Monday, January 1, 2007

Building Coalitions

After fifteen years of steady advancement at a leading durable- goods manufacturing company, Dana Monosoff decided to move on. Recruiters had long been calling her, and she soon had several attractive options. Ultimately, Dana became the new chief oper- ating officer (COO) of White Goods, Inc., a struggling maker of high-end kitchen appliances. Several years of flat sales at White Goods prior to Dana’s ar- rival had precipitated the departure of her predecessor. Nimbler and more aggressive competitors had begun to chip away at the firm’s traditional quality advantage by introducing new materials and production technologies. Even more ominous, how products were sold and distributed was changing. While White Goods con- tinued to rely on a network of independent dealers, its most for- midable competitors had begun to establish long-term ties with large retail stores; some had even begun to manufacture private- label appliances. Dana expected these trends to accelerate. Dana was the first senior executive in fifteen years to be brought in from outside the company. When White Goods’s chief execu- tive officer, Paul Schofield, hired her to get growth back on track, he promised Dana that if she did well, she would succeed him as CEO within a few years. But Dana was convinced that produc- ing moderately priced products for large stores was the way to go, 135 136 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION and such a move would not be an easy sell. A decision to market through large outlets would anger the dealers and could erode White Goods’s tight control over sales and servicing channels. Moreover, producing lower-priced offerings was at odds with White Goods’s proud tradition of manufacturing premium products. Assuming that Dana is correct about the direction White Goods should go, how should she build support for needed change? Take a few minutes to think about how you would approach this situation. Dana cannot hope to accomplish the changes she desires by relying on the authority vested in her position. She needs to be able to persuade people to go along with her. To be effective, lead- ers like Dana need to master five core coalition-building tasks: Task 1: Mapping the influence landscape—identifying who needs to be persuaded and how to do so Task 2: Shaping perceptions of interests—influencing others’ beliefs about what they want Task 3: Shaping perceptions of alternatives—influencing others’ beliefs about the options open to them Task 4: Gaining acceptance for tough decisions—increasing the likelihood that difficult choices will be accepted Task 5: Persuading at a distance—achieving a broad impact through mass persuasion TASK 1: MAPPING THE INFLUENCE LANDSCAPE Sometimes it is sufficient to convince a single person, but more typically leaders like Dana must build supportive coalitions of in- terest groups to secure support for their initiatives. Often it is also necessary to neutralize opponents and prevent blocking coalitions from forming. Before beginning to design a persuasion strategy, it is essential to map the influence landscape. Dana’s ultimate goal was to build support for her strategy and to prevent opposition from coalescing. Simply dictating change would have bred resistance, undermining her position. It could even have cost her job. Consequently, she set out to identify peo- ple and groups whose support was crucial, as well as potential op- ponents. The CEO, Paul Schofield, would obviously have to be on board. But other top-level executives would influence him, so she wanted to pinpoint who else in the organization she needed to persuade. Identifying Targets of Influence The first step is to identify the groups within which support must be built and opposition neutralized. Such groups typically include: • Organizational units of employees bound together by shared training and expertise or by shared tasks and supervision • Identity groups, bound by occupation, age, gender, race, or social class, that protect shared interests and promote mutual solidarity • Power coalitions of people who have banded together oppor- tunistically to advance or protect shared interests, but who may not otherwise identify with or socialize with each other 1 Dana’s analysis persuaded her that she needed to build support in top management, the sales and distribution division, and the manufacturing workforce. Persuading top management would re- quire that she cultivate and retain the confidence of the CEO, her peers, and top-level subordinates. The changes Dana envisioned would call for shifts in power relationships that could create win- ners and losers among key players who enjoyed longstanding re- lationships with the CEO and with each other. She would also need to deal with likely opposition from White Goods’s sales force and network of independent dealers. Her third task would be to build a base of trust and respect with the workforce to convince them of the need to manufacture less expensive (and less presti- gious) products. BUILDING COALITIONS 137 138 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION Analyzing Influence Networks The next step is to analyze influence networks—configurations de- termined by who defers to whom on crucial issues. 2 This level of analysis identifies opinion leaders who exert disproportionate in- fluence on decision making. 3 Convincing these pivotal individu- als translates into broad acceptance, and resistance on their part could galvanize broader opposition. Dana’s analysis of influence networks within top management at White Goods convinced her that Todd Simpson, vice president of sales, was pivotal. A career employee strongly invested in the company’s traditions, Todd had risen through the sales ranks to become a trusted adviser to Schofield. Todd’s support for Dana’s proposed change initiatives was crucial. He would be influenced by his direct reports, the regional sales directors, who would in turn come under pressure from White Goods’s independent dealers. But Todd was also respected by both groups and capable of influenc- ing them. Dana concluded that she would also need to win the support of Sarah Wolverton, vice president of manufacturing, and Nathan Simon, vice president of engineering, to move down-market to lower-priced products. Both were influential with the CEO, though less so than Todd, and both deferred to Todd on matters pertain- ing to company culture and traditions. Dana had begun to develop a relationship with Nathan but barely knew Sarah. The resulting influence network is illustrated in the figure on page 139, with the strength of existing relationships represented by the thickness of the connecting arrows. Identifying Supporters, Opponents, and Persuadables Some people will endorse the leader’s agenda right away because it advances their own interests. But enlisting people as supporters doesn’t mean that you can take them for granted. It’s never