When you first became a supervisor or manager, you tried to project an image of confidence … an image that said you expected performance from others.

In a sense, you intuitively knew that “perception was everything” and you needed to “manage your brand.” You did things that encouraged others to see you, your product, your service, or role in a particular light. And that, you hoped, would encourage their motivation.

Well, the most effective leaders don’t leave things to chance. They use 3 tools to shape the perceptions of others to get their full and willing cooperation.

How to Shape Perceptions Fast!

Leadership Tool #1: Understand how others perceive you.

If you don’t like the perception they’re getting, you must do some things to change their perception. After all, perception IS reality.

Black Bart knew that. His very name stirred fear. He terrorized the Wells Fargo Stage Line for 13 years during the 1870’s and 80’s, robbing 29 stage coaches. And in journals coast to coast, Black Bart became synonymous with the perils of the frontier.
His weapon was his reputation. His ammunition was intimidation.

In his 29 robberies, he never fired a shot or took a hostage. Instead, Black Bart used the power of perception to get his way. A hood hid his face so no victim ever saw him. No artist ever sketched him. But his appearance was enough to frighten people into submission.

As it turned out, Black Bart wasn’t anything to be afraid of. When the authorities finally tracked him down, they found a mild-mannered druggist from Decatur, Illinois. The man was so afraid of horses that he rode to and from his robberies in a buggy.
Black Bart was Charles E. Boles, the bandit who never fired a shot, because he never once loaded his gun. But Black Bart knew that the perception he created was more powerful than any gun he could ever shoot.

And the same goes for you. If you’re not getting all the cooperation you need from your coworkers or your customers then it’s time to ask what image you are projecting. Do your customers see you as apathetically taking their business for granted? Or do they see you as a person who’s eager to give the very best service?

Sometimes you have to stop pointing your finger at what the other person is NOT doing and look at the perception you are creating. And if you don’t like the results you’re getting, then it’s time to re-examine your image and change it.

Leadership Tool # 2: Create a perception of possible pain for noncompliance.

As you well know, the bottom-line question in any act of cooperation is, “What’s in it for me?” In other words, people are wondering about the rewards they’re going to get if they go along with you. It’s important that you let them know.

But it’s also important to let people know about the pain they will experience if they don’t go along with you.

I’ve seen this technique used with great effectiveness on several occasions. In Indiana, for example, I saw a sign on a fence that read, “If you cross this field you had better do it in 9.8 seconds. The bull can do it in 10 seconds. NO TRESPASSING.”

Along similar lines, I saw a most creative road sign on I-95 approaching Deland, Florida. A yellow diamond-shaped sign warned, “Narcotics Inspection Ahead.” There really was no inspection, but those drivers who saw the sign, panicked, and made an illegal u-turn were immediately stopped and searched.

Yes, you need to let people know “what’s in it for them” if they comply with your wishes. But it doesn’t hurt to also let them know about the painful consequences of not going along with you.

Leadership Tool # 3: Create a perception of scarcity.

G. K. Chesterton said, “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” In other words, people, things, and opportunities seem more valuable to us when we’re about to lose them.

You see this “deadline” tactic being used in advertising all the time. And you hear about the “limited time offer” because these techniques work. People hate to lose their choices and their chances.

You can use the scarcity principle to get more cooperation from others. You can point out what they are about to lose. A company, for example, may tell its employees that this is their last chance to take advantage of the early retirement program.

Here’s another example…

I was amused by the way one church group used the scarcity principle to get a new minister. As Linda Sawyer reported, her mission church in Alaska was losing its minister. A pastor-seeking committee was formed; all the proper papers were filled out, and many phone calls were made to the Board of National Missions in New York City. Months went by without any sign of the church getting a new minister.

Finally, in frustration, the committee chairwoman dashed off one more note to the Board. It read, “Forget the minister. We’ve found sinning is more fun.” In essence, the chairman implied there would be a scarcity of righteousness if they didn’t get a new minister.
It worked. The new minister arrived in two weeks.

To get people to do what you want, take a look at your image. And take a look at your messages. With the right combination of the three leadership ingredients I just listed, you will get more cooperation than ever before.

About the Author:

For over 20 years, best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has helped more than a million people transform their power to lead and communicate. For a free subscription to his award-winning Internet newsletter, free e-book of his most popular articles, and a free $10 product coupon go to: www.DrZimmerman.com

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