By Hazel Howard

Other project leads were being promoted, but not Henry.

Henry’s projects struggled and always seemed like heavy lifts. He always seemed to be at the back of the queue for securing talent to work on the projects he led.

So how did Henry turn this around?

Here red10 ‘s Hazel Howard explains the mindset shift known as reciprocation.

Not the most popular project leader

Henry wasn’t the most popular project leader.

He had started at the same time as the other project leads. Henry had been the leader of the pack in terms of success to start with. Yet now they were all being promoted, but not Henry.

As Henry reflected on his career, he realized that his success rate had dropped at the point where he and his peers had started leading cross-functional project teams.

No apparent direct control

What Henry had quickly come to realise was that, as a cross-functional project leader, he had no (apparent) direct control over the people who came on his team. They were usually allocated based on availability alone.

To be successful, he knew he needed to secure individuals who were the best and so he went about finding out who they were. He would then seek them out and buy them a coffee every month – as a ‘catch up meeting’ – and showed real interest in how they were getting on.

Henry chose to have his finger on the pulse, as it were, to their every career move and kept tabs on what projects were coming up. He always insisted on buying the coffee – making it clear that he appreciated their wisdom and valued their input.

Henry started to secure these same excellent people on his projects…in fact they would ask to be on his team and work with him.

The Reciprocation Rule

Influencing guru Professor Cialdini would say that “The rule of Reciprocation” was at play…by giving of his precious time for them, by being genuinely interested in their careers and personal lives, down to even paying for their coffee…Henry had secured their indebtedness.

As the archaeologist Richard Leakey ascribes, “We are human because our ancestors learned to share their food and their skills in a honoured network of obligation.”  Cultural anthropologists Tiger and Fox describe it as, “a web of indebtedness” – making interdependencies work.

Positive Intent

Like any influencing techniques, this can be abused and used in a manipulative way.

For it to be truly effective it has to be used with genuine positive intent – that the person we are interacting with has the other’s best interests at heart.

Universal Rules of Influence

Professor Cialdini’s research on Influence identified eight ways in which human beings are more receptive to persuasive arguments. Reciprocation is just one – you can read about the others here.

red10 provides an Influencing Skills Masterclass where Cialdini’s rules are brought to life with gamified learning and simulations in both the face-to-face and virtual settings. Please contact us if you would like to know more.