Nonstandard Techniques : The Power of Persuasion and Manipulation

One of a leader's most powerful tools must be the power of persuasion. Some consider leadership to be solely the ability to make people want to do what they would normally not do on their own. Although it encompasses more than this sole quality, the power to manipulate your staff is the means to this end. As a leader, you set goals. As a leader, it is your vision that is being fulfilled. And, as a leader, it is your job to motivate and persuade your group to fulfill those goals and to realize that vision.

Manipulation is often viewed as something untrustworthy or underhanded, and it certainly can be. However, you can safely use subtle manipulation to influence a person to do something that's in the best interest of that person and the organization as a whole.

 

Plain English: Manipulation is the ability to skillfully and subtly manage something or someone to one's own advantage or the advantage of an organization. The word manipulate most often has a negative connotation.

Here are some techniques to use when you need to persuade a member of your group to do something:

  • Provide context. 
    Give a sense of the importance of a particular task or project to the organization as a whole. People can get so involved with a particular task that they forget where it fits into the big picture.

  • Feign ignorance. 
    If someone has missed a deadline or is not doing a job correctly, pretend you aren't clear about what she is doing and need to review. For example, Bess is a week behind in turning in some sketches that are critical to a big campaign. Her boss, Susan, asks her casually what deadline she had given Bess. Bess, of course, admits to being a week behind schedule. Susan then gives Bess a few more days to complete the project and checks to make sure she'll be able to complete the work in that amount of time.

  • Make them think it's their idea. 
    Involve employees in decision-making, but influence them in the direction you've already decided to take. For instance, Frank wants to create a manual for how to work correctly on his team. He knows that Brian would be great for the job of writing it, but Brian does not take well to being ordered to do something. One day Frank mentions to Brian that he is a model employee and that every employee could benefit from his gift for imparting knowledge. Brian then suggests writing the guide himself.

  • Hand out rewards. 
    Let an employee know that if he or she performs well on a given task, there could be a bonus, raise, increased responsibility, or even a promotion waiting for him.

Remember, as a leader you have the responsibility of gaining and maintaining the trust of your subordinates. Use your power to persuade and manipulate constructively, and the organization will benefit.