Okay, so you've collected your facts and prepared PowerPoint slides. You're sure your evidence is overwhelming and you've quoted authorities to support your arguments. You are ready to present your proposal to your community.
What could possibly go wrong?
Let's imagine that your audience doesn't know you. Or, maybe that you do have a relationship with them, but the last time you spoke, it did not go well. You have a credibility problem.
Jay Conger is a professor of leadership studies in Los Angeles. Years ago, he reported that the most persuasive senior business leaders he studied established their credibility first.
Conger found that the most persuasive leaders had two kinds of credibility: expertise credibility and relationship credibility. Facts, figures and quoting experts will give you expertise credibility. Relationship credibility might take more time, but you are not ready to persuade without it.
How do we build relationship credibility?
Try genuine consultation.
Resist the temptation to suggest solutions as you ask questions. Consult them on the problems and opportunities they mention as you ask about their current situation and how they see the future. Probe to discover the size or significance of the problems or opportunites, as they see them.
Next, explore some possible solutions.
Keep and open mind and ask how they feel about a range of possible solutions.
With your team you might say something like, 'I'm looking at various possibilities. One would be to sell the existing cars and lease replacements. Or we could pay the running costs for those who want to use their own cars. Maybe we could have some combination. Any thoughts - suggestions?'
When you present your proposal you could enhance your relationship credibility by recalling what people told you. Emphasise what you have in common: perhaps shared expereinces,shared pride in the team's service or performance last year, or shared worries about the downturn in the market.
Consultation won't work?
Maybe you've already decided or your chief executive has given you the decision and it's your job to make things happen.
You can still consult to enhance your relationship credibility. Ask about how you might implement the decision - perhaps the timing, who should be involved, or which steps to take first.