AB Thinks  →  20th May 2021

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way

AB Thinks

Katie Macaulay’s guest for Episode 48 of The Internal Comms Podcast is one of the world’s leading behavioural science experts: Will Leach.

The founder and CEO of two businesses, The Mindstate Group and TriggerPoint, Will has more than 25 years’ experience of applying behavioural design to marketing.

He is also the author of best-selling book Marketing to Mindstates: a practical guide to applying behavioural design to research and marketing.

In this unmissable episode, Will explains how his chosen field can influence our thinking as internal comms pros.

Here are our top takeaways.

#1 Effective communication requires an understanding of peoples’ mindstates
You make on average 35,000 decisions on any given day, and you do cost/benefit analysis on very few of them. That’s why communicators need to understand mindstates. A mindstate is not a personality; it is not a segmentation. I am more complex than a segmentation: I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m an entrepreneur, I go to church, I like tennis. I have all these different roles, responsibilities and aspects to my life. When you speak to these mindstates, you are much more likely to increase peoples’ emotional arousal, excitement and interest. And in these moments of temporary emotional arousal, they’re more susceptible to influence. Whether it’s marketing, whether it’s parenting, whatever it is that you’re trying to do, these moments matter. So don’t look at your employees as ‘they are a manager in HR’ or ‘they are in IT’ – that is one small element of who they are. The more you understand them as a whole, the more engaged they’re going to be, the more loyal they’re going to be and the more supportive they’re going to be of you, because you understand them at a much deeper level.

#2 To really grab employees’ attention, link your messaging to their aspirational goals
People are vying for your employees’ attention all the time – social media, advertisements, telephone calls – and the human mind has created a very sophisticated filter for the vast majority of these distractions. The way to get through that filter is to understand somebody’s goals, because goals help the human mind to focus. There are two types of goals: functional goals and higher order aspirational goals. A functional goal is something like, ‘I want to be a manager’, or ‘I want to be able to leave at 5pm’ – things they can rattle off easily. When you talk to those functional goals, they don’t hold people’s attention. What holds people’s attention are their higher order aspirational goals: things that are important to them at an emotional level. The employee may say something like, ‘If I have a job that allows me to be my best self, then I can fulfil my dream of one day owning my own company’. When you message to that aspiration, their subconscious says, ‘you’re speaking to me, and who I am’. It’s so important to understand the aspirations of your employees, either collectively or as a unit, because if you know their aspirational goals, you can modify conversations and link their aspirations to your policies, procedures and internal systems. It focuses people’s behaviours.

#3 Where and how you conduct your engagement survey will affect the results
Research shows that where you vote impacts how you vote. Context matters. So, whether we know it or not, who we’re with and where we are impacts us when we make decisions. That’s why it’s really important, if you’re going to do research, to assess that research in that context. When I was at PepsiCo in 2012, we made a decision no longer to conduct marketing research inside a focus group facility, because people in a sterile environment or in an environment they’re not familiar with will say what you want them to, versus what they really believe. That discovery changed everything we did in research.

#4 Be a mentor and hand down the torch to the next generation
My goal is for my great grandson to look back and say, ‘What great grandad Will thought about marketing research was wrong’. I want people to build on my work to the point where, in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years from now they say, ‘He thought he knew what he was talking about, but he didn’t’. That’s when you know you’re a great mentor – if they’ve taken your idea, and built so much on top of it that you’re no longer relevant. When you’ve done that, retire, because you did what you’re supposed to do. You advanced the world a little bit and you got the hell out of the way.