Culture of Influence: Part 1 by Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky

Influence Through Rational Persuasion

 “Win by persuasion not by force.” – Latin Proverb

 Rational Persuasion is a tactic used to influence others, both inside and outside of our culture.  It is characterized by the use of logical arguments with factual information to persuade others that a specific action will lead to a particular outcome.  Leaders, whether formal or informal, who use rational persuasion well are effective at influencing others in a culture.  Logical arguments tend to work best for people whose behavior is more influenced by thinking rather than emotion.

 How do you actually use rational persuasion?

  1. Explain why an objective needs to be met:  To get commitment for an objective, people want to know why it needs to be met and why it’s important.  Think about how you can make the objective into a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-focused, Time-bound (SMART) goal.
  2. Explain how everyone will benefit from meeting the objective:  Try to think of the other party’s often silent question:  “What’s in it for me?”  This question will be most important for people who are not tied to the organizational or cultural cause.
  3. Provide evidence that the objective can be met:  Remember, seeing is believing.  Give details, offering a step-by-step plan, of how others have met the objective.  Here too, remember that people don’t fear change, they fear loss.
  4. Explain how potential problems and concerns will be handled:  Think through what potential problems and concerns may arise and deal with them in your rational persuasion.  Do not ignore the concerns of others or use statements like:  “That won’t happen.” or “We don’t have to worry about that.”  This statements are often perceived as dismissive.  They create distance between the leader and others in the culture who s/he is trying to influence.
  5. If there are competing plans to meet the objective, explain why your proposal is better than the others:  Do your homework.  You need to be well versed about the competition.  Understand your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your competitors.

 Influence Through Inspirational Appeals

 Inspirational Appeal is a tactic used to influence others whose actions are more influenced by emotions than by logical thinking.  It is characterized by a leader’s ability to tap into followers’ emotions and enthusiasm by displaying his or her own feelings about an objective.  In order to be effective, a leader must know the followers’ values, ideals, and aspirations. 

 How do you actually use inspirational appeals?

  1. In a genuine manner, appeal to the other person’s ideals and values:  Consider the common desires of people:  to be important, to be useful, to develop skills, to accomplish something worthwhile, to be the best, etc.  Think here about your organizational cause and the fact that one of peoples’ primary drives is to belong to something larger than themselves – that is cause and that is what gives our lives significance.
  2. Link the appeal to the culture member’s self-concept:  Appeal to the personal identification of the member of the culture, as a professional or as an integral part of a team, department, or organization.
  3. Link the request to a clear appealing and aspirational outcomes:  Create a vision of how things will be when the objective is achieved:  including incentives, advancement, personal and professional growth, achievement of the organizational and personal cause, significance for the individual as belonging to something larger than themselves.
  4. Be positive and optimistic:  Make your confidence and optimism about meeting the objective contagious.  This is especially important when giving difficult, complex tasks to culture members who lack self-confidence.  Don’t forget to mention what is in it for them.
  5. Use non-verbal communication to bring emotions to the verbal message:  Remember that people interpret about 55% of any communication from what they see!  Use nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body movements, and voice tones.  Matching nonverbal cues with the verbal message reinforces the communication.

Bringing influence through rational persuasion and/or inspirational appeals is literally winning hearts and minds of those who are members of your organizational culture.  This is never more important when going through a change process or when rolling out a new initiative.  The success of an organization is often determined by how committed members of its culture are to doing the right things, not because they have to, but because they want to.  Influencing through rational persuasion and inspirational appeals are just two strategies to get the best out of the people who work with us.


Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky

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