Simon Gibbs - 11 May 2021

The Persuasion Pack by Geoff Watts

We met Geoff Watts at our Agile Games Workshop couple of weeks ago to talk about 2 of his exercises to help individuals and teams raise their effectiveness. In the second half of the session (first session summary here), Geoff talks about his Persuasion Pack and starts with a controversial view, that we are all in fact politicians in some way.

He uses a striking nationalist image from a mainstream political group to illustrate the truth many of us have been drawn into political conversations. While we find the idea of manipulating people uncomfortable, we do all seek to influence people every day.

Geoff lists a set of common behaviours to illustrate that we all act like politicians:

  • Choosing what to wear
  • Deciding what to say
  • Repackaging our CVs and LinkedIn profiles.

While innocent, these are all attempts to influence people.

Influencing others responsibly and ethically

Fortunately, by looking at our core values, and knowing our colleagues' values, we have a good chance of working to persuade people in ways that run in accordance with our values.

We probably don't have a very positive attitude to politics, both on account of experiences with our own polity and out of a fear of crossing the line into manipulation.

Good servant leaders do not need to fear crossing this line. Whether you are a scrum master, product owner or traditional leader then part of your role is now to change culture. Geoff repeats that influence and persuasion are fine in this context; manipulation is not fine.

While trusting us to use the persuasion techniques wisely, Geoff invokes, without stanning, one of the greatest single moral injunctions in all of American pop culture:

Where to apply persuasion techniques

Influence and persuasion are a skill. There are many things we might associate with words like "office politics" but Geoff reminds us there are many positive uses for this skill:

Examples of techniques to persuade and influence your colleagues

Geoff has put together a collection of tools and techniques drawn from neuroscience to help people make the impact they desire, or defend themselves against the machinations of others.

As you read, or listen, to the explanation of each technique, consider a person you want to influence and whether the techniques is manipulative and wrong, or simply persuasive and fair game.

Guess their thoughts

Try to predict what the person will say to your idea. Make sure you are proactive in addressing their concerns and the risks they are likely to raise. This makes you appear more credible and makes the person more comfortable with your idea. For example, if they are likely to be money minded, then make sure you share the price.

Identity Alignment

Considering who you want to persuade, who they are, and what they value help them to see the positive ways in which your idea is aligned to their values. For example, if you want to improve quality, appeal to the fact that the person values quality highly.

Social Proof

If people see that others are doing something, they are more likely to do it themselves. They perceive it as less risky. Don't fake the evidence, gather real data to show the idea has traction.

White Coat Syndrome

Sometimes outside experts meet resistance because they are perceived as lacking context. On other occasions they are able to articulate the same points as internal colleagues but get more traction because they are perceived as an authority. This is true even if there is informal authority (if they are perceived as experienced for example) or transferred authority (where a person repected for one reason is considered an authority on unrelated topics). 

Think of the person you want to persuade and find out who they respect.

Pique Superstition

If the person you want to persuade is suspicious you might choose to debunk or amplify that superstition to build up your idea or counteract an opposing argument.

Geoff categorised this card as high risk as it involves a less rational kind of discourse that might be considered manipulative. The cards feature green, yellow and red corners to rank ideas by risk. warmer colours indicate a higher risk of getting burned.

Benefits of using persuasion

Looking beyond individual self interest, to the needs of the organisation (which I hope are aligned) we crowd sourced benefits that audience members believe would be acheived if they were able to become more persuasive.

Individual Benefits

  • Greater visibility
  • Easier to be heard
  • More learning

Organisational Benefits

  • More collaboration
  • Better decisions
  • Faster decisions
  • Better culture
  • More cohesion

A summary of the summary

Geoff presented the case that we all seek to influence people and as servant leaders we should be comfortable doing as part of the job. The power to persuade, however, can cause damage when people's better self is not fully engaged and they feel manipulated. We should use that power with great responsibility and ensure we are mindful of our values. We heard five examples of techniques which we might consider more or less likely to make someone feel manipulated and discussed how to apply them. Finally, we considered the various benefits of being persuasive and the audience contributed many and varied benefits that they hoped to achieve for their organisation and for themselves.

Coaching Tools by Geoff Watts

Persuasion Pack by Geoff Watts
Persuasion Pack by Geoff Watts

Persuasion Pack by Geoff Watts

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Core Values Cards by Geoff Watts
Core Values Cards by Geoff Watts
Core Values Cards by Geoff Watts
Core Values Cards by Geoff Watts

Core Values Cards by Geoff Watts

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