What to say to convince your boss

Convincing your boss to do something differently is one of the biggest frustrations people have. 

It’s not just your boss, of course. It could be any colleague whose support you need. 

So let’s walk through an example that I’ve shared with many of my clients.


How to convince your boss

Start with unifying language, tethering their objectives to yours.

“As you know, our task/objective is to get people to…”  

We’re using ‘our’ to tether their goals with ours. We want to signal we are a united team with a shared objective. This gets them in the ‘agreement’ mindset.

Use ‘get people to’ to bind the activity we’re talking about to a behavioural outcome.

For example, “our task is to get our colleagues to follow the new policy”, or “our objective is to get customers to order directly from us rather than a third-party site.” 

“There are two ways we can go. There is the standard approach. That looks like…“ 

Include a brief summary of what the standard (current) approach means e.g., “We wait for a brief from our stakeholders, usually at the last minute, and then we rush to meet deadline…”

We’re using ‘standard’ here in a slightly derogatory way, like a ‘standard’ hotel room – it’s okay, but there is something better.

Using ‘standard’ in this way is particularly effective with stakeholders who pride themselves on doing things that are new and innovative, or like to be contrarian.

As the conversation continues, shift from calling this the ‘standard’ approach, to the ‘old’ approach, to create psychological distance between what has been and what can be.

“The problem with this approach is…”

Now outline the downsides of continuing as you are, making sure you hit on frustrations that impact your stakeholder and disadvantage the business, not just you.

For example “You might remember when…this is because what people tell us is important doesn’t necessarily translate into real behaviour.”

Now, shift gears.

We’ve inferred why the first approach is not great, so here comes the better option.

“So that’s one approach. The other approach is to…”

Outline what your new approach looks like, and how it overcomes the problems you’ve noted in the old approach. 


Here’s where you confess there’s a problem, albeit one that’s easy to solve with their support. 

“The problem with this approach is that some people may not understand it.” 

Usually they will not want to say they don’t understand it, so will instead ask about how you’d resolve this.

Now is your time to ask for their support, along the lines of “Your support would be really important here, and what I’d also suggest we do is…”

Remember, when contrasting the two approaches, start referring to the first approach as the ‘old’ one so it plants the seed that it is outdated and we should move away from it.

Framing the conversation in this way, by contrasting the old and new approaches, will help wean them off the status quo.

They will forget all about the old approach and instead turn their mind to making sure others understand the benefits of the new way of doing things. 

Want more ideas about how to influence customers or colleagues?

Check out my Influencing Action course.

Otherwise, let me know if this approach works for you.


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