The Most Powerful Tool for Positive Influence: Attention

What is the most effective tool that you have to influence the behavior of others – whether you use it purposefully or by accident? The answer is so simple that most people can’t believe it. It is your attention – eye contact, grunting, nodding, giggling – any response you make to another person’s behavior affects that behavior.

Anything and everything someone in your presence says or does is being influenced by your reaction, your eye contact – even your obvious attempts to act disinterested are an acknowledgment that has an effect on the behavior they are engaged in.

If I come in to work and look solemn, distracted, and depressed – perhaps even on the verge of tears and you say, “Jerry, you look upset today; is there anything wrong?” You have reinforced several behaviors. Most people use their facial gestures and body language to express emotions they are not able to talk about. When you make a statement about that type of behavior (affecting depression), you have just positively reinforced the person for those behaviors.

Usually, when you ask the question about how they feel, they break forth with a lengthy narrative describing all the personal problems that have led to their looking distressed and depressed. As you look at them while they are talking, make facial expressions that indicate you are sympathetic, and make verbal comments that indicate you are empathetic – you are rewarding and reinforcing their cathartic behavior. Guess who they will seek out the next time they want a sympathetic ear about their personal problems?

Leaders are constantly seeking to find new ways to reward employees – awards, bonuses, and incentives – and they all work at various levels of efficacy depending on how they are used. The biggest, most appreciated rewards and positive reinforcers that exist are far less expensive and exotic.

Listening actively, looking someone in the eye and nodding, making a facial gesture of empathy or encouragement, gasping – saying things like, “You’re kidding!” or “Unbelievable!,” or “What did you say then?” Active attention is the most powerful tool you have for influencing others; the problem is that most people don’t know how to us it constructively and purposefully.

Here are some behaviors that will make you well liked, respected, and followed – yes, I mean people will follow you to the ends of the earth if you will do the following:

  1. When you see friends and employees greet them with a smile and a hello. If you can’t smile, at least say, “Good morning; how are you today?” Or, “Hello Jim; how are things today?”
  2. When people are talking to you (it does not matter what the context), look at them and nod your head or change your facial expression to let them know you are listening. An occasional verbal expression like, “unbelievable!” or “you’re kidding”,” or “and then what happened?” Will do more to get other to like you than any form of entertaining anecdotes or humorous and interesting comments you can make.
  3. When people (your employees, peers, boss, son or daughter, wife or husband) tell you about something they did that you want them to repeat – whatever it is – acknowledge it with a word or phrase. “Dad, I greased the garage door opener;” You say, “great.” Or an employee describes some extra effort they contributed, like – “Jerry was falling behind so I took a couple of minutes to give him a hand; you say, “That’s going to ensure we hit our numbers today.”
  4. A well placed word or non-verbal reaction can positively reinforce and reward better than a “Thank You,” or a “Gee, Jerry – I really appreciate your taking the time to help Bill catch-up.”
  5. Most leaders, managers and supervisors go to workshops and training classes trying to come up with scripted, wonderful, glamorous, fantastic things to do or say when an employee does something of value. Stop trying to be dramatic and start trying to “pay attention.” Ask a question; listen; say a word that indicates that what they did will have a positive effect.When I say, “I took some extra time to clean up my area;” You say, “Excellent.” End of story. No fanfare; no marching bands; no plaque or hamburger or pizza or award or wordy embarrassing praise.
  6. Understated verbal comments about value added employee behavior have a better effect than gushy, awkward accolades. Understated and natural words and expressions of approval work best. Words like, “Interesting, great, how did you do that? Can you show me how to do that? That’s going to help all of us, good idea, creative” – attention that communicates approval and acknowledges effort – that’s the most powerful, untapped opportunity for leadership that exists.When I was growing up, my father rarely said anything positive about anything I did – in school or out. When he did say something like, “not bad,” I was elated – I nearly exploded with pride and self-satisfaction. When an employee comes up with a great idea and the supervisor says, “That will work,” the employee is proud to know that his efforts are not going unnoticed.

Most of us want to influence others to do things we want them to do. The tools and methods – if the number of books on leadership are any indication – are complex and beyond the reach of the average person. WRONG; the tools and methods are so easy that nobody can make any money off of them; if supervisor and managers knew that all they had to do was stick their thumb up in the air and smile when they saw an employee doing something that was value-added, and that would cause the employee to do that more often – the consulting business would lose lot of revenue.

Talk to your employees; listen to them; maintain eye contact and nod your head; ask questions related to the context of the discussion; put in a word of approval or acknowledgment when they describe what they’ve done that will help.

