I attended our company’s 3-day offsite where product, design and ops gathered.
On day 2, our group did a “trust-fall” like game. The goal was to communicate verbally, while blindfolded, to get the 15 people holding one rope to form a perfect square. Our team had many strong voices in the beginning, but we finally followed one person and ended up with a rectangle, not quite a square but at least with 4 corners.
The takeaway was quite insightful. There are many tactics to influence others. The ability to persuade others is a key trait of a great product managers. Here are some levers one can adopt.
- Legitimizing – leverage an authority figure or validate with credible sources, e.g. the CEO asked for this feature. Personally, I avoid this approach as much as possible. However, some may readily respond to this approach.
- Appeal to friendship – building a strong network means that you can find someone who knows someone to get a problem resolved or a question answered. This helps you win others over to your idea.
- Logical persuasion – use data to prove your case. While this is my go-to tactic, this is not necessarily effective for everyone.
- Socializing – get your idea across the organization by meeting with others one and one.
- Consulting – ask others for feedback. Often this is a great way to start a dialogue about an idea you want to get across.
- Stating – articulate and reinforce your ideas and rationales.
- Appealing to values – persuade others by appealing to a shared value, e.g. one common goal to get the product launched on time.
- Modeling – demonstrate to others how the idea or approach can work.
- Exchanging – quid pro quo. If you do this for me, I’ll return the favor..
- Alliance building – if you take on a really challenging task with many naysayers, build up allies first before facing strong objections.
Not all methods are equally effective. The key for a PM is to broaden tools in his or her toolkit and try a few until you can win others to your ideas!