How do you become a more persuasive leader? As a CEO, my power of persuasion has been tested to the max over the years. From motivating people to transform our business to negotiating acquisitions to convincing customers why they should do business with us, it’s a never-ending pursuit of getting people on board and believing in the mission.
Persuasion is an essential skill for any leader, and you must be able to share a compelling vision and inspire people to change – all without them feeling coerced or manipulated. But how do you go about doing this? I’ve used these tips successfully over the years and will share them with you.
1. Use positive language: positive language is more inclusive and inspiring than negative. While some leaders use fear-based language to persuade and motivate people, it’s not the type of high-impact, people-focused leaders use. In my opinion, this is a secret weapon and one of the most powerful tools you can have in your tool bag. It’s amazing what you can get done and inspire in others when you use positive, motivating language. Say things like “Here are the benefits when we do this together” vs. “If we don’t do it this way, here is how we will fail.”
2. Know what you are talking about: credibility matters and if you want to persuade people to see something your way or to make a change, you better be knowledgeable about what you are asking them to do. Before you try to persuade someone, make sure you know the pros and cons, the risks and rewards, and the potential tradeoffs. Speak confidently about the change you want, including the risks and the desired outcome. People are more likely to be persuaded when they perceive you as an expert and believe you have their best interests at heart.
3. Listen carefully: the power of persuasion isn’t only about convincing. It’s about listening, too. People are more likely to be persuaded when they feel seen and heard. Listen carefully to what’s being said and NOT being said. Pay attention to nuances like tone and body language. Listening will allow you to address concerns and acknowledge fears, bringing people along.
4. Ask questions: curiosity about people and their motives will help you get to the outcome you want. Why? When you ask questions, you gain a deeper understanding of peoples’ perceptions, concerns and resistance. Ask people directly about their concerns. Ask them what ideas they have. Show you care about their opinions. You might learn something that helps you move things along or gives you a new piece of information that changes your mind.
5. Be willing to compromise: give and always take matters when working on getting people on board with a new idea or change. Coming to a mutual agreement is always better in the long run. Remember, being a high-impact leader is not about always getting your way. It’s about creating a shared vision that people buy into. Compromising is how you persuade people to join you on your mission.
6. Give people space: it’s unfair and unreasonable to ask people to get on board immediately. Give them time to process and come to terms with what agreeing, or disagreeing for that matter, means to them. People often need time to process and might have questions or new feelings of resistance after sleeping on it.
7. Follow up: Rather than assume everything is good only to find out people are silently resisting, follow up. And do so proactively rather than wait for them to return to you. Give people the opportunity to ask clarifying questions or express concerns. Doing so will show you care about their opinions and feelings and want them to be part of the change.
I recently used these steps during an acquisition negotiation where emotions were high, and the ability to have a crucial conversation was imperative. I wouldn’t have gotten the deal across the line if I didn’t tap into my power of persuasion. I believed the acquisition was a win-win for both companies and that we could work through our differences. I acknowledged that there were competing interests, viewpoints, and desired outcomes. I showed up with positivity, curiosity, and a problem-solving mindset, allowing me to hear what they were saying and ultimately compromise. I gave them space to process and followed up after a few days. And we did it! The acquisition closed, and everyone walked away feeling optimistic about our future together.
To be an effective, high-impact leader, you must hone your powers of persuasion and use them for good – to move your team and company forward. When done well, persuasion can be a leader’s most powerful tool.
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