I sat in a meeting with a senior executive recently where he began, “Jim, tell me how we can eliminate waste in the reprocessing area.” I nearly fell out of the chair. I spend so much time trying to get senior leaders off their soapboxes and out of their command-and-control verbal modes…I could not believe that this COO began the meeting with a question. When his direct report finished his answer, the COO had a perfect response; he said exactly the right thing to ensure the employee was rewarded. He said, “I think we need to try that.” The employee left the meeting beaming.


Sense of Ownership

I. The situation

In my team, I have great staff members and not so great ones.

Let’s talk a bit about definition about “great” and “not so great” before we continue:

Great: independent in completing a job; able to balance finding own solution with checking with me when faced with issues; take time to think about solution and their potential implication and alternatives, produce clean work (no typos; takes time to ensure that visual is nice); keep track of task to be completed and accomplish them one by one; take the time to accomplish a job.

In a world filled with parallel projects and limited resource, Life Is A Breeze with these guys.

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Respect the sales force

I had wanted to write about this sometime ago, but i didn’t because i thought i might sound…hollow

I myself am not a sales guy, as in I never do sales function as a living, so who am I to speak about why sales guys need to be respected.

Well, I think there’s 2 major reason:

1. There’s no bottom line without the top line, all this talk about “think about the bottom line, the bottom line!!” is pretty much bullshit without the sales force. No sales, no revenue, then you can throw all your strategic initiatives and cost cutting and efficiency and optimization to heck. No sales, no revenue, no bottom line.

2. Considering the 1st reason, there’s simply a gross lack of respect for the sales force. Yeah, some people pat them in the back while on one-on-one face-to-face communication, but a secret contempt is apparent when they address the sales force in the public of the sales force, and a more overt contempt when they speak about the sales force behind their back.

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How organization can be stiffled by their mindset about people

After working some more and see more workings of other organization, i’m impressed by the extent of the role of people in the organization.

Saying “organization is all about the people in it” make sense, since organization is nothing but a group of people working toward a (supposedly) common goal or purpose.

But to see that all competitive advantage is created or destroyed by people in an organization is…scary, a company could build a dominant business for decades, and then they have the wrong mindset about people and everything could go bust or slowly dies.

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Cutting prices by 20% and yet maintain your margin

imagesNews source at:

Business finance flow in a very simple manner, it starts from the top (gross revenue) to bottom (profit).

Now between that two point, there’s cost, cutting numbers from the revenue until they reach profit.

Equation wise, R – C = P (totally simplified)

So, one would suspect that a significant in reduction in revenue would cause similar reduction in profit.

[0.8 R – C] would be far less than [R-C]

Well, that’s not the case with Subway, in a business move bound to spawn pricing case studies, Subway cut prices for some of their 30 cm (1 foot) sandwiches from 6 dollar to 5 dollar.

Again, you cut your price by 20%, all things being equal, revenue drop by 20%, and since you’re selling the same stuff, cost stays at past level, and there goes your profit.

In turns out that all thing are not equal, it turns out that human psychology plays a huge role in pricing (surprise surprise). Customers LOVE the 5 dollar price, 5 dollar is a round number, not cheap, but round. 5 dollar allows you to stuck out one 5 dollar bill, instead of 2 bill (one 5 dollar and one 1 dollar).

Revenue soars and yet margin stays…

Now, the effect of the 5 dollar is great, and is heavily explored on the article above. The 5 dollar explain why revenue soars.

But it didn’t explain why margin stays, because you’re bound to have margin pressure due to cost.

Now, my guess margin stays because 3 things:

1. Subway’s sandwiches has been grossly overpriced all along, so even when they cut prices by 20%, they have a ton of cushion on their margin

2. Subway has a lot of idle capacity in its stores (labor and machine), whether these capacity is running at 10% or 100%, they cost about the same. So, the increase volume allows Subway to optimize resource capacity at its stores. The additional cost is minimal, and margin stays

3. Significant increase in unit volume allows them to reduce cost of goods from their supplier and lower the per unit cost from fixed cost items (this one is very theoriticall)

Interesting right? A key lesson here, is that maybe this strategy can be applied to industries where they have capacity lying around, and costing them the same whether being used at 10% or 100%. This opens room to increase volume (by cutting prices), optimizing the idle capacity, and thus in the end, maintain margin but with higher

What’s the best career move for fresh graduates?

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Picture Credit: - Thanks to Amaco - Please check their website if you like this picture

Get yourself a good boss.


If you have the option of 3 type of workplace:

1. A place that offers substantial pay compared to other company for fresh grads (it happens right?)

2. A place with good boss, people who are great themselves and really care about making their staff to be as good as them

3. A place that offers some variety in challenge in the task

4. A place that allows you to go home at 17.00 every day

Choose number 2.

Why? Why not the money?

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The worst word in the world is “Kalian”

scrabbleI notice that there are important “keywords” in communication, there are positive ones and negatives ones, and i notice that “kalian” is like the worst of all words.

Read further to understand why

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