THE BLOG
07/17/2013 11:15 am ET | Updated Sep 16, 2013

Stuck In A Revenue Rut? 5 Ways To Influence Employees Into Their "Smart State"

After talking with Christine Comaford , a Leadership and Culture Coach who helps mid-sized and Fortune 1000 companies navigate growth and change, an expert in human behavior and applied neuroscience, and the bestselling author of Rules for Renegades, I now understand and appreciate why Bill Gates dubbed her "super high bandwidth." The passion and energy that Comaford exudes for helping companies to become brilliant with the application of studied and proven neuroscience techniques is mind-numbing! I walked away a little stunned, a little amazed and a whole lot impressed and gung-ho to start applying her techniques as the CMO of Enterasys. In an hour-long conversation Comaford shared many of her secrets and recipes for organizational success and I am humbled to share them with you here.

In Comaford's new book, Smart Tribes, she explains that the reason why companies are not performing at the level they want to is because people are spending too much time in their "critter state" - in fight, flight or freeze mode. The critter state is displayed in times of change, rapid growth and turnover. People worry if they are safe which keeps them from performing as they should. In her book, Comaford shows people how to get into their "smart state", a state that is achieved when you are using all three parts of your brain with the result of being deeply emotionally engaged, high energy and innovative. When a bunch of people from the same company are all operating in their smart state, there you have a smart tribe. Comaford tells us, "We can only do so much individually, but having lots of people operating in their smart state, we can do amazing things."

Here are five highly-effective techniques to form your smart tribe:

Give People What They Crave Most - Comaford says that Maslow had it right with his hierarchy of needs and that once our most basic physiological needs are met we crave safety, belonging and mattering. Once you foster these three things in your company, you are on your way to forming a smart tribe. We all crave all three, but the key to getting people into their smart state is to find out what they crave most and give it to them. Comaford tells us what behaviors hint to what people crave most:

  1. Safety: If a person spreads fear, they crave safety
  2. Belonging: If a person takes belonging away with gossip, forming silos and separating people, they crave belonging
  3. Mattering: If a person makes others feel small, they crave mattering.

The goal is to work with individuals, and with leaders to understand these techniques and spread them throughout the organization, to help each other get in - and stay in - their smart state.

Think Inquiry Over Advocacy - Instead of telling people what to do, ask questions in a tone that is curious and fascinated. This will start engaging people and building leadership. Here is an "outcome frame" consisting of four questions to ask to get people into their smart state:

  1. What would you like?
  2. What would having that do for you?
  3. How would you know when you have it?
  4. What are the next steps?

When people know what the rules are, have a structure to work within and have clear and explicit communication, they are set up to succeed.

Never Underestimate The Importance of Influence - Comaford defines influence as "being the same as". When people view others as the same as them then they don't need to be scared. Considering that 90% of our behaviors are driven by our subconscious brain and only 10% of decisions are made by intellect, then influence is pretty darn important. Comaford gives us three basic influence phrases that can be used to pull people into their smart state:

  1. I need your help.
  2. What if?
  3. Would it be helpful if...?
Speak Their Language - In her recent Forbes post, Comaford tells us how to influence anyone, anytime, anywhere with four subconscious secret codes called meta programs. Meta Programs are one of the most potent neuroscience techniques that Comaford teaches to salespeople and leaders for astounding results. Comaford says, "Speaking to someone using their Meta Programs enables us to step into their world, ensures profound rapport and leads to outcomes that are better for everyone--while fostering deep connection and trust." There are sixty Meta Programs, per Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Comaford covers four to get us started on affecting outcomes through influence:

  1. Toward-Away: Toward people are motivated toward getting, attaining and achieving; Away people are focused on solving problems.
  2. Options-Procedures: Options people want lots of choice and like to create procedures for someone else to follow; Procedures people want a proven step-by-step process.
  3. General-Specific: General people start by looking at the 10,000 foot view then drill down; Specific people start from the bottom then bubble up.
  4. Active-Reflective: Active people embody Nike's slogan "just do it" and act without caring if they make a mistake; Reflective people analyze, understand and consider before acting and may get stuck in "analysis paralysis".

Change Behavior: Of course we can't talk in meta programs all the time, but the key is to look for those moments (like when you are going face-to-face with the CFO for a budget increase) where we really want to influence a behavior (either change a behavior or introduce a new one) and then craft a message using the meta programs of the person you are speaking with so they can relate to you and you can ultimately have influence. Here's Comaford's 5-ingredient recipe for success:

  1. Figure out their meta program
  2. Pick an influencing phrase
  3. Figure out what need they crave
  4. Figure out the behavior that you want to influence
  5. Craft the message and deliver it

Comaford advises, "You won't need to do this forever, you will only need to deliver one to three influencing phrases before the behavior changes". We've talked a lot about using these influencing techniques to change behavior within an organization but they can be used outside as well. When Comaford works with marketing teams their messages resonate with prospects more deeply and can be up to 301% more effective. In addition demand generation increases by up to 237%. As a CMO this is very exciting news!

We closed our interview with the fascinating story of how Comaford scored a meeting with the late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, Inc. However, the most striking thing about the story is that 20 years after their brief meeting, Jobs still remembered Comaford when she called to speak with him about treatment options for her uncle who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Even though all that time had passed, Comaford was not forgotten by Jobs, they still had a connection. Comaford lets us in on why: "When you bring people safety, belonging and mattering and use these influencing techniques you become memorable because you connect at a level they do not experience that often."

You can watch the full interview with Christine Comaford here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 4PM ET as we host CXOTalk - connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and the market.