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Cross the CREEK to More Effective Persuasion this Budget Season!

by Jim Hartigan
September 12, 2011

It seems to me that we learn about persuasion at a very early age, particularly when it comes to persuading our superiors.  We begin with our parents.  “Quadruple chocolate chip cookies are a perfectly reasonable and wholesome breakfast,” we try to explain to them.  But the logic and eloquence of a four year old inevitably falls short.  Later, we build upon our skills of persuasion to influence our teachers.  “A three page paper on Aristotle’s principles of ethos, pathos, and logos?  This is totally lame! When am I ever going to use this stuff,” we say to our teacher.  Yet our unrefined skills of persuasion again fail to yield results.  But now we’re all adults with highly-developed persuasive powers, and we constantly face opportunities to persuade those around us at home and at work.  This time of year presents one of the most important occasions to utilize our persuasive talents – the annual budget presentations!
Budgeting is a critical part of every successful business.  It’s often referred to as “annual planning,” “business planning,” or “business strategy.”  In the end, most managers will have an opportunity to set their course for the year ahead, and effectively presenting their case (or persuading their boss) will mean the difference between a year of rewarding and creative work and a year of “hanging on” through despair and dashed hopes.
So, how can managers quickly learn how to persuade their boss about their plans for making 2012 the firm’s biggest year ever?  Think of crossing the CREEK of persuasion and you’ll remember the tools you’ll need1   which are:
C – Common Ground
R – Reinforcement
E – Emotional Connection
E – Empathy
K – Keep your credibility
Common Ground – Working with a collaborative approach, you must first find that which you and your boss mutually agree.  Are you driving higher levels of customer satisfaction?  Lowering operating costs?  Increasing revenues?  Decreasing turnover?  Improving employee morale and engagement?  Finding the common ground helps to set the stage for a persuasive budget presentation as you get the boss thinking, “Well, I certainly agree with that” right from the start.
Reinforcement – This is where doing your homework pays off.  Use facts and data to support your budget and allow your supervisor to see the logic in your thinking.  Passion for your cause is not enough – you need data to support your thinking!  What trends are going on in your industry?  What are the competitors doing?  What threats are there to your business?  What do the trends say?  One thing to remember here is to know your audience.  Some people want details and specifics while others respond better to conceptual or general reinforcement.  Give them what they want and need to feel satisfied.  Use reinforcement to help guide your supervisor to the right conclusion… your conclusion...
Emotional Connection – It’s not enough that you are fired up about your ideas for next year.  To successfully persuade, you have to make emotional connections to the other person!  Do they have a special cause?  A love for a child, a hobby, or a pet?  Do they value logic and order or creativity and imagination?  Whatever it is, you have to tap into it to help make your case!
Empathy – Change your shoes.  That’s right, put on the other person's shoes.  Not literally, but understand their values, goals, needs, and desires.  How can you tie your presentation to what they want and need?  Practicing empathy is easier for some than for others, however doing so will help drive stronger common ground and enhance your credibility – the last step in crossing the CREEK.
Keep your credibility – at the end of the day, it’s all up to you.  Your credibility is a function of your track record, your expertise, the homework you’ve done, and your composure, approach, and presentation of the facts.  It’s all YOU.  Be honest, acknowledge the benefits you expect from the ideas you are presenting.  This will help to build trust in the common ground and reinforcement information you’ve presented.  Don’t push.  Be self-assured, but not attacking or combative.  Be patient.  Let the thinking process occur.  In the end, people will only tolerate your conclusion, but they will embrace their own.  Let them cross the CREEK and come to their own conclusion.
Happy budgeting and happy persuading!  Until next time, remember take care of the customer, take care of each other, and take care of yourself!

1 Budjac Corvette, B.A. (2007).  Conflict Management:  A Practical Guide to Developing Negotiation Strategies.  Upper Saddle River, NJ.  Person Prentice Hall

About the Author:

Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim’s last position was that of Senior Vice President – Global Brand Services where he provided strategic leadership and business development and support to the $22B enterprise of 10 brands and more than 3,400 hotels in 80 countries around the world. His team was responsible for ensuring excellence in system product quality, customer satisfaction, market research, brand management, media planning, and sustainability.

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586

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