Best Practices

Best Practices


Often on the job you need to persuade people to align with your views. The skill of persuasion is necessary at all levels and in all functions in your company.

Perhaps you are a sales person trying to persuade a customer to buy your product or accept a price increase. You may be a plant manager persuading colleagues to adopt safer work practices or a new division of responsibilities. Or perhaps you are a CEO trying to convince your board of directors that a new strategy should be followed.

This column is aimed at identifying some good practices in the art of persuasion.

In some of the situations above, if you are in a position of authority, you might be tempted to impose a new rule or way of working rather than persuade colleagues that it makes sense. Of course you can do that, but in general, imposing new ways of working without sufficient background and explanation can lead to slower adoption, unintended consequences and even resistance and failure.

The more important the new strategy or way of working is, the more critical it is to engage colleagues and get their buy-in. Of course you may not be able to get 100 percent buy-in from colleagues, but if you first convince some important influencers in the organization and then they assist in convincing the majority of people, the stragglers and the holdouts will eventually fall in line-or at least get out of the way.

So what are some key techniques to employ in the persuasion process?

Involving colleagues in the decision process rather than rolling out a fait accompli is extremely helpful, as you will have from the start a group of people who feel ownership of the new direction. They will be able to help you in the roll-out process and can answer in-depth questions from others.

In my experience, it is best if you have involved these colleagues in a structured process with key steps such as issue identification, options to address that issue, pro-and-con and economic analysis, risk analysis and ultimately the decision on the path forward. Make sure you involve key influencers as well as colleagues from different groups or departments that will be affected by the outcome.

Once the outcome is determined, draft a powerful document summarizing the process and describing the new path forward. You may want a detailed document to circulate to the team that was involved and a shorter and sharper document for the general population, as well as a brief news-flash article in the company newsletter or an email blitz to your own organizations leadership.

If the issue affects customers or suppliers or other external parties, I suggest you involve sales, procurement and corporate communications leadership in tailoring the communications process and documentation, including whether to post information on your company website. Be sure to solicit key questions and answers and include this as appropriate in your documentation.

Remember that as people hear about the change, they will first be thinking this critical question: Whats in it for me? They may not be able to adequately process the rest of the information until their leader can help them answer this question. In some cases it may not be easy to find a positive answer for everyone in the organization, but it is imperative that you try to do so to the extent possible.

You may need to convince people that the benefits are more long-term in nature rather than short-term, but that they are critical to the organizations success. If the strategy or new direction involves staff reductions, be sure to deal with the issues that these affected colleagues will face, such as redeployment options, severance timing and pay, and other support.

Rather than simply roll out the documents through the organization, consider doing a well-organized road show involving not only yourself but also key leaders. It is well documented that people want to hear new information through their line leadership, so be sure that these leaders understand the new direction and feel capable of supporting the roll-out process. Cover all affected parties, whether internal or external, and try to do it in a reasonably compact period of time. Give people the opportunity to ask questions and ensure the questions are gathered centrally. You may need to update the Q&A section of your documentation as you proceed.

As you lay out the new direction for your organization or team, be sure to engage not only the enthusiastic folks, but more importantly, the naysayers. It is helpful if your company culture is one that encourages dissent and discussion rather than silent disgruntlement. Engagement will allow you to hear directly the key obstacles to your projects success, identify any weak points and bolster your arguments or solutions. If you need to delay implementation in order to do this, it is usually better to take the delay and fix any real gaps in order to have a more successful implementation.

As you engage the organization, gauge not only the resistance to your new path forward but also the degree of enthusiasm you encounter and the extent to which the new strategy is really understood and internalized, and fine tune your communications plan as needed.

So now the new strategy is rolled out and implementation in progress. Your work is not yet done! Reinforce the new practices on a regular basis and through different means of communication. Be sure to gather success stories from those closest to the action, as relevant stories are always more convincing than abstract arguments and theoretical economics. Connect the new ways of working to the company vision and to organizational goals and objectives, such as customer satisfaction, technical leadership or improved profitability. Make sure there is a mechanism for capturing problems and addressing solutions promptly.

Finally, be sure to recognize and reward your organization for success in implementing the project. This can be in the form of individual rewards for those who were particularly important to success, or overall team or organizational bonuses or celebration events.

I hope this column will help you unleash your own power of persuasion!

Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. Email her at or phone (908) 400-5210.

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