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Wed, Feb

The great persuader

Are you one? You should be if you want to lead your company through difficult times. Marcus Timson of FM explains the hows and whys with these top tips.

Leadership through difficult times requires us to challenge our traditional notions of leadership. Because however difficult the prevailing conditions surrounding a leader’s business, moving forward is really important. And in order to move forward effectively, you need the ability to persuade others to come with you. Possessing strong and confident characteristics is important if you’re to do that. But don't confuse that with the stereotypical notions of what society deems to be the appropriate 'strong' leadership style.

Take Margaret Thatcher’s style of leadership. It defined an era when society was changing. She provided conviction leadership when her predecessors struggled with direction and an under performing economy. But, she was eventually sacked by the same party she had led for over ten years. Truly great leaders don't get sacked by their own organisations.

Thatcher’s style was autocratic, inflexible and self referenced. Her communication style became transactional and she ceased to persuasive. She dictated. As her career matured, her style became more egocentric and she lost sight of the bigger picture. And she surrounded herself with 'yes' men to whom she could dictate.

Great leaders don't lose sight of the bigger picture. Great leaders employ people that are more talented than them and great leaders are not egocentric. They ask advice, debate decisions, have an inclusive management style and they run businesses that outperform the average by huge leaps and bounds.

In 'From Good to Great' Jim Collins discovered, through extensive research, that companies that significantly out performed their competitors and the entire stock market, held similar characteristics despite their differing industries. Collins found that they all benefited from something he calls 'Level 5 Leadership'.

Collins describes, through painstaking research and interviews with leaders, senior directors and team members that the personality of the Level 5 leader is almost the opposite of what our society has built up as the expected 'norm'.

As Collins himself says: “Virtually everything our modern culture believes about the type of leadership required to transform our institutions is wrong. It is also dangerous. There is perhaps no more corrosive trend to the health of our organisations than the rise of the celebrity CEO, the rock­star leader whose deepest ambition is first and foremost self­centric.”

The other key element that the Level 5 leader possesses is an ability to communicate. Not just in a transactional manner like Thatcher, but in two-, three-, four-way communication. This style of communication is persuasive.

The art of persuasion is an incredibly potent skill - and one that a leader will require in order to affect change, to inspire his/her colleagues and customers towards the vision and goals of the organisation.

In order to effectively lead it’s worth considering the following thoughts about effective persuasion.

Persuasion is not manipulation

Let’s be honest. When trying to make money, it helps if you are persuasive. Growing a business is directly linked with your effectiveness when it comes to persuasion. It is an invaluable skill. And it should not be confused with manipulation. It is not forceful – it is about creating value for yourself and for the person you are persuading. Win, win, the essence of good business.

 

Be a team player

By including your team in the strategic direction of the business, you will make them feel valued and energised and that will result in great communication. An open leadership style contributes greatly towards a highly motivated and high performing team. Not only that, you get to access the most important technology you have available to you - the minds of the people you employ. But beware a lot of ‘brainstorming’. It doesn’t always get the best out of your people. Some of the best ideas may well come from the most introverted members of your team, whilst brainstorming better suits extroverts. It can be a combative arena that doesn’t always result in eeking out the best new ideas. But if you get inclusion right, then every team member will become a persuader!

Persuade the persuadable

If you have a new idea or product that you are passionate about, don’t try to convince the inconvincible. The Rogers Adoption bell chart is right. Laggards, those who move at a tectonic pace, simply don’t ‘get it’. You need to find your early adopters, get them enthused then you need to sell your concept to others. These people will in turn give you energy and faith, the fuel of achievement that will help you to reach your goal.

Be reciprocal

If you do something valuable for someone then they will feel compelled to at least give you the time of day. It’s a fact that the old adage of ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ works if it is genuine, not cynical and contrived.

Compliment sincerely

When is the last time that somebody complimented you? How did this make you feel? I would hazard a guess that it didn’t make you feel bad! A compliment, delivered genuinely is inspiring. We simply don’t compliment enough. Perhaps it’s of how we were taught. Teaching always used to be about correction. But a well delivered, well-timed and genuine compliment increases your likeability and therefore your ability to persuade.

Manage expectation

When selling something, over egging the pudding to get the sale is an easy trap to fall into. The problem with overselling is that by missing the mark, however close it was you missed, will give the feeling amongst your customers, and the wider market, that you have delivered an under-whelming performance. With persuasive skills, you could set the benchmark at an agreed level then exceed the targets of those expectations. 

Create scarcity and urgency

Buyers’ antennae are alerted when it appears that a product, service or solution is not available in lots of areas or places. Scarcity energises people, especially early adopters – those that wait in line to buy a product when it is launched, despite the fact they could walk into a store and get the very same product without the need to wait in a long queue, just a week later. This links to urgency, as it may be that there are distinct benefits to buying early. These benefits may be social status, a sense of competitiveness in that it triggers a feeling of wellbeing associated with being the first amongst friends with the latest iPhone, or it may be that there are fiscal benefits to being the first, in that the price is lower. You could use price to your advantage in terms of attracting interest and support early, by placing a deadline on the sale you are being persuasive.

Create a crowd

Once you have built your foundations of support, the next step is to create a crowd. Once you have achieved the support of your early adopters, the next set of people will respond to you if you appear to have gained a groundswell of support. Your early adopters then become your persuaders. If you are asking people to follow you, whether they are employees or they are customers, they will feel reassured the more you have people involved that they either recognise as their peers, or their competitors. Again, if a restaurant is full of people, it will attract more people.  It’s not difficult to understand that there is comfort for people in crowds. So create a crowd. It doesn’t matter how you do it – but people will buy into a product if they believe that somebody that they either respect or consider a peer or competitor has already given their green light to the idea. So create a crowd! It helps you persuade.

Energise and connect

Energy inspires and generates more energy. People buy into people that have conviction, enthusiasm and passion in their idea.  Leaders don’t have to be in a state of fervent excitement 100% of the time, but you do need to know when to turn on the energy! This natural state will exude genuine belief that the product or service is worth buying. It is persuasive. Secondly, a characteristic of successful innovators is to connect with people outside your natural circle, it sparks ideas and generates inspiration for yourself.

Be confident and certain

Believing in yourself, your vision and your product communicates confidence. Certainty is really an important factor for a buyer. People won’t feel secure if you are not robust in your communication style and presentation. This goes both for your employees and your customers. This does not mean that I suggest that you become arrogant, cocky or over-confident. These traits are a turn off. But if you are self-assured, confident and genuine, you will be convincing and more able convince others. Doubt creates doubt, and this kills the sale. But by being confident, you will be optimising your ability to persuade.

 

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