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Patricia B. Robinson President, Mead School and Office Products Division Jay Conger returns the word "respect" to corporate America's lexicon. His insights are integral to motivating and keeping the smartest and most talented people in an organization.
Michael J. Powers Vice Chairman of Professional and Organizational Development, Ernst & Young LLP Persuasive leadership will be the key to success in the twenty-first century — for individuals and organizations. It is an easy concept, but subtle and difficult to execute well. Conger brings the topic to life. The examples are compelling and the guidance is powerful and practical.
Mike Yerington President, Western Union Commercial Services If you want to be a master leader, read Conger's book. He identifies and explains the techniques that teach leaders effective, motivating, and compelling communication. As a leader, [Winning 'em Over] will radically redefine your style and prepare you for the future.
Marie L. Knowles Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, ARCO Business leadership is a team sport. Nobody knows how to fire up a modern business team like management guru Jay Conger.
Steve Nielsen Managing Director of The Leadership Institute, Federal Express Persuasion is no longer something that should be left to "sales professionals." It's important to understand what Jay Conger already has a firm grasp on: the ability to persuade and sell ideas has a direct link to leadership. Winning 'em Over confirms my belief that effective leadership has less to do with power and position and much more to do with building relationships, caring, serving, and communication.
Roberta W. Gutman Vice President of Global Diversity, Motorola In the global business environment of today, the skills outlined in this book will be critical. Conger's "straight talk" on the subject and his numerous examples make leading with persuasion easy and enjoyable.
Welcome to the Future
Let's begin with the parable of Jacobson and Eeene. Mike Jacobson was known in the company as a real comer. He'd quickly risen up the ranks to senior management and at forty-five was in line for a vice presidency. In what was clearly a prelude to that promotion, Mike had been put in charge of the company's new-product development team.
It was a crucial assignment. The team was created in response to competition from companies who now were able to introduce three times as many new products as Mike's firm could. Over the last two years, these rivals had been like sharks, chewing off some 4.5 percent of the company's market share. The team's meetings, unfortunately, had not been going well. And today was no different.
The big issue before the meeting was how to design the next generation of the company's Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), a small, handheld computer that could take notes, send faxes, and receive e-mail. If the new model succeeded in the marketplace, it could reverse the company's downward slide. The question was, how fancy should it be?
Mike was from marketing, and he'd been arguing that to attract customers the PDA should have lots of new features. But no one had seemed to be listening. The team's attention was fastened upon Peter Keene, the recently appointed manager of production. Peter was emphasizing low price and snafu-free production; he believed the product should be simple and stripped down, with fewer features. To Mike's dismay Peter seemed to be not just winning the debate but emerging as the team's real leader. He wasn't doing it on purpose; it was just happening.
"The guy is some kind of genius," Mike thought to himself. Peter had this uncanny ability to get his point across.
Mike glanced at his watch. The meeting had been underway for twenty-one minutes. It was time for him to intervene, time to try once again to assert his view. He was sure that by virtue of his position as team leader and the force of his personality, he could make the discussion finally go his way.
He cleared his throat. "Look, people," he announced. "I want to say something here." A few faces turned in his direction, but the others looked straight ahead or down at their papers. "What we have to do," he went on as forcefully as he could, "is to find a solution that's right for the customer. The customer is number one. So I want to restate my position. The customer wants more features, not less. You guys are headed down the wrong path."
He sat back, expecting agreement. It didn't come.
"Hey, folks," he said, a faint note of desperation audible through his self-assurance and attempted humor. "I know what I'm talking about. I am the marketing guy here, and this is a marketing issue."
The people at the table waited in embarrassed silence until they saw that Mike was finished. Then they resumed their discussion about which product features could be dropped and still keep the customer happy.
Mike was stunned. They were treating him as if he'd said something very out of place. He tried to maintain his composure, but inside he was anxious, his chest was tightening. He'd been snubbed and ignored like this at several of the meetings. Had he lost his touch? What was happening here? Why weren't they listening? For the first time in his life he began to have thoughts of failure. What if, under his leadership, the team came up short? He'd be nailed for letting down the company in its time of crisis, and for disappointing the boss who'd given him this chance.
Several months before, when it had become clear that the firm's competitors were ravaging its markets, Mike's boss, the vice president of marketing, had decided it was time for a radical approach. Friends of his who were executives at other companies had given him glowing reports of how effective cross-functional teams could be in speeding up product development. The concept was sweeping the business world. Many management experts hailed it as the only way for a company to organize if it wanted to compete effectively.
