Richard’s Favorite 2015 AALL Conference Program, Influence: The Art and Science of Changing Minds


In July of this year I was awarded a scholarship to attend the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) annual conference in Philadelphia. I have always enjoyed attending these conferences, since they provide many opportunities to learn new and innovative methods for handling the day-to-day tasks of working in the law library. Many of the educational sessions are designed to help attendees improve their professional skills, not just for law library work, but also for serving in other professional roles, like serving on organizational committees, working with university administrators, and working on long-term projects, whether inside or outside the law library setting.

One of the most engaging and thought provoking sessions I attended at this year’s conference was entitled Influence: The Art and Science of Changing Minds. It was presented by Steve Hughes, founder and President of a company called Hit Your Stride, LLC., whose stated mission is, “to help people look and sound smart when they talk.”

Prior to launching his own business, Mr. Hughes spent 12 years in advertising and PR and was a managing partner at a 50-person advertising agency. He has been featured in interviews with NPR, BBC Radio, and BusinessWeek and his client list reads like a who’s who of major corporations, top law firms, and national associations.

Mr. Hughes is an outstanding presenter, with the ability to immediately engage his audience, to maintain their attention, and to deliver his message in a never-lagging delivery that informs, encourages, and challenges attendees to re-evaluate their interpersonal skills.

If there were one word that summed up Mr. Hughes message on influencing others in the workplace, it would be, listen. In every aspect of his presentation, the importance of connecting with those one wishes to influence came through loudly and clearly. To clarify that message more emphatically, not only listening, but developing empathy with ones colleagues, administrators, or clients will, in Mr. Hughes’ opinion, lead to greater success in all work related endeavors. Once empathy has been demonstrated, the path is cleared for meaningful dialogue on next steps, suggested changes, and evaluative feedback.

In a four-pronged approach, Mr. Hughes introduced the audience to concrete methods for influencing the outcome of any project negotiation, regardless of its size or scope. None of these tools are difficult to develop, they only require patience and a firm resolve.

  1. Peer Pressure: Not in a bullying sense, but pointing out to the listener that others are accomplishing success with the suggested practice and your organization is way behind for not using it. Remind the listener that they are not alone. Help them to feel a part of the group, since, as Mr. Hughes points out, “We’re all ‘wired’ for community.” We all want to feel that we’re a part of something greater than ourselves that is being successful.
  2. Commitment and Consistency: Make the request concretely and obtain verbal (or written) consent. The person will then strive to maintain consistency with their initial response. Their positive response can be further increased by obtaining multiple yeses.   Mr. Hughes used the example of a television reality show, called American Pickers, where the show’s hosts break down collectors’ resistance to parting with big-ticket items by agreeing to the seller’s price on a number of less expensive items.
  3. Mirroring: Replicate the listener’s actions, even down to physical motions (it makes them feel comfortable). Most people think they are awesome, so mimicking their movements enhances that feeling. It also helps to match their verbal speed, energy level, and to “playback” what they said, without commentary or judgement. Listening intently and taking notes will also further increase their comfort level.
  4. Progress: Provide encouragement. Focus on progress, not on the road ahead. Acknowledge what has already been accomplished, which affirms and reinforces success, rather than pointing out what hasn’t yet been done. Focusing on success gives the listener a head start on having a positive outlook toward the remainder of the project.

I found all of Mr. Hughes’ remarks to be timely, insightful, and practical, especially given the current state of change in the law library market. Being able to effectively negotiate the successful completion of proposed projects, while also building ones sphere of bankable influence, are not outcomes to be lightly dismissed. And the prospect of enhancing ones law library career, in an age when accountability has become the byword, is extremely encouraging.

In closing his presentation, Mr. Hughes expressed a great desire to continue his collaboration with the legal education community, so I would highly encourage contacting him whenever his skills may be compatible with your organization’s continuing education goals. I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.

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This entry was posted on September 11, 2015 by in Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , .

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