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!