By Dr. Mary Lippitt | January 30, 2017
Winning support requires more than packaged positions and slogans. Building a ground swell or promising does not equate to a strong conviction. Emotions ebb as well as escalate based on personal assessments.
Persuasion tactics such as promising a prosperous outcome, warning of impending disaster, stoking excitement at rallies and calling on loyalty are flawed tactics. People do not blindly accept a message at face value. They scrutinize the content to see whether it is beneficial or not. And, repeating a message over and over again silences dissent but it does not win agreement. Leaders need to shift from employing persuasion tactics to practicing influence. Influence is based on knowing what the audience wants.
Influencing concentrates on the audience’s wishes, rather than what the leader seeks. Addressing audience concerns and struggles fuels enthusiastic support. The 2016 election illustrates the power of influence over persuasion. Donald Trump highlighted supporters concerns and promised to rapidly change deliver on change. Secretary Hillary Clinton’s well-crafted message focused on past accomplishments, her opponent’s weaknesses, her potentially historic candidacy and offered consistency. She misread the desire for jobs and the dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Polished delivery is secondary to delivering a resonating message. To gain committed support a leader must know what is top of mind. Political candidates confront a multitude of factions but focus groups, interviews, feedback and town hall meetings disclose their concerns.
The ability to influence stems from weaving these issues into a compelling message that sways thinking. At times, simultaneously satisfying all concerns is not possible. However, recognizing a viewpoint as valid and agreeing to address it at some point in the future wins support. Breaking the glass ceiling was not as important as boosting employment. Secretary Clinton won the popular vote but her goal was to win the White House.
Leaders need to listen to audience concerns before speaking to them. Knowing what your audience thinks beats charisma and showmanship every time.