BLG Leadership Insights Features

The Two Types of Persuasion

Persuasion isn’t a knack reserved for confidence men and back-room gamblers. It’s not a tool that’s used exclusively by smooth talkers and charismatic leaders. It’s a necessary skill that leaders must understand and implement in order to get people on their side. Persuasion is a skill not an art. It can be learned and mastered without a muse.

There are two types of persuasion:

1. Tacit Approach: Has the subtlety of an informal after-thought, a side conversation, a by-the-way mentality.

2. Explicit Approach: Is thought out in advance, and the main focus of a conversation.

As a leader you have two very different strategies you can implement in order to persuade and feel out potential coalition members.

When you are communicating tacitly, you are searching for potential allies, like-minded colleagues, and people who share your basic organizational perspective. These tacit conversations happen anywhere and are seemingly impromptu. They are held over quick coffees and in unscheduled meetings. They are casual back-and-fourth’s that hint at your goals, plans, and agenda while searching for help and support. It can be a simple conversation that transpires on the street or a quick chat after a meeting in the Oval Office. The process isn’t framed and there is no time limit.

On the other hand, explicit communication is an in-your-face confrontation that’s public and defined. It mirrors negotiating and bargaining procedures. All the cards are laid on the table and the question is public, “Will you or won’t you join my coalition?” Corporations, countries, and unions use explicit communication when they sit around the bargaining table. It’s a no-holds-barred interaction that demands a question and response.

Both approaches can help leaders get people on their side, but neither are perfect. By looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, leaders can decide what their organizational needs demand.

Tacit communication chats can help leaders quickly assess initial reactions and agreements. Tacit conversations also limit the potential public rejection. Leaders who push plans on a face-to-face basis that end up failing won’t have to suffer the embarrassment of wide-spread public rejection. Purposing a plan informally and in a small organizational setting can get initiatives rolling with little personal risk.

However, the tacit approach can’t promise timely results. Rather, the tacit approach works on its own schedule and gets things done in small steps. Leaders who persuade tacitly need to be ready to make an ambiguous time investment. Further, tacit conversations are ambiguous and don’t guarantee buy-in. While a leader might assume his colleagues are on his side as a result of a tacit agreement she can be setting herself up for a bad surprise. Agreements made using a tacit approach should not be depended on or assumed solid. They are malleable agreements that are subject to breaking.

Explicit communication builds stable agreements that are public. Since explicit communication doesn’t beat around the bush leaders can rely on the buy-in it generates with more confidence. Better yet the explicit approach forces conversations to have a very specific beginning, middle, and end. Time is saved and everyone gets on the same page.

The explicit approach can be too public and demand a large spot light. The increased attention has the potential of hurrying leaders and forcing mistakes and bad calls. Worse, the added attention can back-fire and create a politically embarrassing situation. Simply because leaders state their goals and objectives doesn’t mean they will get buy-in and agreement.

Leaders need to be aware of the two types of persuasion and their inherent strengths and weaknesses. Persuasion doesn’t require hidden, indefinable, social skills, but rather a clear understanding of your organizational context and what persuasion approach is best for you.

Picture Credit: State Library and Archives of Florida

BLG Leadership Insights

The Oresteia: The Value of Compromise

In Eumenides, the final installment of Aeschylus‘ trilogy Oresteia, Orestes is tried for matricide on Areopagus, a flat rocky hill by Athens. He is tried by a jury and gets the chance to defend himself instead of falling victim to the old system of violent, tit-for-tat, revenge. The Oresteia frames the demise of a do-it-yourself revenge model to the emergence of a legal system composed of jurors, judges, and lawyers. And, if we look closely, the Oresteia can also illuminate a very important leadership lesson.

Orestes killed his mother, Clytemnestra, who killed his father, Agamemnon. Orestes is guilty of killing his mother by fulfilling his duty to avenge his father’s death. Orestes is tried by the Furies. Athena acts as the judge, and 12 random Athenian male citizens make up the jury.

Athena and the jury eventually agree that Orestes is innocent. The Furies, angered by the decision, become enraged and threaten to unleash a plague upon Athens. The Furies’ wrath and threats of retribution stand in the way of a functioning, jury-based, legal system. Without their acknowledgment of the results of the trail, the system Athena struggled to create will break apart. Athena has to enter negotiations with the Furies if she doesn’t want her new system to break apart. Leaders who have had to figure out a way to placate opposition can understand how Athena feels. It can be hard to enter into negotiations with someone who doesn’t easily accept the chartered course.

Athena first attempts to comfort the Furies. She urges them not to become angry or to bring sickness to Athens. It doesn’t work. Athena then promises the Furies their own underground place where they can sit on golden thrones near the hearth and accept sacrifices from the Athenian citizens. This doesn’t work either. Athena remains calm and sweetens her offer. She proposes that any household that wishes to be prosperous in Athens must first get the Furies permission.This works. The Furies accept Athena’s offer, become protectors of Athens, and are renamed the Eumenides, or the “Benevolent Ones.”

Orestes’ family’s tragedy ends with a new promise of hope for Athens. Not only do Athena and the powerful Eumenides promise to protect the city with their divine powers, but they have built a virtuous court to punish criminals and stop people from taking the law into their own hands.

Athena embodies reconciliation in the play; she is the strong negotiator who makes compromises without appearing weak. The old version of Athena, featured in the first part of the Oresteia, functioned as a sanctified, benevolent, all-wise arbitrator, protector of the weak, and a representative of Zeus’ will and judgment. In her new role in Eumenides she becomes a balanced, rational, and deliberate thinker and negotiator who possesses a rational eye (like her brother Apollo). She represents the ideal mixture of old and new, a combination of primal heroic ancient myth and rational modern democracy.

The Eumenides reconciles the divide between the Olympian gods and the chthonic gods, between savagery and civilization, between the primal and the rational. Athena performs that reconciliation by being fair, level-headed, and taking emotions out of the equation. She shows leaders that success happens when you can persuade opposition to buy-in once you make them important contributors to the group. As Athena proves, small concessions and making team members feel as if they are part of the group help create a sense of belonging that keeps people moving in the same direction. Further, Athena highlights the benefits of letting others contribute to the decision making process. More importantly, the citizens from Athens gain from the compromising ability of the deities. So to, do customers and clients when businesses can execute negotiations quickly and peacefully.

Photo Credit: / CC BY-NC 2.0

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6 Reasons To Negotiate

The other day we spoke about the fact that leaders should know when to negotiate and when not to negotiate. Sometimes negotiation is not just the right tactic. The question is when do you negotiate? I’d like to suggest six points that you should consider when you’re thinking of negotiating.

1. You negotiate when you share something in common.
Negotiation demands at least an inkling of common ground. Sometimes there is no common ground at all. Without common ground, you don’t have a base and nothing much to talk about. First and foremost, you need to share something in common. This doesn’t mean that you share everything, but at least you have a beachhead.

2. You negotiate when you have the time to negotiate.
Negotiation takes time, and you have to calculate if you are better off taking action without negotiation because time is against you. There are times when the delay that formal negotiations will create makes the process not worth it. Sometimes, the time invested in the negotiations may not be worth it….