Each day we do a little bit of persuasion of sorts. We persuade ourselves what to eat for breakfast, what tie and shirt to wear to the office; we persuade our wives to allow us to go out with the boys on weekends, our children to study well, our village grocer to give us a little discount or a traffic cop not to give us a violation ticket. These are little things we do to influence ourselves or others for an outcome we want.
Yet in the office, we balk and sell ourselves short in persuading our subordinates, peers and the people in whose hands our career success lie, that we are capable to handle higher responsibilities. We feel that selling ourselves is too self-serving, pushy or overly-ambitious.
While there are a lot of things that go into making a successful career, e.g., exemplary performance in the current position and good potential for the next, but all these do not make a whit if you cannot, in words and deeds, persuade yourself and others that you deserve a break.
Career success doesn’t just happen. It is made.
In his book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Steve Martin, a behavior expert, wrote, “Find way to persuade your customers, clients and coworkers to see things from your point of view, so they’ll do what you want them to. Whether it’s making a purchase, or agreeing to the deal you propose.”
And if I may add, “to go up the organizational ladder.”
Being persuasive and career success
Whether you are in the bottom or on the top of the organization, the bulk of your work is to influence people to gain their support on things pertinent to the objectives of the organization. It could be a project to launch a new product, or ask a colleague to stay longer to finish a deadline, or ask for help to promote your ideas to top management. All these things require a presentation of sorts, which could be an hour-long meeting or as short as a phone call.
As good as your influencing skills may be to make people see things your way, you need to persuade them to do things the way they should be done. In a sense, to be persuasive can be likened to this line in Roberta Flack’s song, “Killing me softly with his song,”
To be persuasive is an art and countless books have been written about it. Unfortunately they don’t apply across the board. Persuasion techniques are dependent on the target audience, the action you want them to make, the purpose and your personality as the persuader, among many.
I used to have supervisor who was flawless in persuading our group to hold our parties in his home for so many reasons which we took hook, line and sinker Ultimately I realized that his overriding motive was for his family to partake of our preparation. It was broken when I refused to attend in one.
At any rate, your career success is in direct proportion to your persuasive skills.
- If you are in sales, by having your suppliers deliver to you the right kinds of products when and where you want them; your prospects to buy them and your clients to keep on buying them no matter what.
- If you are in management, by persuading your subordinates to work together towards the accomplishment of your organizational goals.
- If you are in investment, by persuading your investors where to put their money in and how much, or how to diversity their investment portfolios.
Negative side of being persuasive:
I recently saw the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, a story of the legendary stockbroker, Jordan Belfort. His famous line was “Sell me this pen.” His persuasive skills are amazing. But he went beyond what is moral and ethical, his motive driven by greed and self-gratification. He ultimately ended up in prison.
Being persuasive is power. And power establishes credibility. If you intend to make your persuasive skills propel you to a successful career, keep these in mind:
1. You know what you are doing.
Don’t make people do something you, yourself, don’t know how to do or are not willing to do. It will bring disastrous results, and take your career with it.
2. You must stick your neck out:
When things go wrong, and they will, be sure to accept full responsibility, and not pass the buck. If you do, you lose your credibility and no one will believe you next time even if you cry your heart out;
3. Don’t’ ask people to jump into a well:
Your career success depends on people; people below you, around you, above people outside your organization who can vouch for you.
All these people trust in you, believe in you, rely on you and will probably even go out of their way to defend you. It is to your utmost advantage to have their welfare in mind in whatever you want them to do.
Betraying people’s interests will last long and run deep.
Edward R. Murrow, a famous American broadcast journalist said,
“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible, we must be truthful.”
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