The Power of Persuasion

No longer is there a need for the leader who is rarely seen and even more rarely heard. I believe there are opportunities to lead from wherever you sit in your organization. This blog post, however, is focused on those who are decision makers and are responsible for outcomes as a result of the actions of their employees.

Persuasion, defined as a process that changes attitudes, beliefs, opinions, or behaviors; may be the single most powerful skill a leader may possess. Creating a desire enveloped in enough credible data to sustain the desire long enough for a group of people to take action will provide the preferred outcome. This provides a leader the ability to shift and transform employee groups and, ultimately, company cultures.

So, why are some leaders more persuasive than others? Today’s workforce is made up of employees who no longer just ask, “What should I do?” They also ask, “Why should I do it?” This supports a case for why persuasion is more critical than ever. Leaders who practice these skills are much more engaged with and trusted by their employees than those who merely present data – the old ‘command and control’.

There was a time when persuasion was considered a sales tool and defined as merely manipulation. That is no longer the case. Persuasion is a skill based on a process of learning and negotiation that leads to a shared solutions-driven outcome.
While, in theory, this appears doable, below are five steps in establishing and strengthening your personal power of persuasion.

  1. Build Credibility – true leaders must be seen as having deep expertise. They must use sound judgment and be well informed. In addition, they must cultivate and nurture strong relationships. If you develop a reputation for working towards what is best for others, you will build trust and confidence.
  2. Find Common Ground – in other words, know your employees and the culture in your workforce. People are motivated when they connect with an issue on an emotional level. When a leader considers the employee perspective prior to delivering a message, it provides an opportunity to revisit the shared advantages.
  3. Use Imagery – in order to inspire your employees to follow you, you must capture their hearts and minds. Providing only conceptual data and words, your message may be short-lived. On the other hand, if you use words that evoke vivid pictures and describe how it will feel to achieve the outcome – you will build an alliance.
  4. Connect on an Emotional Level – this is certainly not new, motivational speakers do this all the time. Matching the tone of your emotion to the ability of your audience to receive your message. Do your homework and research how previous events have been received. Due diligence will prepare you for how your message may be interpreted and assist you in crafting a message that will be best received.
  5. Remain Self-Aware – while it is important to know as much as you can about the culture in your organization and the people, as a leader, you must remain aware of your own behavior. As important as knowing how your employees will perceive your messages, leaders must remain aware of personal motivation. In positions of power, leader’s words are powerful and often are the catalysts for change. Understanding what triggers you, as the leader, to take action for change will give you a deeper and wiser understanding of your employees. Vulnerability and humility are strengths that will provide balance and clarity.

As you prepare to deliver a message of change, bad news or even celebration, take the time to craft a compelling and persuasive story that will leave your employees knowing they have the right person at the helm.