Why do you think McDonald’s started putting the number served on their Golden Arches? This principle relies on an individual’s sense of safety in numbers, uncertainty, and when others seem to be similar to us. Safety in numbers may simply mean one other person from the office. If faced with indecision, an individual will more likely, “go with the crowd”. If the crowd is a lot like me(values, community, culture, demographic, etc) it will increase the odds further that I will be influenced in that direction. You’ve probably been influenced by this yourself looking for a place to eat. If the parking lot is full, well it must be good. I voted for . . . because my union, church, organization, backed them.
You can apply this principle by creating excitement around your idea or product, or getting others to buy in early. At work or in your circle of influence, approach other influential people and seek their support (this may or may not be the formal leaders of the group). I found this particularly helpful while I was a new Captain in the Air Force and tasked with planning our organization’s annual Christmas party. Not a very enticing project for this warrior leader. The previous year only 35 attended out of a squadron of over 300 people. My success looked grim. My first approach was to seek out six key individuals, a young Airman, a mid-level NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) a Lieutenant and 2 wives (NCO and Officer). These folks were my influencers within their demographics. From our first meeting we started to create buzz around the event. Every morning we sang a Christmas Carol over the squadron PA system. We spread potpourri all over the building – air vents, desk draws, the restrooms – it smelled like Christmas before it looked like Halloween. Each of the team members invited several friends and once we met our minimum, we started every week announcing how many tickets were sold. We sold every ticket before Thanksgiving. The night of the Christmas party we had nearly 200 hundred attendees. A similar process can be used when implementing change in the organization.
This tool can also help you when others are trying to influence you. In these situations, keep in mind, the “herd” mentality can be used against you as well. It is often referred to as Groupthink. This is when, when in spite of all the evidence to suggest otherwise, people still make the wrong choice simply because others are as well. We see this in peer pressure to do the wrong thing among children and adults. If you read the accident report for the Shuttle Challenger, it was clear there were individuals who knew it was not safe to launch but who went along with the group decision makers anyhow. But as a rules follower, you understand this principle; you understand how to use it ethically to influence others, and how not to be sucked into making a poor decision.
One last thing before I go…because my vision statement – my life’s purpose – is to have a positive influence on all the people I meet, I’d like to invite you to do just one of the following; on each of them I bring just a little more to the table that you will find helpful in your quest for success.
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Have a great weekend. Be Extraordinary!
President & CEO
Leader Development Institute