You’ve worked on a proposal to move your business forward. You’ve put together a compelling argument supported by facts and figures. You’ve made a flawless presentation that you think could only lead to the conclusion that you’ve reached. But your audience is unmoved.
Much of my career has been around business transformation and I’ve been there. A couple of times I made flawless presentations that didn’t lead the room where I wanted them to go. Looking back on it, I must have delusional when I expected that I’d make a persuasive presentation and people would say, “You’re right Kris, we’ve been doing the wrong for years. Let’s do it your way.” What I forgot on those occasions is how much people are personally invested in the status quo, and a basic truth about influence.
That truth is that influence is a slow process. Think about it. When was the last time that someone made a brilliant presentation to you and you said, “Yes I’ve been wrong for x years, and now I see the light.” It doesn’t happen to other people either.
When people change their minds, they do it a little at a time.New York Magazine posted an article about news host Bill O’Reilly printing quotes reflecting his evolving opinion on the subject of gay marriage over nine years http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/bill-oreilly-gay-marriage-evolution-timeline.html . No charismatic person convinced him that he was wrong one day. His position shifted a little at a time.
When you’re seeking to influence someone or some people, recognize that it will take multiple conversations and that your approach with each person will have to be different. You will have to listen to each person and likely compromise to get your message across.
This isn’t to say that there’s no place for a group meeting and a flawless presentation. This can happen once you’ve moved your audience along the path of belief to the point where the your proposal isn’t a big leap for them.
In thinking about influence I think of the influencer as being like water and the person that I want to influence like rock. A massive storm won’t change the rock, but water can erode and shape stone over time. The big difference is that you have an advantage over water because you can use your intelligence and your connection to the person to to steer change more quickly.
QUESTION: What advice do you have for influencing others?
Leadership/Career Coach Kris Ishibashi works with leaders to bring together their skills, their authentic selves, and their intentions to inspire their organizations to superior performance. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation.