How do you know when you have done a good job and how can you use this to influence others at the workplace?
When asked this question, people normally fall into two camps:
  • In the first, people know that they have done a good job because the evidence comes from the outside. Instead of “just knowing” that you have done a good job you need external references from others, from statistics and from other sources.

    For example, a colleague comes up to you and says “You did a great job today“. Or you might get promotion or win an award. 

    You know your work is good when you get an external seal of approval – this is called an external frame of reference.

    Ask someone with an external frame of reference how they did and they normally say “I don’t know” or they talk about “what others say”, “figures” etc.
  • The second is full of people who know themselves when they have done a good job. They do not need praise or approvals from others. They do not need awards or plaudits. Instead their sense of achievement comes from within.

    For example, you have just completed a project and you receive all sorts of favourable comments from your peers and bosses. You even receive a bonus for it. (all these are external frames of references by the way). 

    However, you feel that the project was nothing special and was not your best work – so no external references will convince you otherwise. You trust your own judgement and standards rather than others. 

How can this help when influencing others?
Well, let’s assume that you have got to convince someone to attend a training course. You might say something like “The course is just great. It’s got top awards in the Training Oscars. James and Andrew went on the course and they said that it is a must if you want to improve your leadership skills” Now, if the person has an external frame of reference this will really appeal to him or her. Why?
Well, take a look at the external references:
  • The course is just great
  • It’s got top awards from the training Oscars” 
  • James and Andrew said….
If other people and external sources say that this course is great, then that person will often assume the same. But say the person has an internal frame of reference? Well, what you said will probably not resonate at all. Remember, they are not bothered about what others think or say about the course. It just doesn’t mean anything to them.
So what do you say instead?
You’ve got to appeal to the things that he or she knows themselves. Something like this will work:
Do you remember when you came back from the leadership programme and you said that it was the best course you had ever been on? This training course might be like that. I think if you were to attend you would get the same feelings and outcomes that you had with the other one. What do you think?
Think about the situations where you need to convince someone to do something at work. Think about your team – who will you get the best out of if you use external references and who will you get the best out of if you use internal references?