Maximum Impact

In this post I reveal the secret of maximising your impact on others.

The Three Levels of Impact

There are 3 levels of impact. You cannot progress to the next level until you have mastered the lower level.

Level 1: Self-Leadership

Your ability to lead others is limited by your own growth. If you want to increase your influence over others, you must start by growing yourself.

Private victories precede public victories. You can’t invert that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you plant it.Stephen Covey

 Level 2: Leadership of Others

If you want to multiply your ability to influence others, you need to help them develop their potential. If you only grow yourself, you will be limited by your own growth. If you grow others, your influence is limited by their growth.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.John Quincy Adams


Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.Jesus of Nazareth

Level 3: Leadership of Other Leaders

Maximum impact is reserved for those who grow other growers.

Leaders who attract followers impact only people they touch. Leaders who develop leaders … impact people beyond their reach.John C. Maxwell

In any industry, the highest accolades are reserved for those who lead the leaders, and help them achieve their best.

Examples of People who Have Achieved Maximum Impact

Examples of people who achieve maximum impact:

  • The Pastor of pastors  (Rick Warren)
  • The Leader of Leaders (John C. Maxwell)
  • The Teacher of Teachers (Anyone who teaches at an education college)
  • The Writer who writes for writers (Holly Lisle)
  • Marketers who sell products to other marketers (Seth Godin)
  • Software developers who build software for software developers (The founders of Microsoft, Google and Apple)


Book Notes: “Influence” Chapter 2: Reciprocation

Reciprocation: A summary of the second chapter of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini.

The Ethiopian Aid Puzzle

In 1985, “Ethiopia could justly lay claim to the greatest suffering and privation in the world. Its economy was in ruin. Its food supply had been ravaged by years of drought and internal war. Its inhabitants were dying by the thousands from disease and starvation.” It wouldn’t surprise us to learn that $5,000 in relief funds had been send to Ethiopia from Mexico. But the exact opposite happened. The Ethiopian Red Cross had sent $5,000 to Mexico, to support the victims of an earthquake in Mexico City.

The Reciprocation Principle

People are more likely to comply with a request if it is made by somebody who has already done something for them.

Example: Greetings Cards

When a college professor sent cards to complete strangers, many of them sent cards back to him.

Why Does the Rule Exist?

This rule exists because of the overall benefits to society.
We are conditioned by society to return a favour if one is done for us.

You scratch my back…

  • We have been conditioned to feel uncomfortable when beholden
  • There are often social sanctions for those who break the rules

Example: Coke and Raffle Tickets

Joe was one of two people were waiting to participate in an art evaluation experiment. Joe was secretly working for the experimenter. In the waiting room before the experiment, Joe sometimes bought the other participant a Coke. After the art experiment was over, Joe asked the other participant if they could help him out and buy some raffle tickets. When Joe had bought a Coke for the other participant, he sold more raffle tickets after he experiment.

The Power of The Reciprocity Principle

The rule possesses awesome strength, often producing a yes response to a request that, except for an existing feeling of indebtedness, would have surely been refused.Robert Cialdini

The effect of liking/disliking is overwhelmed by obligation:

  • For those who didn’t owe Joe a favor, there was a significant tendency for subjects to buy more raffle tickets from Joe the more they liked him.
  • For those who owed him a favor, it made no difference whether they liked him or not; they felt a sense of obligation to repay him, and they did.

Key Features of the Principle

Compliance professionals may exploit these features:

  • Person can trigger a feeling of indebtedness by doing us an uninvited favor (people didn’t ask Joe for Coke)
  • The reciprocity rule that allows it to be exploited for profit (raffle tickets were 25x more expensive than Coke)

Who Exploits this Principle

Businesses, charities and politicians exploit this rule to their advantage. In the hope of gaining something in return, they often offer:

  • Gifts
  • Free samples
  • Favours
  • Concessions

Example: Mints

This is the reason you’re given a mint with your bill in a restaurant: studies have shown that more mints lead to higher tips.

The Rejection-then-Retreat Technique

This is a common techinque used by compliance professionals to get us to do something we wouldn’t normally do.
Three steps:

  • Make a large request.
  • Make a concession.
  • Make a small request.

Why does this work? Two principles are at work here:

  • Reciprocation: The requester has made a concession. Now it is your turn.
  • Contrast: The small request seems small in comparison to the big one.

Example: Talking the Top of the Line

A sales practice used in retail is to “talk the top of the line.” The customer is shown the deluxe model first. If the customer buys, the store is happy. But if the customer doesn’t buy, the salesperson counteroffers with a more reasonably priced model.

The Surprise Factor

People who are surprised by a request will often comply because they are momentarily unsure of themselves and, consequently, influenced easily.

The Solution to the Ethiopian Aid Puzzle

In 1935, Mexico had sent aid to Ethiopia when it was invaded by Italy. The Ethiopians feld obligated to them.

Advice for Marketers

The implication is you have to go first. Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.Robert Cialdini

Final Example

Plesase could you read all my articles and comment on them all?
No? Then please could you leave a comment for just this one, then?
By the way, you’re looking great today!


