Persuasive Communication

I am a big fan of Jagjit Singh. 20 years back, I got a chance to attend one of his concerts in New Delhi. More than the excitement of listening him live; it was the prospect of getting face to face with him which energized me. I went to concert hall with two clear objectives, a.) I will make him sing couple of my favorite Ghazals and b.) I am going to meet him and talk to him face to face.

One hour into the concert and the maestro started inviting requests. I did the polite act of sending few hand written notes of my requests through organizers. I waited with abated breath for next hour or so for maestro to belt out my favorite no.s but he did not obliged. I lost patience. Just when he finished one of his popular no.s, I shouted at top of my voice requesting him to sing my request. Such loud and vociferous was the request that the whole concert hall burst into laughter. Maestro too giggled and relented, first objective was met.

During mid-break, I went to one of the organizer lady and asked her to put me face to face with the man. “Wait till concert is over” was her curt reply. I pleaded, told her that he may just walk away but she was adamant.

When the concert was nearing end, I moved three rows towards the stage and just when maestro signaled curtain to be drawn, I ran towards the stairs to stage. The same lady organizer ran towards me signaling me to get off the way. “Don’t you even think of trying to stop me. You are not going to succeed” was my reply. Such was the conviction in my voice that she stood aside and I was right there standing in front of my Idol. Second objective was also met.

On both occasions, I believed that it was a classic case of persuasive communication. Tried and conventional ways had failed and unorthodox and perhaps mischievous ways and means were adapted to convey the message. In both cases, strong and unconventional communication influenced behaviors, beliefs and acts of people involved and in process end goals were achieved.

20 years down the line I realize how wrong I was.

People who execute spend at least 70% of their time communicating. Even with 70% of the time spend on this important activity, at times managers are fraught whether or not they have communicated well. Whenever we apply root cause or 5Y analysis to a failure, 80% of time it comes out that the belief that proper communication was done was, at some stage, an illusion.

In last post we discussed about the importance of Human Assets. Taking same forward, we need to acknowledge that Management cultures are changing at fast pace. The key ingredient for success of a business is that it has to be people centric. Due to technological changes, people are expected to work harder than ever. They need to be more informed, more in control and more in action than ever before. This implies that the management and the people who execute need to be connected at a different level altogether. If, in today’s scenario, business need to perform exceptionally well to be successful than people who execute need to execute more effectively which in turn means that management needs to be more supportive than ever.

Gone are the days when “Familiarity breeds contempt” was believed, staff was in awe of management and was spending most of their time worried about their jobs, position or future as they were not kept aware what was going on. Now people are more informed and can take better decisions and constructive communication has become the key to good management.

Constructive communication is a two way process, rather it has to be circular process as it has to flow upward, downward and sideways. And to bring effectiveness to this circular process a bit of persuasion has to be added.

In a passage from the celebrated book “Freedom at Midnight” Lord Mountbatten fumes with anger when Sardar Patel encounters him with an orthodox and one way communication technique – A written Memo. A deep study of the book reveals that Lord Mountbatten was able to execute the difficult task he was given just because he broke all conventional methods of communication and overhauled entire contact mechanism in Indian Administration.

In these trying times, to be successful, one need to redefine all conventions and influence deep rooted attitudes of the people in a big way. This is where, constructive and persuasive communication plays a big role. Attitudes can be changed through persuasion and a changed attitude can bring about a sea change in performance of business.

In times of stress, the most common mistake a manger does is to express a state of hopelessness to team down the line. The feeling of “Nothing is well” is contagious and it soon becomes a force to reckon with. Once this feeling makes its home in minds of people and is not tackled, it will die only with exit of people. In such case it will create whirlpool effect in business. Such a feeling is nothing but negative persuasion. Whilst positive persuasion can do wonders, negative persuasion can spell doom.

Many a times persuasion is seen as a straightforward process where the manager

a.)    Makes a strong statement – This is often done with a strong undertone of position of authority in the organization

b.)    Presents supportive arguments – often backed up with sea of data

c.)     Engages in aggressive discussions without obtaining agreement of others

Whilst doing so, it is a strong belief that either the position, authority, charm, enthusiasm, logic or persistence will work. Unfortunately it does not.

The only thing which can effectively work in persuasion is negotiation. This has to be coupled with knowledge sharing and learning and it cannot be done in a jiffy. It is a time consuming process.

Persuasion is nothing but a technique of influence. Through persuasion, people are guided towards an idea and are cultivated with an attitude. Persuasion is a problem-solving strategy, and relies on “appeals” rather than force. It is best carried out or actioned out by rational and symbolic and quite often by unconventional means.

Crudely persuasion can also be defined as manipulation. The catch here is that this manipulation is with an intention of benefit of all involved.

In today’s scenario all communication has to be persuasive. However a clever manager will stay away from negative persuasion. Goals cannot be achieved and targets cannot be met in today’s scenario by instilling fear in minds of people. People do not take cognizance of threats anymore. In today’s times a caring management is considered as just an adequate management. People are pro-active and in order to be effective, management today need to have high visibility. Dissemination of information through E-Mails, Phones, Internet is fast, quick, accurate and accessible than ever before.

To take advantage of above, topline managers should exercise clear and purposeful communication. With this clarity, they will be able to make people feel important and realize the importance of work they are doing. This in turn will remove many obstacles in line of performance. This setup, when nurtured properly and is supported with a good upward communication system builds massive support system in the organization.

For persuasion to be effective one need to establish his credibility, bring about a commonality in ones, organizations and peoples objectives, do an honest attempt at knowledge sharing and has to bring about an emotional pitch to the exercise. The last part is important but if overdone, can be counterproductive.

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About bsbasan

Professional with over 20 yrs of experience managing business. A strategist, A thinker and an innovator. Experience in cross sectional functions in various industries like Chemicals, Apparels, Retails,Hospitality, Construction, Manufacturing, Services. Proven experience in Business Development, P&L,Finance, Risk Management, Strategic planning and organizational transformation. 20+ years record of success managing corporate finance & business operations for growing manufacturing companies with multistate and international operations. Made break-through improvements in business processes utilizing lean methodologies and Six Sigma principles. Currently designated as Chief Executive Officer of Texport Syndicate India Limited
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