How To Persuade The Board To Change their Mind

Guest article by Simon Horton, author of Change Their Mind: 6 Steps to Persuade Anyone Anytime 

You have a great new idea – you want to replace all operatives with robots, you want to allow customers to buy your products with cryptocurrency, you want to run the companies ERP system on a quantum computer – and you know it’s going to transform your company’s prospects for decades to come.

But the bigger the idea, the more likely it will need to be ok’d by the Board. After all, they represent the company’s shareholders, the owners, and so they need to give their approval. 

So, how do you do that?

They have got other things on their mind

Well, what persuades you on the idea might not be the same that persuades them. You have to understand that their drivers and concerns are likely to be different and then put forward a credible case for your idea focussing on those. 

How To Persuade The Board To Change their Mind

In other words, typically it would involve return on investment, fitting in with strategic objectives, fitting in with company values and so forth. Given that they represent the company to the public too, consider any PR angle, good or bad. These are the things that are on the mind of the board and so this is how they make their decisions. Put it in terms of these and you’ll just make it easier for them to say yes.

Who are the individuals?

But, of course, the board isn’t a single person, it is made up of many people, and the chairperson, for example, will have different views to the Chief Exec and so you need to consider how to persuade each given individual. Or at least how to persuade the key individuals – those who have the most power to make it happen or those who are most likely to block it.

Indeed the board isn’t a single person and whenever you get more than one person you get politics. So you need to understand those politics – who listens to who, who persuades who, who doesn’t like who. If you know this, you can work the dynamics at play to get your outcome.

Get to know them better

So, how well do you know these people? Because the better you know them, the better you can answer these questions accurately. If you’re on the board, yourself, you will probably have a good idea about them already but if you’re not, you need to get to know them.

And getting to know them will enable them to get to know you too. They are much more likely to agree to any of your ideas if they know you and trust you. 

When you talk to them, make them your ally in building the case. So listen to what they say, they will give you a lot of information about how to strategise your approach. Listening will tell you about their drivers and how they make their decisions. But you can also ask them about how the others make their decisions.

Ask them their advice about how to present the case, ask them about the politics, ask them about who the likely blockers would be and how to get them on board.

Seed your idea beforehand

And, of course, the more they already know your idea, the more likely they will go along with it. Don’t expect to rock up and do your pitch for this revolutionary idea that they’ve never heard before and instantly bowl them over. You will have to seed it to them beforehand so it becomes familiar. And the more people you can seed it through the better, the more it becomes common knowledge.

In fact, if you can, seed it so well that they think it’s their idea, now you’ve got your victory. Because if they think it’s someone else’s idea, they may well fight against it but if they think it’s theirs, now they’re going to fight for it. 

Help them look good!

One more thing to remember: if you want them to support the idea, they will have to look good in front of others doing so. They will have to look good in front of the rest of the board, in front of the shareholders, in front of the general public.

So help them look good, it will go a long way to get your idea signed off.

Change Their Mind: 6 Steps to Persuade Anyone Anytime by Simon Horton, is published by Pearson, priced at £14.99 and available from Amazon.co.uk and in all good bookshops.

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