Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

The Delicate Art Of Persuading Your Boss


The following is a guest piece by Karin Hurt.

You’re got a brilliant idea to transform the business. Or maybe you’re just trying to stop the stupid train from rolling over the great work your team has done over the last year. You make your case to your boss, but she’s not convinced. What next?

There’s the camp that would say back down, after all that’s why she get’s paid the “big bucks.” Be a bobble head and nod in agreement– after all, push-back could hurt your career.

The kissing-up sort would take it a step further and remind the boss how brilliant she is for setting you straight. Sadly, I’ve seen such fear-based agreement happen at all levels of the business.

Real leaders take a step back and get serious about the persuading.

Why It’s Tricky
It’s possible your idea is brilliant and your boss needs some real persuading. In that case if you “let it go” your customers, employees or shareholders would truly suffer.

On the other hand, your boss may really know best.

In either case, it’s likely she…

  • Needs more details
  • Has competing priorities
  • Cares about the business
  • Wants you to succeed
  • Is dealing with pressures you don’t understand
  • Has information she isn’t at liberty to share
  • Is trying to convince a boss too

Tips for Persuading Your Boss (the P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. model)
With this in mind, it’s important to take a strategic approach to explore the issue more fully and make your case. Don’t just jump into these conversations. A calm, well-planned approach will help convince your boss to do the right thing.

1. P – Private
The more controversial the idea, the more important this first competent becomes. Your best incubator for convincing is a quiet private setting. Whatever you do, don’t confront him in front of your peers, his peers, or your team.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get others involved at some point. Just remember you want to make it as comfortable as possible for her to change her mind without an audience.

2. E – Emotion
Let your passion inspire your argument, but don’t emote. Stay calm.

If you’re truly passionate about the cause, it’s easy to let your emotions get carried away. I’ve seen really strong cases derail because they were delivered with an intensity that sidetracked the conversation.

Appeal to heart and mind, but don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. It might help to tell a story, but think it through first. Overly emotional appeals will weaken your position.

3. R – Research
The urgency of the situation, may lead you to come to the conversation underprepared. Don’t fall into this trap. Do your homework. Prepare for questions. Do the math. Do more math. If math isn’t her thing, collect stories and other evidence to support your cause. Talk with other key stakeholders and get their point of view.

4. S – Share
Once you’re prepared, speak your truth frankly. Start with the business impact and explain why you’re so concerned. Be sure you say all you must. You don’t want to walk away feeling like you should have shared more.

5. U – Understand
This is the hardest, and likely most important step. Listen CAREFULLY to her point of view. She’s got broader perspective and more context. Learn as much as you can about what’s behind her thinking. Hear her out completely and suspend judgment. Pause before responding. Allow for some silence between thoughts to ensure she can say everything you need to hear.

6. A – Acknowledge
Thank her for sharing. Appreciate her point of view and the pressures she’s under. Invite her to continue to share with you as you grow in your leadership.

7. D – Data
If you’re still convinced of your position, ask for the opportunity come back with more data: do more homework; build graphs; show correlation; draw pictures; find more stories; benchmark what others are doing.

8. E – Engage
If you haven’t done so already, engage your supporting team. The finance guy or gal is usually a convincing choice. Ask if you can bring one or two well respected players along to the next meeting. This is also a good time to engage the “squeeze play.” Encourage others to whisper their thoughts on the issue to your boss or their boss to support the cause in their own words.

Your Turn
Which elements of the P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. model do you find most useful. Share your stories of you’ve you persuaded you boss (or have been persuaded by your team).

Karin Hurt is an experienced leader, speaker and writer, a former Fortune 15 executive and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. Karin is the author of “Overcoming an Imperfect Boss” now available on Amazon. Connect with her on Twitter: @letsgrowleaders.

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