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Winning people over to your ideas

How can I persuade others and influence change at work?

MARCH 03, 2014, KADENA AIR FORCE BASE, OKINAWA--Dr. Brent Duncan conducted a persuasion skills workshop for the 18th Force Support Squadron Maintenance Support Group today. As part of the 18th MXG Leadership Pathways series, the workshop titled

"Winning people over to your ideas" focused on the following objectives:

  1. To assess personal persuasion styles
  2. To explore concepts and strategies for influencing change through persuasion
  3. To identify approaches for influencing change from the bottom up

Exploring the importance of political skill as a predictor of individual performance in organizations, Duncan integrated concepts from social psychology, marketing, public relations, leadership, change management, and neurology to identify practical research-based practices

For the workshop slides and notes, point your browser to the following link:
Workshop slides: Winning people over to your ideas>

for persuading others and influencing change. After conducting a persuasion style assessment, the group considered changes they might make in their personal behavior to increase effectiveness of their persuasion skills.

Duncan introduced the group to episodic change processes, showing how change agents insert and leverage cognitive dissonance to drive change in people and organizations. He emphasized that episodic, or revolutionary, change processes can be effective for influencing urgent changes, but can generate strong resistance and pain.
Duncan recommended favoring continuous or evolutionary change strategies to influence constant adaptation. Using continuous change strategy, change agents influence internal adaptations to a turbulent environment by redirecting and shaping behaviors, fostering creativity, encouraging learning, and helping others recognize the benefits of adapting.

From the theoretical foundations, the group considered practical applications of research-supported practices. Giving his own spin to popular persuasion models like Shall and Moussa's "Woo", Ducan encouraged the audience to use a problem solving approach to help others recognize a disconnect between the status quo and the desired state, support ideas with research based analysis, and focus proposals on benefits to others. Integrating change management theory, he emphasized the importance of conducting a political assessment to identify risks and create a guiding coalition. "Finding allies prior to floating new ideas can strengthen the proposal and facilitate change if the proposal is accepted," he said. Also from change management theory, he encouraged the audience to identify obstacles and develop tactics for dealing with resistance, including leveraging resistance to influence faster change.

Applying concepts from public relations and marketing communications, he said the next step in persuasion could be to present ideas in a compelling way that gets to the point, identifies the problem, presents the solution, builds proposals on research, and explains why the idea is beneficial to the audience. Emphasizing that "yes" is only the first step in influencing change, he discussed the importance of developing communication strategies at the individual, group, and organizational levels of analysis. Finally, he discussed how even the best ideas may need time to germinate, so it is important to know when to back off and wait for a better opportunity.

Often, if the idea is right, he said, those most resistant to your idea may eventually come up with the idea themselves without remembering the source. "You may find that some bosses tend to propose as their own your ideas that they rejected last week," he said. "The old adage popularized by Dale Carnegie still applies: The best way to pursuade others is to let them think it was their idea in the first place. If it's the idea and not the credit that's important to you, you might be able to leverage this often predictable phenomenon to allow someone with authority to push your ideas that he rejected last week."

The group concluded by discussing the key concepts they learned from the workshop that they could use to increase their ability to persuade others and influence change. Among the key ideas were: persuade don't sell; understand the problem; support ideas with research; leverage cognitive dissonance; create shared meaning; focus on benefits to others; develop emotional intelligence; be patient (know when to retreat and wait), and; be an agent for change.

For the workshop slides and notes, point your browser to the following link:
Workshop slides: Winning people over to your ideas>