Typically, these teams were composed of employees from a variety of company divisions, such as research and development, marketing, and production, along with representatives from the firm's suppliers and occasionally its customers. Team members came together as equals, not as superiors and subordinates, and together they shaped decisions from the very start of a new product.
This contrasted markedly with the way decisions used to be made. In the past, each division took charge of a certain phase of a product's development, handing it off to the next division. Research and development might suggest the initial idea. Engineering would design it. Manufacturing would make it. Marketing and sales would find the customers for it. This traditional approach — passing work sequentially from one department to the next — took considerable time. One group's work could be drastically revised by the next group, which stirred up resentment and caused inefficiencies.
Mike's boss had persuaded the company to try the cross-functional technique. Then he named Mike, his protégé, as the team's formal leader. The job, he knew, would give Mike important new management experience and high visibility in the company, setting him up for a major advancement.
Mike's team's first assignment was to hustle along the Personal Digital Assistant. The product had been languishing for more than a year in the research department. Now it was given top priority. If handled right, it could turn the company around. Mike knew that as leader of the team that accomplished the coup, he'd be springboarded into the executive suite.
That's how things looked to Mike when he signed on. Instead the opportunity was fast becoming a nightmare.
From the first meeting the team process had been difficult for Mike. He'd managed subordinates successfully for fourteen years, but this team was something else, especially the younger people. They'd seemed a lot harder to motivate.
His customary procedure in meetings had always been to begin by inviting everyone to participate in the decision making. His theory was that if you involved people to a point, they'd let you have your own way. Sure, it was a manipulation. He didn't care that much about getting their input. He was going through the motions. The gambit usually had worked for him. He'd been able to direct decisions in the end.
So in this, his first experience with the cross-functional team approach, he'd used the same tactic. At the initial meeting he'd gone around the table asking for views, and then he'd declared his own. That should have been that. But, for some reason, it wasn't. In the next forty minutes the group systematically plucked away many of the features Mike had earnestly promoted. It was as if he'd never spoken.
Mike felt he had to do something to turn this group around. If he didn't reestablish himself as the leader, he'd be disgraced. It was time, he told himself, to lay down the law. His career, after all, was on the line.
He squared his shoulders and placed both hands on the table. Just as his hands touched the wood, there was a lull in the conversation, and he moved quickly to take advantage of it.
"Okay," he said, "hold on just one minute. We're getting way off track. I want you guys to listen up for a minute." The expressions on the faces seemed less than receptive. "I am the team leader here. And Peter," he said, turning toward Peter, "I think you are just plain wrong. This is not a cost issue. You're going to kill this product before it ever gets out the door if you nickel-and-dime it with costs."
As he continued he gradually raised his voice. "We have to add features. Look, I want to go over again what customers are telling us. Remember what I said earlier about the focus groups...."
The team sat patiently as Mike explained his perspective point by point.
"And that," he said emphatically in closing, "is what we've got to do."
Once again there was a pause, and then the conversation resumed its previous course, the course that Peter had set. It was as if Mike had never spoken. Baffled, slightly panicked, he asked himself what was wrong. He'd been a leader all his life. In high school he'd been class president, in college the head of his fraternity. At the company he had won promotion after promotion. Now, it seemed, he couldn't even run a meeting. Maybe he'd just been lucky all his life and now his luck was running out.
As he looked around the room, he reminded himself that no one here was his subordinate. Few of these people had a vested interest in his leadership, let alone his career. His formal title didn't make much difference to them either. These people were more or less his peers. How could you lead people if they were your equals? It seemed a contradiction.
His mind raced through the handful of management books he had recently read. None of them had talked about leading in this type of situation.
His reflections were interrupted by a voice at the far end of the table. "It's six P.M.," the person said. "Time to adjourn?" There were murmurs of assent.
Someone else named several members of the team who might collect more information before the next meeting, and those members said they would.
"And Mike," a third person said, "why don't you bring more of your research results?" Mike wondered for an instant if the suggestion was meant to rub his nose in his bungle, then realized it was sincere. He nodded, slowly lifted himself, and turned toward the door.
