be doing increase TERA with people you work with:

  1. Look for commonality – although it might seem like meaningless small talk, it’s clearly important to find some common ground with those you’re interacting with. It will help identify you as part of their tribe in some fashion and it will help minimize any potential rank issues (we’re peers who share some common bonds and beliefs).
  2. Be clear on why you’re meeting. Have you ever gone into a meeting with someone you don’t know very well and you didn’t have any idea what you would be meeting on? You likely felt pretty uncomfortable, at least until you figured out the situation, but until then your guard was up and you weren’t likely to engage.  Alternatively, if you go out of your way up front to let people know what to expect you’ll avoid surprises and get off on the right foot.
  3. Ask questions.  The right questions can be your secret weapon for increasing TERA. A great question helps with Rank and Autonomy. When I ask you the right kind of question (like ‘What do you want?’) it puts you in charge and gives you the complete freedom to drive the interaction from here.

Think about how you currently interact with the people you work with – employees, potential clients, vendors… whatever the case, are you doing things that increase the TERA quotient or decrease it?

What do you think about this?  Does it make sense?  Is it something you can use?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave us a comment or a question below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach