3 Little Communication Strategies That Bring BIG Cooperation

Every day, in every organization, large change initiatives are being launched, each one requiring the cooperation of its employees to be successful.

Unfortunately, research shows that approximately 70% of these change initiatives fail — an average that holds up in countless analyses across different industries, time frames and geographies.

So what differentiates the 30% of change initiatives that succeed? There are several things, but the ability to engage the full and willing cooperation of the employees seems to be the biggest factor in success.

Of course it’s not easy for the employees in these successful companies to change. Change … and the cooperation that implies … is never easy. If changing “the way we’ve always done things” was easy, people everywhere would be able to lose weight or quit smoking at the drop of a hat.

Try some of these techniques for getting people to do what you want.

► 1. Connect on a personal level with the other person.

I learned this technique from Ted Nichols, a guy who worked out at the Sky Line Fitness Center in Washington, DC. But he did more than work out. Ted learned the names of the people who worked behind the desk — because he believed that everyone, even the people behind the desk, were important.

The strange thing was, of the 4000 members of the fitness center, almost no one else bothered to learn the names of the desk people. They were too preoccupied with getting changed and working out.

But Ted took the time to learn the names of the desk people. He took the time to treat them with dignity and respect. He built their egos … sincerely. And when Ted wanted to be on the tennis courts — which were always crowded — Ted got to be on the tennis courts. The desk people made sure of that because they controlled the schedule.

You might try this. It works for me. When I’m at a restaurant, I ask for the name of the waiter or waitress — if he/she hasn’t already told me — or if he/she isn’t wearing a name tag. I simply say, “I like to know the name of the person who is serving me.” And then I’ll often ask where they’re from. They always tell me and I always get better service as a result.

► 2. Make the other person feel important.

It only makes sense. Why in the world would a person ever want to cooperate with you if you made them feel inferior or badly about themselves? They wouldn’t.

So if you want people to do things, it really helps if you make them feel important. My mentor Cavett Robert taught me that.

One morning Mr. Robert looked out his window and saw a twelve-year-old boy going door to door selling books. The boy was headed for his house. Robert turned to his wife and said, “Just watch me teach this kid a lesson about selling. After all these years of writing books about communication, lecturing all over the country, I’ll show you how to get rid of a salesperson or anyone else, for that matter.”

Mrs. Robert watched as the 12-year-old boy knocked on the door. Mr. Robert opened the door and quickly explained that he was a very busy man. He had no interest in buying any books.

The young salesman was not daunted by Robert’s brush-off. He simply stared at the tall, gray-haired, distinguished looking man, a man that he knew was fairly well known and quite wealthy. The boy said, “Sir, could you be the famous Mr. Cavett Robert?” To which Mr. Robert replied, “Come on in son.”

Mr. Robert bought several books from the youngster — books that he might never read. The boy had mastered the principle of making the other person feel important and it worked. It’s an approach that even the rich and famous or the big and strong can rarely resist.

All people wear a little, invisible sign around their necks. It says, “Make Me Feel Important.” And the truly effective people in life and work do exactly that. They read the signs and act accordingly.

Of course, you may think all this “make-the-other-person-feel-important” stuff is inappropriate for the workplace. Fine. Call it “care,” “concern,” “respect,” “appreciation,” or whatever you like. But you’ve got to have a bit of that “emotional” glue if you hope to get the full and willing cooperation of others.

If you were to consciously work on making the people around you feel important, just imagine the difference it would make. Think how different your work day would be if you took time to tell a coworker that you were pleased with the way a job was done or that it had been a pleasure to work with him that day. You would notice an almost instantaneous uptick in the cooperation level in your relationships.

► 3. Be more visible and audible.

Visibility is one of the keys to inspiring confidence in a leader who is trying to bring about change now and in the future. Regular on-site visits by a leader or management by walking around and talking to team members has proven to be highly effective time and again.

If you want people to do things, you’ve got to be visible. You’ve got to spend some time with them. You can’t simply show up when you want something from people and expect those same people to like, trust or want to work with you.

And when you do walk around, remember that almost everyone craves some honest feedback, honestly and sensitively given. The same goes for a word of thanks and appreciation.

People cooperate more with those who are visible and audible. How are you doing in this area of cooperation building?