That night was a restless one for Mike. It took him a long time to drop off, and when he awoke, the red digital numbers on his clock said 4:23 A.M. He knew he couldn't get back to sleep, so, trying not to disturb his slumbering wife, he got out of bed and went down to the kitchen. For an hour he sat at the kitchen table analyzing the catastrophe of the day before, trying to puzzle out a plan of action. He finally decided to go see his friend Frank Freeman and ask for advice. He knew Frank came in early, so he'd get there early, too.
Frank was vice president of manufacturing, and as such he was Peter's superior. He was at his desk when Mike came by, and he greeted Mike with a cheery smile. Fatigue in his voice, Mike began explaining the problems he was having with the team and with Peter.
After a few minutes, Frank interrupted. "Mike," he said, "I'm going to tell you something very candidly. Please don't take it personally. The basic problem is your style."
"My style?" Mike said.
"Yes, your style. You're used to ordering people around, commanding them to make things happen. Sure, you go through the motions of inviting discussion, but you've got to admit you really prefer calling most of the shots."
"Well, somebody's got to be in charge," Mike said.
"Yes, but not in quite the way we used to do it. It's different now. Times are changing, and Peter's the new breed."
"And I'm the old breed, I suppose," Mike said, "at forty-five."
"You're not old," Frank said, "you've just been doing things the old way. And you've been lucky because your staff knows you and likes you, so they tolerate it. But most people won't. Peter's figured out that people today want to be persuaded into action, not commanded. He's not one bit smarter than you, but he's gotten very good at convincing and motivating groups."
"He is good," Mike admitted. "I don't know how he does it."
"He's learned the art of listening to others," Frank said, "and then he takes their viewpoints and suggestions and incorporates them into his solutions. Which is great because his solutions then resonate with everyone."
"Well, he certainly does do that."
"Yes, he does. And have you noticed that he's also very creative when it comes to finding compelling evidence for something? I heard about that one meeting you guys had where Peter brought in the outside consumer marketing expert — of all things — to talk about why 'value-driven' consumers didn't want more features. That was a masterstroke — right on your own turf."
"Yeah, it was," Mike said.
"Heck, even I've been learning some things from him," Frank said, smiling. "You would not believe the buy-in I'm starting to get for projects that in the past would have been a complete up-hill sell. I guess I'm finding there are better ways to get things done today rather than to steam-roll them through."
"Tell me about it," Mike said, now smiling with Frank. "It's the steam-roller who gets flattened."
What Is Persuasion?
Quite simply, effective persuasion is the ability to present a message in a way that leads others to support it.
For example, if I have presented my arguments effectively in this book and have shown truly convincing evidence, then when you finish reading it you should find yourself freely choosing to support my assertion — that persuasion is a critical management skill. You will also believe that you came to that conclusion by means of your own judgment, not by my forcing, tricking, or negotiating you into that belief.
If you support my assertion, it will mean that I have successfully done my homework about your needs. You will feel that I have accurately understood certain dilemmas you face today, and that I have provided a useful solution to them. I have persuaded you effectively.
Real persuasion creates a sense of freedom for the listener: the freedom to choose. This is in contrast to being commanded or negotiated into something. For example, imagine if I ordered you to believe in the ideas in this book: "Listen here, this book portrays reality! Accept it or else!" Or if I tried to negotiate a deal with you: "Look, you agree to the ideas in my book, and I will agree to the ideas in your next book, okay? Is that a deal?"
Which approaches are likely to have a successful impact on you? I think you'd agree that persuasion would be more influential than the direct order or the deal making. It's because effective persuasion makes you feel, and rightly so, as if you chose to agree. You were not forced because I'm the boss or because we made a trade. The ideas made good sense, you saw advantages for yourself, and you jumped onboard.
Frank laughed. "Exactly. But it's not just a matter of giving up an old behavior and starting a new one. You can't just throw a switch and wham! you're a new-style manager. These techniques of Peter's can be subtle, and you've got to understand the principles involved."
Frank's secretary came into the outer office. She hung up her coat and pulled out her desk chair. People were now passing in the hall. The office day was beginning.
"But there are tradeoffs," Frank said, wrapping it up. "I'm learning that this new approach takes more of my patience and my willingness to compromise. But, you know something? It's worth it. I'm accomplishing a lot more this way."
He stood up and came around the desk and put his hand on Mike's shoulder. "Listen," he said. "You're a great guy and a talented executive. Once you get with this new approach, you'll be terrific. My advice is to do what I did. See how Peter does it and try it yourself. He's definitely onto something. Don't fight him, learn from him. We'd all better learn from him. I have this feeling that people like Peter will be the managers of the future."
