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Persuasion - It's an Inspiring Art!

Some people think that persuasion is arguing or debating until someone agrees with you. To make your argument successfully, you pick out flaws in somebody else’s way of thinking to cordially show them that their perspective is off base. That’s not the case. You might succeed at getting others to concede a point temporarily, but they’ll often revert to their old ways of thinking as soon as whatever logic or enticement you’ve used to “win” them over to your views is no longer there. Being persuasive is a lot more about emotions than cold, hard logic, and like all skills and competencies, you can get better at it with practice.

Don’t try to persuade without inspiring. No matter how strong your vision or passion is, if you lack the ability to inspire and motivate others, you’re not going to persuade.

Let’s think about persuasion. There is a certain sense of forcing that comes with persuasion. It is getting the other party to move from not wanting to say YES to saying YES. The dictionary says persuading is to "induce (someone) to do something through reasoning or argument; cause (someone) to believe something, especially after a sustained effort; convince."

Doesn’t that feel like a lot of effort? We assume that it requires a lot of effort to “move” somebody.

However, the word inspire has a sense of lightness that comes with it. It feels more like helping someone get where they already want to go. One of the dictionary definitions for “inspire” is "to communicate or suggest by a divine or supernatural influence." The word originated from a Latin word that means “to breathe into.”

When we go about trying to persuade somebody, we think about how we can manipulate, in a good or bad way. We are trying to get them to agree with us because we think there is one right way and one wrong way. We need them to agree with us. That’s a closed and limited world.

When we inspire, on the other hand, we are not trying to get somebody from NO to YES. We are merely helping individuals see a bigger picture. When we inspire, the projects feel limitless, filled with potential because we are collaboratively working toward a bigger vision. We inspire them see the vision they can bring to life. They get to work on a BIG vision, not just fighting fires and solving mediocre problems.

So, the next time you are thinking that you need to persuade, ask yourself, "How can I inspire them?” You will see there’s a distinct difference in how you answer the question and how it changes the way you do business.

Extraordinary leaders are inspirational. Inspirational leaders seem to make a huge impact on the world where other talented leaders do not. If you look at leaders who have the “magic,” leaders like Steve Jobs, you will see that they are able to inspire others because they know the WHY behind WHAT they do. They have a dream that is bigger than them. That is their higher purpose. That is the WHY.

Leadership research reveals that inspiring others is one of the six top leadership challenges. These findings support the theory that inspiring others is not an innate gift for most leaders but needs to be learned and honed like any other leadership skill. However, the skill of inspiring others doesn’t receive much attention in leadership training. But here are some tips that may help you begin to develop that skill. I would also recommend that you listen to Simon Sinek’s TED Talk: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

  • GET VERY CLEAR ON YOUR WHY. Be clear on the beliefs that inform your vision—the cause that gives others the feeling of meaning as they join the collective process. This is the higher purpose they need in order to be inspired.

  • ALIGN ALL YOUR VALUES. Make sure your highest personal values are in sync with the values of your organization and are aligned with your highest personal values. Then build your team by surrounding yourself with people of like-minded values.

  • WALK THE WALK. You may be a great communicator, but if others don’t see you modeling the behavior you want from them, it’s not going to happen. People who inspire always model what they want. Behavior is everything.

  • BE 100% AUTHENTIC. You don’t inspire by being a distant “hero.” Allow yourself to be vulnerable and very real. Sharing honestly is powerful. You inspire when you show yourself as a fellow human being, growing through success and failure.

  • BE PRESENT. Keep yourself in the moment—the NOW. Listen deeply. Listen more than you talk. There is nothing more powerfully inspiring than seeing a leader who is able to be quiet and totally present in the moment, confident and aware—ready for action when it’s time, but not panicked or restless.

  • DELIBERATELY WORK TO BUILD TRUST. Inspiration is impossible without unwavering integrity and accountability. Make sure you never give the impression that you are not as accountable as the team is. Always do the right thing regardless of the cost. Give people appropriate autonomy, and support their success.

  • ACKNOWLDEGE, APPRECIATE, AND APPLAUD OTHERS AND THEIR GIFTS. Celebrate the contributions made by your people and others. You will inspire them to go further and further.

  • EXUDE POSITIVE ENERGY AND CARING. Shower it generously on them. Never be preoccupied and overlook this need. They will crave it, and the more they get, the more they will develop it themselves.

  • BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Communicate from the heart and connect with others. You will find people who inspire you and people you can inspire. It will be a growing cycle, and you will find that persuasion is not the need it once was.

As you begin consciously cultivating your own inspirational skills, think of the leaders who are an inspiration and why they inspire you. What are the qualities, principles, and beliefs of those leaders that speak to your heart? How do they prompt you to take action?

You can join that group and inspire others as you make your mark.

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