“I joined the navy to see the world… And what did I see? I saw the sea.” Sometimes working in risk or internal audit can feel just like that. You are there to help and to improve the way your organisation works – but very few believe you. You seek to make a contribution and some colleagues do their best to thwart your efforts. You want to get on with your real role and yet spend hours sidetracked by tricky situations. The solution is straightforward enough: be more persuasive.
A persuasive individual listens to what colleagues say and continues to question things until they understand. They explain themselves openly, believe in their own suggestions and use visualisation to help create solutions.
Say it with conviction
Listening, however, is not always easy. It requires you to hear what your colleague is saying between the words they are speaking. Taking notes can help, but a good listener will also give their full concentration and prepare by empting their head of any pre-conceptions or judgemental tendencies.
Questions are easier. It is important to also ask the ones you think you know the answers to, as the answers may surprise you. You can only explain well if you can remember what it felt like not to know what you know now. It involves putting thoughts into relevant context, seeing the subject through the eyes of your colleague and delivering a thought-provoking explanation which not only informs but raises questions.
Belief in your own solutions is essential. Every child believes they will get what they want if they express the want often enough: most succeed. Go back to childhood and believe in your success.
Visualise the meeting, stand back in your mind and see it clearly as you smile, support and persuade. See the nodding heads, recognise the agreement and enjoy the outcome. Once you have visualised it vividly, it will be easier to behave as though the outcome you seek is inevitable.
* They’re not going to like it. You could be right but if you think it, you’ll show it and they’ll do it. Instead, think positively and talk about the advantages, options and solutions within your suggestions.
* “But…” Uh oh, here it comes. When you say “but” your listeners expect negative statements so, where possible, use “and” instead of “but”. If that really doesn’t fit, end the sentence and start another one.
* They won’t do it. Possibly not, unless you show and tell them what is in it for them. If your colleagues can see an advantage such as time or cost savings, or if it seems like their own idea, they’ll do it.
* They hate us. I doubt they really feel that strongly. It’s far more likely that they feel under attack or threatened by your demands. Listen to anything they have to say before making your requests, and become more like an ambassador that brings useful business gifts rather than acting as an enemy general issuing ultimatums.
* What’s the point? It’s just more work. They may not see any good reason for replacing existing systems with those that you suggest. Instead, they see only more work to introduce the changes. It’s important to help them discover those good reasons by asking what’s positive and negative about the present systems. Demonstrate how your recommendations could eliminate the bad, while keeping the good.
* Deliberately obtuse. There’s a fair chance that some of your colleagues will not understand what you do, how you do it and why you do it. They are about as likely to own up to this as they are to look up an unknown word in the dictionary. Take the time to explain to them the valuable contribution your team can make to their team.
Jane Allen holds the IIA’s Ultimate Persuasion Techniques course.