How to PERSUADE your Boss

November 1, 2013 — 27 Comments

iStock 000005187010XSmall How to PERSUADE your BossHe’s smart, quick on his feet, and he’s got power.   All attempts to persuade him have failed.  You could just give in… after all you’ve tried….and he’s the boss. If he wants it that way, fine.

But, deep in your heart you know you’re right.  You care.  It matters.  Others are counting on you. Try again and PERSUADE him to your point of view.

How to PERSUADE Your Boss

Of course, every boss is different.  Understand and play to their style.  I’ve had lots of bosses over the years, and am constantly being persuaded by those I lead.   Here’s 8 time-tested approaches to consider.

P- Private

Whatever you do don’t confront him in front of your peers, his peers, your team… you get the picture.  Take it offline.

E- Emotion

Let your passion inspire your argument, but don’t emote.  Stay calm.  Appeal to his 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 argument.

R- Research

Do your homework.  Prepare for questions.  Do the math.  Do more math.  Do the math his way.  Poke holes.  If he doesn’t like math, collect stories.  Do more math, just in case.

S- Share

Share your concern frankly.  Speak your truth.  Share why you are concerned for the business.  Have several supporting points.

U- Understand

Listen CAREFULLY.  He’s got broader perspective and more context.  Learn as much as you can.  Hear him out completely and suspend judgement.  Listen some more.

A- Acknowledge

Appreciate his point of view.  He’s likely not a jerk.  He’s got pressures too.  Understand them.  Learn all you can.  Consider… deeply.

D- Data

If you’re still convinced, bring on the data.  Build graphs.  Show correlations.  Draw pictures. Find stories.  Benchmark with the best.

E- Engage

Engage your supporting team.  For me, this usually means the finance gal… she’s fantastic… yours can be too. In my last gig it was the finance guy.  These folks are more reasonable than you think.   Convince others to care about your point of view.  Get a light murmur of whispers headed to support your cause in their own words.

Your turn… how do you persuade the boss?

See Also:

How to Give Your Boss Bad News (the DARN way)
Managing Up When You’re Down (the power of POISE)

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27 responses to How to PERSUADE your Boss

  1. What a great way to break down how to persuade your boss (or anyone!). I also think that time is key. You can’t walk into a meeting, present your stuff, and always get an immediate action as a result. Sometimes there is a need to process, have bigger discussions etc. Just because you don’t get what you want ASAP, sometimes persuasion is about putting the wheels in motion. If only there was an F in persuade I’d add after some time has passed follow-up!

    • Great point Alli! I couldn’t agree more. I was just thinking “patience”. So many times in the past, I’ve tried to convince one of my bosses to do something outside of his or her comfort zone and been disappointed with no immediate change. Next thing you know, months later, it just happens like it was no big deal. It’s like planting a seed, watering it and watching it grow…you just can’t force it. Have a great day!

  2. Alli, Totally agree with you. Sometimes it takes several tries.

  3. As I was reading this I kept on thinking, this applies to working with clients too and really in any negotiation. It always helps me to take time, be prepared, let it sit and then have the conversation. Great post to start to the weekend.

  4. Karin- as above commenter ,and namely Alli, have covered the full spectrum of persuade I find that I have little to add. The way you defined persuade from each of its letters leaves little room for addition, Karin. I would add humbly the reverse thinking. How not to persuade? Be rough, tough, bad listener, void of empathy, negative thinker, dogmatic and other evils and you (and I) shall never persuade successfully.
    Karin, you persuaded me.

  5. Karin, sorry to write again, but I remembered a story that fits with your lovely post. The story has two versions with one more polite than the other. I leave the less polite one to the readers’ imagination.
    A man offered his neighbor to buy his land for a certain amount of money. The neighbor refused by saying who dares to sell his land. The buyer kept increasing the offering price till it became very lucrative. “I offer you USD(5 million for each hectar)e”. I accept, said the selling neighbor”. “Oh- Ioffer you US$(10000) per hectare”, said the buying neighbor’ How come? You have just offered me a much higher price? Yes, I did, but I was PERSUADING you to sell. Now, that you accepted to sell it is my right to negotiate the price.
    We may go beyond the limit to persuade and then retreat.

  6. Really good post, Karin. Your suggestions will work in many areas. Of course, I really like “draw pictures.” I’ll second your comment on the financial support person. When I was leading and managing a $300M initiative, the financial analyst on the team was outstanding and was so much more than just crunching numbers.

  7. Love the way you broke down P E R S U A D E…makes a great impact. What it does is create a strategy for persuading the boss. Other items like timing, follow up, and patience could be added but formats like this help us put our thougths together so we can strategically figure out how to move forward

    Great idea!

  8. Karin- If I am carried to write again, it is because of the motivating power of this post.
    I have just remembered Jonathan’ Seagull and how the bird persuaded other birds to fly higher “those who fly the highest see the furthest”. Emotional words are magical in their persuasive power,
    A second point is the picture above. Why did you choose this one? I understand it reflects the swing from rejection to acceptance through the persuasive power. Is this right?
    Last point is that this post triggered a creative idea in my head. Soon, it shall crystallize out and I promise to share with you.

  9. Stealing this for my upcoming leadership training two… Thanks!

  10. Great post Karin. This is a technique that can work with all kinds of requests for the boss. For example, if you have too many projects, such that you need to work late every night, eventually fatigue will cut down on the quality of your work across the board. You will become more productive if you stop working at 9 each night, and if you and the boss agree in writing on your top three priorities each week. Some bosses don’t like to do this, because things come up. That is the kind of chaotic environment that leads to overwork. If you use Karin’s method, and keep at it with more data, you will be able to convince him/her to at least try it for a month.

  11. Karin, This is from my experience.

    When the follower demonstrates absolute loyalty to the leader, the leader will respond with unwavering support. This relationship does not just happen overnight. Your list contains good advice, but when it comes time to try to persuade the boss, it is too late to start practicing them. Loyalty and responding support are the result of the positive results of the relationship, in the past.

    When your boss knows, without question, that you are committed to her/his success it is not hard to get the boss’s support.

    Jimmy Collins

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