Mike and Peter are very real people to me. I'm with them every day of my working life.
I'm a professor of management at the University of Southern California. I'm also a consultant, and for more than a decade and a half I've spent a great deal of my time among executives on both sides of the chasm that has divided their world. I've encountered the Peter Keenes, the executives who are in tune with this radical redefinition of leadership, and I've met the Mike Jacobsons, the old-style command executives who are on the outside looking in.
My consulting and my research, in fact, have put me in touch with literally thousands of managers in all types of industries and all sizes of organizations. I've studied over forty companies and trained and consulted in another fifty or so. I've worked with a lot of these firms for many years, so I've been able to watch their evolution over time.
I've also had the chance to get at some of the factors underlying the change. As a professor and chairman of the Leadership Institute at USC, I meet leading thinkers from around the world. Together we've penetrated these trends that are slowly but fundamentally reshaping how managers lead and influence others — the trends that are lifting and propelling the Peter Keenes of this world.
It started about ten years ago. It was then that I began noticing that teams were becoming popular among companies that wanted to address problems more speedily. Soon afterward, clients began asking me for help because their more traditional managers, people such as Mike, were having trouble leading these groups. I watched as, over and over, command-style managers produced poor team outcomes.
The truth popped out at anyone who cared to look. Just because you were a stellar functional manager, working well within your division, it was no guarantee that you'd automatically be a good team leader. The dynamics of leading a team were just too different. Something more was needed than just functional expertise and directives.
I became fascinated by people such as Peter Keene, the rare individuals who are highly effective team leaders. Observing them I discovered that in contrast to other managers, they actually shied away from issuing directives. To get things done they depended instead on a deep understanding of the technique this book will impart: modern persuasion, along with its components such as mutual influence, building a consensus, developing relationships with people at their own level, and so on.
About the same time, I took on several companies that were getting their first Baby Boomer CEOs. In a number of cases, I had known the previous chief executives, so I could contrast the two generations. As I reflected on the Boomer executives I was getting to know, I started to see certain unique patterns in how they led. I realized I was observing a profound generational difference in how the new and old CEOs thought about leading and managing. Surprisingly, the Baby Boomer CEOs who had great impact shared many of the traits that I was observing among my effective team leaders. They were not command managers, but instead master persuaders.
In recent years, my work has also put me in touch with the youngest workplace generation, known as Generation X, after the title of a popular book about them. I've noted how these Xers flourish under both effective team leaders and Boomer CEOs-executives whose style relies far more than before on peer-based managing, teamwork, and use of persuasion instead of commands.
I've also seen how the rapid spread of electronic technologies is reinforcing this new way of managing, by providing more access to everyone and to everything.
I was so impressed by the effectiveness of these new managers that I began to study them. Along the way, I discovered that the actual number of Peter Keenes out there is still quite small. Maybe 10 percent of managers are proficient at the new management skills, and that includes both generations, the Boomers and the Xers. Another 25 to 35 percent of managers are Mikes, trapped in the command model (but not without hope of relearning!).
The rest of us, like Frank Freeman, are somewhere between the two. We "in-betweeners" understand that new skills are needed. We're motivated to learn. We've even halfway figured out a few of the techniques ourselves. But we've found there's only so much we can learn on our own and without understanding the fundamental principles.
For the last several years I've gone searching for the best of the Peter Keenes, on the theory that the best can teach us the most. My aim has been simple — to figure out exactly what this outstanding new breed of managers does and what the rest of us can learn from them. Through extensive interviews and observation, I began to pick up their secrets. I discovered, in fact, a series of specific techniques that they shared in common.
These skills and practices are presented over the course of this book. With them you can equip yourself for a successful and very rewarding career in the twenty-first-century world of business.
Copyright © 1998 by Jay Conger
|1||Welcome to the Future||19|
|2||Persuasion: The Six Killer Myths||29|
|3||Building Credibility for Ourselves||47|
|4||Searching for Shared Ground||74|
|5||Compelling Positions and Evidence||97|
|7||The Persuasion Power Boost: Actions||153|
|App. 1||The Passing Age of Command||167|
|App. 2||The New Age of Persuasion||180|
|App. 3||Let's Get in There and Fight!||193|