What’s in it for them?

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I once worked on a project that needed major inputs from many department heads within the company. Contributing to and reviewing the project would take several hours of their time. Time they needed to do their real job. I explained how important the project was for marketing and how it was impossible for me to proceed without their help and although they agreed to get involved, they kept postponing some of our meetings for several weeks.

Months passed, and my patience dwindled. So I decided to take a step back and figure out what I was doing wrong. I was basically asking these busy folks to give me their time and expertise while offering nothing in return. Seeing things from this perspective, I decided on a different approach.

I sent each of them a short email titled “Help me help you”, thanking them for our progress so far and describing how the final report could also directly impact their goals and team. This email got me a response from all of them within an hour and by the end of the week, I received all the information I needed to complete the project.

What changed? All I did was show them what was in it for them.

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” – Henry Ford

You and I are inherently driven by self-interest so why do we assume others will be any different? The easiest and fastest way to get people to collaborate with us is by highlighting the benefits for them, not just us. Ask yourself “Why should this matter to this person?”. Then act with their interest in mind.

This article is inspired by Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. The book explains how to not just win friends, but get on the good side of most people — your colleagues, family members, business partners and anyone who matters to you.

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