You are unique, you little snowflake!
How many times have we heard that from our grammar school teachers and the motivational speakers. The truth is that we are not really all that unique when we think about it. Our DNA is 99.5% exactly like every other human on the planet. We all need about the same amount of sleep, food, and water to live. We all feel the same emotions and feel them from most of the same causes.
But the problem is that we all think we are different from everyone else. Other people should wear a motorcycle helmet, but we don’t really need to. The government should set speed limits, but it is okay for me to go faster than that.
In the USA, nearly everyone says that it is very bad to text while driving a car, yet more than 40% admit to texting while driving and probably more than that do it, but will not admit to it.
Here is a sad fact: The rules don’t apply to us, because we deceive ourselves into feeling safer than we actually are. We want to operate as an individual snowflake.
How Can We, as Leaders, Turn This Around and Use It To Our Advantage?
There are many possibilities, but let me mention one today.
The Two-Step Buy-In Technique
Let’s suppose you are a team leader and you need to get buy-in from your team members. You want them to join the team and work for a common goal.
By using a simple psychological technique, you can get much greater buy-in from your team. In fact, in one study* researchers used this technique to increase voter turnout for an election by more than 25%—no small feat!
The first step is to set up a socially desirably behavior and then ask your team if they will engage or not. Nearly all will agree because it would be socially awkward not to.
The second step is to have them give a justification as to why they will perform this socially desirable behavior.
After we as human snowflakes melt by admitting in public that we are going to do something, we rarely go against society and fail to perform what we say we will do.
A Real Life Example
If you are starting a new team project and you need to get buy-in from every team member, in your first meeting describe why this is such a great project. Then, ask each team member if they are going to commit to helping with the project (Step One). After they say, “Yes” ask them to give one reason why they are going to participate (Step Two). Nearly all of us as human beings will perform a task that we agree to do in a public setting.
Try it. I think you’ll find you can make a pretty good snowball when all of your snowflakes come together.
*Greenwald, A. G., Carnot, C. G., Beach, R., and Young, B. (1987). Increasing voting behavior by asking people if they expect to vote. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 315– 18.