I know a number of extremely successful people, and while in many ways they're very different, they all share one thing in common: They're exceptionally good at persuading other people

After all, that's what leaders do: They convince other people--for all the right reasons, because true authority is earned, not assigned--to follow them. 

Easier said than done, though. While you can develop genuine charisma, that takes time. While you can become exceptionally likable, that can also take time.

But if you want to harness the power of persuasion--if you want to help your employees understand why they should embrace a new process, if you want to convince other people your idea makes sense, if you want to show investors or stakeholders how your business will generate a return--try using one word:


Here's why. As described in Robert Cialdini's book Influence (it's great; add it to your reading list today) researchers set up a series of simple tests. They had people try to jump the line to use a copying machine. And they had participants use one of three phrases.

Test 1 

  • Statement: "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?"
  • Result: 60 percent of the people standing in line let the individual in ahead of them. (Proving people tend to say yes--or at least tend to avoid confrontation.)

Test 2

  • Statement: "I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I am in a rush?"
  • Result: 94 percent of the people standing in line let the individual in ahead of them.

Note there wasn't a great reason following "because." Sure, the individual claimed to be in a hurry...but who isn't in a hurry to get through a line?

Even so, "I am in a rush" is at least some kind of reason. Check out what happened in the third scenario:

Test 3

  • Statement: "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?"
  • Result: 93 percent of the people standing in line let the individual in ahead of them.

Yep. "I have to make copies" isn't a reason to jump ahead in line. Everyone in line needed to make copies. Otherwise they wouldn't be there. Yet almost all of them still let the individual cut the line.

Why? As Cialdini writes, "A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do."

Which is where the true power of "because" comes in: What you say after you say "because" defines your ability to persuade and influence other people.

We all love to feel that special sense of teamwork and togetherness that turns a task into a quest, and a group of individuals into a real team.

Where does that feeling come from? You--and what you say after you say the word "because."

Whenever you want the people you lead to do something--to do anything--always include the word "because."

Then make sure you have a meaningful, compelling "because" to share.

And if you haven't figured out a powerful "because," don't say anything at all--because otherwise you will be dictating, not leading.