CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 48, 1st March 2004


  1. Editorial: Learning migration
  2. Coaching notes: The language of influence

Celebration – our subscription list has passed 6,500. Another milestone.

1.     Editorial: Learning migration

Daffodils - emblem of WalesMarch seems to be a significant day for me to move. In March 1960 I moved out of Birmingham to a suburb, with a new school and my first practical experience of farming. Lots of new learning.

Today, 1st March, is St. David's Day, "Dydd Dewi Sant". St David is the patron saint of Wales. On St David's Day 1975 I moved my family to Wales. As we drove in convoy over the Severn Bridge which divides England from Wales, I reflected on the significance of this move from urban to rural, to a new language. On the same day a new translation of the New Testament was published in Welsh. A major day for the Welsh nation, too!

Having led one of only two projects in Britain investigating the feasibility of futuristic driverless public transport systems I moved into the new discipline of county public transport planning, where the most innovative form of transport was a postman driving a minibus. At the same time I moved onto a smallholding with cattle, sheep and pigs.

New skills and talent moved into Wales and huge learnings for me in both rural transport and animal husbandry!

Today, St David's Day 2004, my son leaves Britain for a two month tour of India and and a year in Australia. He has previously worked in America and toured South East Asia. What is he learning from such different cultures?

America is a country that has been enriched by the historical flows of immigration, and th ecultural mix of ideas that it creates. Many of the IT immigrants to Silicon Valley came from India. now India is developing its own IT industry, partly as a result of Indians returning from American universities with experience of the dot com boom.

Australia is a country that is almost entirely populated with immigrants. It seems to be a right of passage for young Australians to spend some time in the UK and, increasingly, for Brits in their 20s to spend a year in Australia. A cultural exchange challenging home grown ideas and fostering international understanding.

But large scale migration can also appear to threaten the stability of communities. It is a challenge for us all. How should we embrace change, how can we manage globalisation, how do we celebrate diversity in a world with so many opportunities?

The companies in Built to Last survived changing environments by knowing their values and having sufficiently strong roots to be able to embrace change and take opportunities. In the dynamic environment that we now live in, it pays to invest in vision, mission and values! Then we can welcome diversity without fear.

Using language

Some time ago I passed a tramp sitting on a bench in the park. As I passed, he shouted out "Excuse me Sir, I don't suppose you could help me ... ". Without any thought, I automatically replied "No, sorry." and continued on my way. It occurred to me then that here was a man who needed some sales coaching. He was guaranteed to fail as long as he used that speech pattern. If he had said "Excuse me Sir. I am sure that you could help me ...." I would have automatically replied "Yes." Then, at least, he could have tried to persuade me.

I am delighted, therefore, that Andrew Halfacre has submitted an article on the power of "because". It is based on a book by Robert Cialdini that Andrew has offered to review for us later.


More resources: Have you looked at our resources page recently? We have added two personal development workbooks and a management game during February.


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2.    Coaching notes: The language of influence
      Andrew Halfacre, Senior Associate

Andrew Halfacre Because is a powerful word (Why? Because I said so!) but I wonder if you have realised just how powerful it is when dealing with people you wish to influence. Who’d have thought that such a simple little word could have so much impact?

In 1970 a social psychologist carried out an astonishing experiment in influencing others. He used a typical influence situation – pushing into a queue of people waiting to use the photocopier. The aim of the experiment was to find out the best way of getting people to give way.

At first the researcher approached the queue and asked “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the machine because I am in a rush?” 94% of those asked let her skip ahead of them in the queue.

The second time the researcher asked “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the machine?” This time only 60% of those asked complied with the request.

At first glance it looked like the difference was the reason given “because I’m in a rush.” However, when they tried a different request it turned out that it was not the reason but the word “because” that made the difference.

The third time the researcher asked “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the machine because I have to make some copies”. Even with no real reason an astonishing 93% of those asked let her skip ahead in the queue.

It seems that we will help people out if they tell us the because. Put another way, when we ask someone to do us a favour we will be more successful if we give a reason. People, like your team, employees, family and friends, simply like to have reasons for what they do and if we give them the context, the reason for their doing what we need them to do then they are more likely to help us. It’s almost as if people need the background before their behaviour makes sense to them.

And here’s the thing – most humans respond automatically to the word because even if the reason is not particularly plausible. The word is like a trigger for automatic favour giving.

Opinions vary as to why this might be so. One theory is that our parents use the word so much that we develop a reflex response to it. We respond to the word because without stopping to analyse the reasoning. You may want to listen out for how often politicians and advertisers use it!

Why not carry out your own version of this experiment with your family, colleagues or customers?

If you’d like to influence people to help you or get compliance from a group or team, then pay careful attention to giving them the context, the big picture – be sure to use the word because. Because if you do, you’ll discover more about how to influence those around you. And that can be very useful...


HOT NEWS: Making it Happen™ – sales take off

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We aim to make the Brefi Group web site the premier developmental site for teams and individuals in organisations, so do please send us your suggestions and requests for further development. And let us know what you think of this newsletter, and comment on the content.

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We hope you enjoyed this issue of CorporateCoach. If you would like to learn more about how we can work together, then please contact me, Richard Winfield:

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