I often begin webinars and teleseminars with quotations related to the topic of the session, and then tie those thoughts to the larger purpose of the learning experience. I’ve decided to do that here this week around the important topic of persuasion. I hope you enjoy this slightly different approach. If you do (or if you don’t), let me know by sharing a comment below.
“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” – Aristotle
Aristotle is reminding us of the importance of leading by example. If you want to persuade your children to be readers, turn off the television and pick up a book. If you want to persuade your team to apply what they learn in training, ask them to hold you accountable for what you are applying from the training you attend. If anything, Aristotle stops short when he says character may almost be called the most effective means. When there is time for observation, I’m pretty sure it is the most effective means.
Question: Are you living what you are persuading about?
“Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.” – William Bernbach, Advertising Executive
I am a student of marketing, both as an interest and as a business owner. Perhaps for this reason this quotation interests me. But it raises at least two important points for all of us as leaders.
- We can learn much about persuasion and how to do it more effectively by watching and reading good advertising. Here is just one example: While you might not want to adopt the intonation or pacing of the best late-night TV infomercials spokesmen, there is a reason why they do things the way they do – it persuades. Your context is different and so the subtleties are different, yet the components and order of their pitches are well planned and strategically created. To think there is nothing you can learn from them is short-sighted at best and, well, ignorant at worst.
- While there is much science (and a ton of great recent books that write about that science), there is also art. As you observe, read and watch great advertising, look for both the art, and the science behind why it works, and then translate that to your persuasion work as a leader.
Question: What can I learn about persuasion from the advertising all around me?
“I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Persuasion, in the end, is about the other person making a decision. Eisenhower knew this and expresses it well in this quotation. It is especially powerful that this idea is shared by a highly decorated and successful military officer. Why? Because often the command and control, dictatorial, “my-way-or-the-highway” approach to leadership is attributed to the military (and the military is used as the reason why this approach works best).
Not even close.
Persuasion isn’t (at least as we are talking about it) about power, coercion or force. It is about understanding, exploration, stimulation, and ultimately, choice.
Scare tactics might work for a bit, and the same goes for manipulation, but especially when you are persuading people you will continue to interact with, your persuasion techniques have to have a trust component to them. Burn me once, shame on me. Burn me twice… and I may not be around long.
Question: What is my typical approach to persuasion?
“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.” – Dean Rusk, U.S. Secretary of State
Too often we think about great persuaders as people with the gift of gab or a silver tongue. While having the right words helps us persuade others, as Secretary Rusk suggests, listening is just as powerful when trying to persuading others.
Think about it – how do you feel when someone (really) listens to you? Do you feel more important or acknowledged? Does the trust that you feel for that person grow? Are you more willing to listen to them in return? I’m betting your answers are all a resounding yes.
Do you want to be a more persuasive leader?
Shut up and listen.
Question: How well and how often do you listen?
“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.” – Edward R. Murrow
And let’s not forget this important point either. Trust raises our ability to influence and persuade others, and trust has honesty at its foundation.
While this month we have talked a lot about the importance of passion on your persuasion, it isn’t the only factor. Honest communication matters.
Persuading in a relationship of trust accelerates and eases the persuasion process significantly.
Remember too that beyond being honest, the other person must believe we are telling the truth. I’m sure Edward R. Murrow and his successor Walter Cronkite told the truth. At least as important to the persuasion of others was that we believed they were telling the truth.
Question: Am I as truthful as I need to be?
I challenge you to take one of these quotations and reflect on its meaning and message for you specifically – then apply that message to your persuasion efforts.