Leaders: Is that how you want to be seen?

I wrote some time ago about the fact that senior teams on organisations are people too. I was chatting to a group a few weeks ago about influencing organisational strategy and that sometimes the aspirational influencing techniques and the ROI figures from research won’t hit the spot. That’s because evidence helps – but people still make decisions based on emotional reactions.

I’ve seen perfectly reasonable business cases rejected because, despite compelling evidence, people just didn’t ‘believe in them’ and less compelling cases termed as ‘worth a punt’ or ‘feeling like what we should be doing’. Quite often it has depended on who is presenting and how it is presented.

The idea of the completely rational senior team is as implausible as that of the rational consumer in economics. They are a group of smart people with the same prejudices, biases and ego challenges as the rest of us. They care about how they are viewed, not just numbers.


Don’t plan around what should happen in those hallowed rooms, plan around what we know does happen.

So I think the following are valid influencing tactics

– Not doing this is inconsistent with the values that you/we keep talking about

– I’ve heard you talk about how you want to be seen as a leader who cares about x and I think that’s really important; and this would be a really good way to bring that to life for people.

– Not doing this undermines your personal credibility and ability to get other things done and I know how hard you have worked to change impressions of this team after the last x left

– What do you want your legacy to be? What type of company are you trying to create? I think this could be a key step to achieving that…

– Doing this will buy you the goodwill to do x or repair the damage caused by y

– It’s not commercially imperative but it sends a clear signal about how to approach other work/how much you as a team care about y

– I’m confident it might be award winning (Note: don’t use this too often unless you regularly land awards)

It’s not nice and fluffy, it may be slightly manipulative and it isn’t all you should rely on. It certainly wouldn’t work with all senior teams, but it should be in the toolkit.

Don’t be afraid to treat people as people – because there is opportunity to do better for people and organisations by knowing which buttons to push. A whole of market approach to influencing to get the right things done.

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