I just recently wrapped teaching my annual Women's Leadership course at the Hult International Business School here in San Francisco. By design, the course delves deeply into Gender Intelligence, Social Capital, and Strategic Influence. As I've shared in past posts, pursuing a leadership path, irrespective of gender, requires strength in each of these three fundamental areas. Of the three, Strategic Influence - the science and art of persuasion -- is always the most challenging to master. This is due in part to the very fact that strategic influence is experiential and needs to be practiced over and over throughout one's lifetime, with application in varying environments, to reach a certain level of proficiency and mastery. And, unless you've had extensive experience in diplomacy, law enforcement, military and/or intelligence services, chances are you have never been taught the discipline or the skills and tools involved. I was fortunate early on in my career to learn and hone these skills in an overseas environment when I worked for Diplomatic Security at the US Department of State. Further and post 9/11 I worked for Charlotte Beers who served as the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and came to deeply appreciate and learn from some of the best public diplomacy practitioners serving in our posts around the world. I have continued to develop and test these skills as my career has progressed globally from the public to private sector and I've found that strategic influence is increasingly an essential, hard skillset that too few ever focus or spend any time on.
Harnessing Your Captive Value
As I introduce the concept of strategic influence to my business school students, whether in a leadership or negotiation course, I always begin with the fundamentals. The seminal tome Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini lays the foundation by outlining the six principles of strategic influence. This is the essential must read first step in understanding the discipline. From there we explore an area that I have coined Captive Value™.
FA x SC = CV
Focused Attention x Social Capital = Captive Value™
Captive Value™ is essentially the amount of focused attention (time) multiplied by one's social capital (number of diverse, trusted relationships). Captive Value™ is a skillset that is an essential building block for strategic influence. The term captive is derived from captivate which involves "...attract(ing) and hold(ing) the attention or interest of; enchant. " A good test of captive value is the airplane seat scenario. You board a plane, sit down next to a perfect stranger, strike up a conversation. How many of us are able to get from the five minute pleasantries and perfunctory to a deeper, more meaningful dialogue on a consistent basis? Or in a networking situation how many of us are routinely able to go beyond the "What do you do?" questions and "Can I have your card?" to repeatedly building a memorable connection with someone?
Social Capital, the extent to which one is able to build diverse, trusted relationships, is essential to developing one's captive value. Social Capital, the term which was coined by the Global Mindset Institute at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, involves leveraging intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact and diplomacy. In a global career, developing extensive social capital is imperative and often a key predictor of long-term success. I have found in my own global experience that there are several practices to unlocking social capital and thereby amplifying one's captive value:
Three Keys to Unlocking & Mastering Captive Value
- Active Listener - True engagement and effective communication begins with active listening and asking the right questions.
- Active Learner - Constantly nurturing a sense of curiosity and wonder while building upon one's diverse internal knowledge database with insights in addition to and outside of one's professional scope. Active learners, especially those who are open-minded and genuinely curious about others and their surroundings, are universally attractive.
- Awareness & Consistent Application of the 3 Rs -- Respect, Relationship, & Reaction - In any new environment that one wants to influence it is essential to begin by observing and adapting before you begin communicating. From there communicate from a place of respect, focusing on the relationship not the transaction. Extreme self-awareness is essential throughout, as your reaction (body language, nonverbal cues) to any given stimuli can immediately halt the development of trust and divert attention.
Talent Borrows, Genius Steals
Developing captive value will prove instrumental in both professional and personal pursuits, particularly if you live and/or work in a cross-cultural environment. One of the best ways to build on your captive value is to be more aware of what and who most influences you. What is it about their style, approach, body language that you find attractive and most persuasive? I've gleaned numerous captive value insights and tactics from the public diplomacy practitioners, law enforcement officers, and corporate diplomats I've been fortunate enough to work with over the years. Ask yourself who in your inner circle repeatedly achieves a high rate of captive value in social settings. What do they do differently and how do they influence you and your peer group. One of my former bosses was famous for saying, "talent borrows, genius steals", meaning if you are more aware of what influences you and make note of something that you've found deeply influential why not take that approach and make it your own?
Indeed. Invest in your captive value to unlock and expand your influence.