How To Win The Hearts And Minds Of Other People


How do you get people excited and engaged?

Traditional wisdom says that you have to show people what’s in it for them if you want them to join your team, support your cause, work long hours or buy your product.

Traditional wisdom is wrong.

The secret to getting people engaged isn’t about showing them why it’s good for them. It’s the exact opposite. It’s about providing people with a purpose that’s bigger than they are.

Social science research is proving what we already know in our hearts to be true: People are willing to work harder for a cause they believe in than they are for individual rewards.

That’s why soldiers face death rather than abandon their unit.

It’s why parents sacrifice to send their kids to college.

It’s why in 2001 employees at Southwest airlines, including the CEO, took pay cuts rather let anyone go.  Southwest “cut pay rather than people” and kept their enthusiasm in tact. Their motto, “Not Just a Career, a Cause.” wasn’t a meaningless platitude. It was a living breathing thing beating inside the heart of every employee.

We’ve long bought into the myth that people are only out for their own self-interest. That’s total bunk. People are desperate to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves.

That’s why I spent $54 a pair buying my daughters and me canvass slip-on shoes from Toms. We watched the video on When I learned that for every pair purchased, Toms gives a pair of new shoes to a child in need, I couldn’t get my Amex out fast enough.   I could have bought similar shoes for half that price at Wal-Mart, but I wanted to be part of the Toms “One for One™ Movement.”

Toms Shoe Banner

But you don’t need a video of your employees hand-placing new shoes on a little girl’s feet in Rwanda to motivate your team.

If you want to win the hearts and minds of your customers, your colleagues, or even your family, you need to provide them with three things:

People need to know what to do.

They need to know how to do it.

And they need to know why they’re doing it.

What and how engage people’s minds. But it’s the why that captures their hearts.

Here’s an example:

One of our clients provides IT services to small businesses. That’s what they do. How they do it is via computer consulting services, products and support. But here’s the why – They’re committed to helping small businesses grow.

“We sell IT services” is nice. But compare that to: “Small business is the backbone of America. Our job is to eliminate the IT hassles so small business owners can achieve their dreams.”

Which one makes you want to get out of bed? The first statement is internally focused; the second statement provides a larger external purpose.

A compelling “why” is how I survived as a working mother with a husband who traveled. When our kids were little and I was exhausted, I always reminded myself, “I’m raising the future President of the United States and her Secretary of State.” It sounds hokey, but it inspired me to do my best because I knew the world was counting on me.

The reason people focus on their own self-interest is because we haven’t given them anything better to care about.

Real leadership isn’t about appealing to self-interest. Real leadership is bringing people together around a purpose that’s bigger than they are.

  • I loved this article and I agree with it 100%. I have been trying to come up with something for our company to adopt. We are a Green cleaning company, but I am have a challenge coming up with a slogan. any Ideas????

  • Lisa – great message! This is the biggest lesson that sales leaders across any industry need to remember.

    Sharon – my experience has been that if you answer the “Why” question – “why are you a green cleaning company?” Your slogan will come naturally.

  • Jo McCloud

    I am always inspired by Ms McLeod’s articles! I read them and not only learn something, but feel better the entire day!

  • Jean

    Hear hear!! What a wonderful inspirational piece Lisa. Thank you. Here is ireland we are having a tgh time economically and many people are struggling – this is the exactly the sort of message we need to hear.

    It refects the rhinbking by one of my favourite inspirational quotes “Happiness is not so much in having as in sharing. We make a living by what we get. but we make a life by what we give.”

    Thank you for all your inspirational messages Lisa

  • I love this message and the simplicity with which you explained it.
    There’s a TED talk with some scientific data and anecdotes to support it as well. It’s 18 minutes, but well worth it!
    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom, Lisa!

  • Lisa – such wise words of wisdome! Love the way you think and how you are teaching others to think differently. It is true that people don’t care until they know how much you care! Keep the great wisdom coming!
    I learn something everytime I read your articles and often change the way I react to events or get the affirmation that I am already on the right track!

    • Hello, I agree about getting people to see beyond themselves. I am a member of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, and this Oct 22, We are hosting our 2nd annual “Red Door Festival”. All the proceeds from the festival go to outreach, those of us who perform in the 11 to 5 day long music, or man a children’s ride, or prepare or sell food, are volunteers. The way I have been able to get sponsors in this scary economic time, is to remind the business that this event is totally dedicated to Forsyth County’s disadvantaged citizens. Thanks,Jeanie

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