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Leadership Buy: The Art to Change Minds

- By Dwaipayan, 16 September 2020 | 7 MIN READ


At times, not everyone who works with you will agree with the conclusions you draw — and that’s okay. The essence of leadership entails making unpopular decisions while navigating complex relationships with colleagues, managers, and clients. But journeying in the same ship, you will need to get buy-in from these voters, and therefore you will need to persuade them to prove a point.

There is little friction engaged in convincing the team who are your natural supporters. But trying to change the mind of a detractor, is altogether a different story. How do you go about influencing a teammate who matters most?

Turning adversities into an advantage are the goal to focus on. As a leader, you must consider the fact that “What’s driving my detractor’s resistance?” You need to recognize which aspects of the arguments triggered the most emotional reactions. Depending on the response, you need to consider one of the following three targeted strategies.


Cognitive Conversation

The detractor may be opposed to your side of the story, because of an objective reason. If they’ve clearly communicated a logical set of objections, and clear transparent and rational motives, approach them with a cognitive conversation.

To engage in a successful cognitive conversation, sound arguments and good presentation is the key. Take, for instance, a situation where you are pushing to switch suppliers and found the current supplier’s products are causing frequent downstream issues. While your colleague is sticking with your current supplier with whom he has a long-standing relationship.

Under such situations, your colleague expresses deep resistance to your suggestion by pointing out the higher prices of the new supplier charges. You want to engage in sound arguments that invalidate the detractor’s objections. How do you initiate a cognitive conversation? In this instance, you could point out that the new supplier is truly less expensive in the long run when it comes to recurring expenditure. You also want to use a logical context and a clear storyline to influence the detractor.

While keeping the conversation going you should be cautious about not getting emotionally tangled, which could give the impression that you and your colleague are not on common ground. For example, you believe your colleague’s relationship with the former supplier has nothing to do with the decision for sticking with the current supplier. Your goal and objective must stand strong on a factual basis. Be warned, the detractors are not easily convinced by broad generalizations.

The catch: Don’t assume that getting a “yes” from a detractor will always remain as a “Yes”. They may disagree with you some time again in the future. Needless to say – engage in another cognitive conversation on that separate argument.

The Winning Conversion

What if the detractor isn’t easily persuaded through cognitive arguments, or when they harbor a grievance? engaging in any debates may be unproductive. Take, for example, you would like to promote a qualified individual who performed superbly under your supervision, but a counterpart of you argues that your subordinate gets promoted more often than hers.

It is wiser not to jump into any conclusions and try to convince the other person. In its place, invest time in personally learning about and building a relationship of affinity and trust. For instance, you can ask questions where team members she feels have the most potential. Progressively convert this detractor into somebody who is your champion or advocate. Make sure you’re both on the same page in matters for promotion, decisions, and choices.

The catch: You can influence and no matter how much of a champion the other person becomes, make sure your decision is based on fundamentally logic. People can easily sense if you’re trying to manipulate the situation. Be genuine: make certain the other person see your point of view and agree.

Introducing Credible Colleague

Sometimes our belief stems from a combination of the person’s upbringing, personal history, and unspoken biases. In this case, the detractor’s deeply held personal beliefs make them fundamentally opposed to your proposal. Take this example, you want to run a necessary clinical trial for a new product but you’re facing a tough time from the detractor - they resist the idea, even though the evidence proves that the benefits outweigh the harm. You may chip in no matter what logical or emotional argument, there’s much you can’t do.

The best way to beat the decisive moment is by bringing in a credible colleague. A champion of your position from another department perhaps. You stand a better chance to convince the detractor when the credible colleague evaluates the idea based on its objective merits.

The catch: You’ve to be careful when calling in an external supporter, can act in a double-edged sword. While it can achieve the result you always wanted, it may exacerbate your detractor’s opposition, particularly if the detractor believes that the credible colleague has compelled them to take your side. Engage in the right colleague who can prudently campaign for you while maintaining a cordial relationship.


Take away: It’s harder to change the minds of a detractor. It’s critical to understand the source of their resistance and use a directed strategy that best reverberates with your particular detractor. You’ll have a far better chance of getting an affirmative "YES.”




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