Professional Development

Give people a reason to spring into action

Yamini Naidu /

A few weeks ago, I was flying into Auckland from Melbourne. The plane was already delayed and it had taken ages to board. We had all settled in and there was a row of four seats next to me, although only three of those seats were occupied. 

A member of cabin crew approached the man sitting in the middle seat, who had an empty spot him, and said: “Sir, would you mind moving to another seat at the back, also a middle seat?”  

He looked at her with an incredulous expression – it seemed he had just got his TV settings the way he wanted them, had stowed away his things and got comfortable, and now he was being asked to move. Really, could life get any harder?

She then quickly added: “There is a couple on their honeymoon who are sitting separately, but if you sat in one of their seats, they could move here and sit together.” Everyone around him exclaimed, and he got up with a smile and a shrug of his shoulders.

The simplest but sometimes the most overlooked way to influence and to move people is to give them a compelling ‘why’. So often we get stuck into the detail, the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ and forget to start with the ‘why’. Talk about why something matters, and why anyone should care.

Check out Simon Sinek’s TED talk – How great leaders inspire action – in which he states that people don’t buy ‘what’ you do, but ‘why’ you do it.

So, in order to move people, start by giving them a ‘why’. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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