A big part of any leader’s job is to persuade others. Sometimes it’s to get everyone on board with their vision for the organization. But often, the persuasion is more subtle, such as when inspiring an individual to strive to reach their fullest potential.
Regardless of the end goal, when leaders understand how to use persuasion in their communications, they can be more thoughtful and intentional about their language and, ultimately, be more effective. Consider these five factors to improve your persuasion skills every time you communicate.
When trying to persuade others, it is useful to begin by making sure they have the facts and information that led you to the position you are trying to champion. This can include stories and lessons learned in previous situations, data related to the current landscape, and any emerging trends that can help predict future direction. When you show people how you arrived at your vision, you have more credibility, and people are more likely to get onboard.
Timing is everything when it comes to persuading others. By considering what else is going on in the organization or in an individual's specific situation, you will find it easier to identify times when people will be more approachable and receptive to new ideas. Because gaining alignment is a two-way process, it is also often better to address specific topics face-to-face and with more time than you think you might need. This allows you to read the situation, connect with how people seem to be interpreting your message, and provide opportunities to explore the vision through questions and open discussion.
The amount of information shared correlates with the level of trust between a leader and the people they are trying to persuade. In situations where it is necessary to build trust, providing more information earlier leads to a higher degree of trust. Delivering information in digestible chunks allows time for it to sink in. Receiving information is also critical to build mutual trust, so hone your listening skills and learn how to elicit feedback.
Keep in mind that if there is a high degree of mistrust early in the process, too much information delivered too early can backfire. First address the reasons for the trust issues, and then provide more information as the relationship evolves.
When persuading others, the final outcome has to be reasonably predictable to both sides in order to get to the same conclusion. When two parties start with two different sets of expectations, the gap between them should be narrowed incrementally over time. This serves to build trust and results in an outcome that is acceptable to all concerned.
The final piece of the persuasion puzzle is mutual benefit. Ensure that both parties gain something from the decisions made and that everybody feels that the encounter was successful. As you approach the deadline or the final outcome, make sure that you can see what the other person will gain from it. Keep track of these gains and share them along the way so that it’s clear how they are benefitting from being persuaded to your view. This also helps to generate buy-in throughout the process.
Persuasion Is a Key Communication Skill
The art of persuasion is not about learning sales tactics. It’s about communicating effectively to convince others to adopt your position or share your perspective and feel good about it. By understanding what others want and need—information, time, trust, and so on—leaders can be more persuasive, whether inspiring an individual to do their best or rallying an entire organization to support their vision. To learn more about how you can be more persuasive as a leader, read our Guide to Mastering Communications in the Workplace.