I handwrote 100 postcards for a grassroots political movement to help get out the vote in Wisconsin’s recent primary. They did not support any particular candidate but encouraged voting in the primary as a proven way to increase voter turnout in the general election.

After much research, the organizers landed on this as the most effective message in their testing: Dear (Name), Thank you for being a previous voter! Who you vote for is secret, but whether you vote is public information. Vote Tuesday, April 7th.” That was it. They determined that social pressure is twice as effective at increasing voter turnout, or, as thought leader Seth Godin would say: “People like us do things like this.”

The same theory rang a bell when I was watching a PBS special. The show was sponsored by a list of foundations “and viewers like you.” It wasn’t only the wealthy that donated to PBS – their wording implied a social nudge that I should do the same.

How can you encourage the action of your audience by adding in an element of social pressure? People like us fill out their expense reports with integrity and timeliness. People like us help restaurants by getting takeout during the virus. People like us become active participants in our community. People like us put hearts in their window to show support to essential workers. People like us donate blood. People like us shop at thrift stores to help the environment. The possibilities are endless.

Instead of framing your message to talk about the benefits of the behavior, add in an inference that others are doing the action you seek. Ever since grade school we’ve worked hard to fit in. Leverage that desire to achieve some good.

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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