I want you to imagine for a moment that I was your boss.
(I know, cringe.)
Then imagine that I assigned you a task that would take up a good chunk of your afternoon.
This task would require you to write in detail how you show up at work.
The ensuing document would have a section titled What my colleagues misunderstand about me and another called Here’s my work style.
The document would end with you detailing your typical schedule.
When do you exercise? When do you eat lunch? When do you have the most energy? When do you put your kids to bed?
This request would probably garner an eye-roll or three. You might slow play the request by re-prioritizing every possible activity ahead of this Human Resources project. Or you might just flat out ignore it.
This reluctance would be understandable. Surely I could use my authority and make you do it.
Or I could tell you:
If you complete this document, you’ll never have to check your Slack or email while you exercise, hang out with your kids, on weekends and while you’re on vacation. Heck, you can even delete those two apps from your phone.
Now we talking?!?!
This persuasive tactic falls under a simple acronym: WIIFME or What’s in it for me?
Want me to change? Show me an incentive
Human beings aren’t particularly good at making decisions.
We eat an extra scoop of ice cream, knowing that it will make our stomach turn.
We drink that nightcap, knowing it will mess up our sleep.
We check our email incessantly, knowing in our bones that we’d be way better off learning a new skill.
The Present Bias states explains some of this behavior:
Human beings have a tendency to give stronger weights to payoffs that are closer to the present. It’s the reason we procrastinate, eat too much sugar, and don’t invest in our retirement accounts.
And it gets even more complicated when trying to persuade someone to do something your behalf.
In the document I mentioned (known as a User Manual), the assignee (i.e. the manager) knows that there’s a long-term benefit to a team that rows in the same direction. But their direct reports are skeptical. To them, it’s just another task to be stacked onto a never-ending to-do list.
Which is why they need an incentive. Something tangible that can take that distant benefit and crystallize it in today’s terms.
In the most concrete terms.
Telling your direct reports:
You could delete your Outlook from your phone.
(And if you’re wondering how this is really possible, a good User Manual will detail hierarchies for communication, response expectations and emergency contacts.)
Everything is a sale
And therefore WIIFME should always be in your persuasion tool kit.
If you’re trying to convince your board about a new initiative. WIIFME.
If you’re trying to convince someone to buy your online course. WIIFME.
Heck, if you’re trying to create the perfect Tinder profile. WIIFME.