Book Notes: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” (Chapter 1)

A summary of the introductory chapter of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini (Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University).

The “Good Deal” Principle

The Good Deal Principle says that people want to get a good deal, i.e. that we want to get the best and we want to pay the least. People follow this principle when they gather and analyse information before making a decision. We might be tempted to think that this is the principle that we follow when we make most of our decisions. Interestingly, however, this isn’t how many decisions are made…

The Jewelery Shop Puzzle

A jewelery shop carried a range of turquoise jewelry that wasn’t selling. The owner had tried various common to promote the jewelery, but to no avail. She finally accepted that she would have to sell the offending items at a loss. Before leaving for a trip, the shop owner left a note for her assistant, asking that the price of the turquoise jewelery needed to be dropped whilst she was away. When the owner returned a few days later, she was not surprised to find that every item had sold. The remarkable point of this story is that the assistant mis-read the note, and mistakenly doubled the price of the jewelry.

Analogy to Animal Behaviour

Ethologists (scientists who study animal behavior in the natural environment) have observed that many species exhibit specific patterns of behaviour in response to a certain fixed stimulus. e.g. mother turkeys respond to the cheep-cheep of their turkey-chicks with typical mothering behavior. Other characteristics of the chicks (e.g. smell, touch, appearance) play little role in triggering the mothering response. The importance of the cheep-cheep stimulus is highlighted by an experiment involving mother turkeys and a stuffed polecat. Polecats are natural enemies of turkeys, so mother turkeys normally attack the stuffed polecat. However, when the stuffed polecat emitted a cheep-cheep sound, the mother turkeys responded with the same mothering behaviors as they would to a real chick. A similar phenomena occurs in a wide variety of species and include a wide range of behaviours including courtship rituals, feeding and defensive behaviors. “Fixed-action patterns” of behavior are typically triggered by very specific stimulus or “trigger feature”. For example, a male robin will attack a clump of red breast feathers as if it were a rival male, but it will ignore a near-perfect model of a robin that lacks the red feathers.
Sometimes humans behave in a similar way:

  • In many situations, the way we behave depends on simple triggers
  • This can be true even when additional information is available.
  • Normally, the trigger features that we use are sufficiently accurate for us to decide on an appropriate action.
  • But they leave us open to manipulation by compliance professionals

There are important differences between the automatic responses of humans and lower animals:

  • The automatic behavior patterns of animals tend to be inborn and inflexible, whereas in humans they tend to be learned
  • Animals respond to very specific trigger features, whereas humans have a larger range of triggers
  • In humans, our programmed responses can be overridden by higher-order functions.

Why Do We Need Shortcuts?

The reason why we work this way is that it enables us to make decisions rapidly and with a minimum of effort. We need shortcuts to enable us to deal with a complex, rapidly changing world.We can’t possibly do a full analysis of every situation. Instead, we use “rules of thumb” (properly called “judgmental heuristics”) to help us identify key features of a situation and respond appropriately. The advantage of this strategy is that we conserve time and energy, but they can leave us open to both costly mistakes and to manipulation. Cialdini calls these responses, “click-whirr” responses.

Rule: “Just Because”

When we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason.

Example: Making Copies

There was a queue for the copying machine. The experimenter asked if they could go in front of someone. The likelihood of being given permission to queue-jump depended on how the request was phrased:

  • “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” (no reason) – 60%
  • “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” (a meaningful reason) – 94%
  • “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” (a meaningless reason) – 93%

When Do We Use Judgmental Heuristics?

We are more likely to deal with information in a controlled fashion when:

  • Something is important to us (desire)
  • We are skilled in handling the appropriate information (ability)

We are less likely to analyze when we are:

  • Fatigued
  • Emotionally aroused
  • In a hurry
  • Distracted
  • Surprised

At these times, we are most vulnerable to manipulation.

The Contrast Principle

If two items differ significantly, we tend to see them as more different than they actually are.

Weights Example

If we lift a light object first and then lift a heavy object, the second object is judged heaver than it would be if we hadn’t lifted the light one first.

Clothing Stores Example

Sales staff are instructed to try to sell costly items first, because the price of cheaper items will seem much lower in comparison.

Rule: “You get what you pay for”

… an example of a judgmental heuristic.
According to this rule:

  • expensive = good
  • inexpensive = bad

Whisky Example

Sales of Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey “skyrocketed” when the price went up.

Solution to the Jewelery Shop Puzzle

The buyers of the jewelery were tourists who know little about the product. So they relied on the “You get what you pay for” rule rather than knowledge of the product.

Persuasion Principles

Some of the most important rules that people tend use when making decisions are:

  • Principle 0: The Good Deal Principle
  • Principle 1: Reciprocity
  • Principle 2: Commitment and Consistency
  • Principle 3: Social Proof
  • Principle 4: Authority
  • Principle 5: Liking
  • Principle 6: Scarcity

In the remainder of the book, Cialdini discusses in depth all but the first of these principles (he excludes the Good Deal principle because it is based on rational analysis of available information, and is therefore relatively immune from the kind of manipulation that is the main topic of the book).