Simplify your arguments to influence

A key skill relevant to leaders at all levels is the ability to positively influence people in such a way that others seek to follow you and act willingly —as opposed to complying with your orders because of the “authority” you hold from the organisation.  We discussed this last week as we reviewed how we could influence more using stories, emption and benefit to convince people.

Although I was not adept at influencing skills, I came to realise that influence without authority is an essential life skill and is constantly at play in the workplace. Let’s look at some of the most important things you can do to build on this core skill set to your business leading advantage.  This time, lets discuss the benefits of simplicity

Simplify, simplify, simplfy

It is the greatest challenge to simplify your complex ideas ; your toil is always worth the effort.

Simplifying your bigger picture is what it takes to get others to listen. We have all sat down to a meeting where a senior executive began with something along the lines of, “I have one hour and 120 slides so let’s get started.” Two hours later…had your attention waned?

Remember to consider your audience. For example, your staff will probably appreciate details, but your executive team may not.  Try to use graphs and pictures wherever possible to illustrate your key messages especially if you are trying to convey and emotion or a story. Avoid words on slides as this is a recipe for too much talking and poor presentations. YOu are motivating and engaging not educating… the details can come later… in a more digestible way.

Learn to Structure your points appropriately

It is important to create a good flow when pitching ideas to convince others . Points to consider for structuring your pitch:

  • Start with something that catches their attention – something you saw or heard, a story an emotion, a picture.
  • Before stating what you want, explain the problem in a way that resonates and enables to understand and empathise.
  • Only after explaining the problem and having them appreciate the gravity of the situation, tell them what you are suggesting as a solution. (This order is important, because once people begin to argue your chances of persuading them diminish rapidly. Moreover, they are more likely to argue if they do not understand the problem you are trying to solve).
  • Be sure to explain the benefits (to them)  of what you are proposing.
  • Be proactive about communicating the possible downsides of what you are proposing, and what you think can be done to mitigate them. If you don’t do this, don’t be surprised if others starts to pick your idea apart for you by focusing on the parts that may not work. We are all fantastic at knowing why things fail; we’re not so great at being positive about this.
  • If you want people do something differently, be explicit and don’t assume that people will magically know what you expected of them.

When things happen, that you don’t want to happen- Persist
I mentioned this right at the start- don’t start if you don’t want to finish. So persistence will pay off in the end. Persuasion is not a one-shot effort. Be prepared to pitch the same idea on multiple occasions using a variety of means, settings, media and with multiple improvements based on what you hear each time to individuals time and again to slowly win them over.  Remember organisations change one person at a time.

And remember…
You may not think of yourself as a salesperson. However, if your role is to influence others in a significant way you need to employ many of the same skills. It is not complicated, but takes mindfulness and careful thought, particularly when under stress and pressure. This approach can greatly increase the odds of getting your good ideas adopted.