enough simply to elicit support; you have to maintain it to ensure that sup- port doesn’t slip away in the night. Leaders must devote energy to buttressing and deepening the commitment of their supporters, and to expanding their own persuasive reach by helping allies become more persuasive. In the words of Owen Harries, "Preaching to the converted, far from being a superfluous activity, is vital. Preachers do it every Sunday. The strengthening of the commitment, intel- lectual performance, and morale of those already on your side is an essential task, both in order to bind them more securely to the cause and to make them more effective exponents of it." 4 Meanwhile, other important players will oppose your efforts whatever you do. But identifying people as opponents does not mean that you can ignore them. To analyze your opponents, ask yourself the following questions: How long have efforts to orga- nize opposition been going on? Is the opposition united by long- standing relationships and shared interests or by short-term opportunism? Are there linchpins whose conversion or neutral- ization would substantially weaken resistance? Because persuasion consumes time and emotional energy (which should not be wasted on the irrevocably opposed), it is es- sential to assess early who can be persuaded. If Todd were not persuadable, Dana would be well advised to start elsewhere and aim to bring him on board later. But Dana perceived Todd as a BUILDING COALITIONS 139 Nathan Sarah Todd Paul Dana Influence Diagram thoughtful, forward-looking person; she considered him persuad- able. She was confident that she had a strong case and could sup- port it with logical arguments and sales trend data, but she also knew that Todd might still oppose change. Assessing Targets’ Interests The next step is to zero in on the targets’ interests. What do Todd and the regional sales managers care about? Put yourself in their shoes; your aim is to grasp what they perceive their interests to be, not what you believe they should be. Faced with the change Dana envisioned, Todd and others could resist for a variety of reasons: • Loss of a comfortable status quo. They see no reason to change in ways that might cut their earnings or alter established pat- terns of social interaction. • Challenge to one’s sense of competence. They fear feeling in- competent and unable to perform well in the postchange environment. • Threats to self-defining values. They believe that change will produce a culture that discredits traditional notions of value and rewards behaviors antithetical to their self-image. • Potential loss of security due to uncertainty about the future. They misunderstand or fear the intended consequences of a proposed change. • Negative consequences for key allies. They fear the conse- quences for others they care about or are beholden to. Dana foresaw that Todd might oppose a dramatic shift in dis- tribution strategy out of concern for White Goods’s premium image and the impact on his organization. She knew that Todd would come under strong pressure from others. Many regional sales di- rectors would oppose a change that could undermine their status and affect their compensation. Todd would also hear from dealers 140 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION who would view a decision to sell through large stores as a threat to their businesses. Clearly, she faced an uphill battle to gain Todd’s support. Assessing the Driving and Restraining Forces People facing tough decisions experience psychological tension as opposing forces push them in conflicting directions. 5 The source of tension might be internal conflicts (Do I want X more than Y? Should I do what I want to do or what I think I should do?) or social pressures, such as competing prior commitments or worry about what respected people will think. 6 Ultimately, a person de- cides that the benefits of one path outweigh the costs of renounc- ing others. You can deepen your analysis by probing the driving and re- straining forces at work on prospective targets of your influence. Driving forces push people in the direction you desire; restraining forces push them elsewhere. The goal is to strengthen the dri- ving forces or weaken the restraining forces, or both. Dana’s analy- sis of the driving and restraining forces acting on Todd is illustrated in the force-field diagram. The driving forces that would lead Todd to support Dana’s initiative include the logic and data that sup- port her case and, perhaps, reluctance to oppose her openly. Re- straining forces include his desire to protect White Goods’s culture and the pressures exerted on him by sales directors and dealers. On the face of it, the driving forces look like thin reeds arrayed against the powerful restraining forces. Identifying Targets’ Alternatives The next step is to evaluate how key people perceive their alter- natives. For Dana, this means predicting the actions that Todd and other potential opponents might take. Specifically, is resistance to persuasion likely to be overt or covert? Todd could simply with- hold his support or, more subtly, raise questions about the risks of BUILDING COALITIONS 141 Dana’s proposals. He could act alone or in concert with others, such as the regional sales managers. A blocking coalition of Todd and the regional sales managers would seriously threaten Dana’s change agenda. Todd’s influence with Paul, the CEO, is sufficient to stall Dana’s efforts, but not everyone with reason to resist change has the power to do so. Ask yourself: Is the resistance of opposing coalitions likely to be active or passive? What forms might it take? More generally, how do key people perceive their alternatives? How might these perceptions be altered? A clear grasp of the lat- ter will sharpen your influence strategies. TASK 2: SHAPING PERCEPTIONS OF INTERESTS The next step is to try to shape others’ perceptions of their inter- ests—what they care about and the goals they want to achieve. Strategies for transforming perceptions of interests are altering in- centives, framing decisions, drawing on the power of social influ- ence, and engaging in quid pro quo negotiation. 142 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION Logic and data Reluctance to say "no" openly Concerns about company culture Opposition from the sales force Opposition from the dealers TODD Driving Forces Restraining Forces Balance of Driving and Restraining Forces
Altering Incentives Changing the incentive systems within which people operate— introducing rewards or disincentives or both—can alter their per- ceptions of their interests. To the extent that people pursue the rewards or avoid the disincentives, their behavior (but not neces- sarily attitudes) will change. Measurement systems, compensation plans, budgets, and even mission statements and strategic plans can all function as levers to influence behavior in organizations. By setting expectations and defining rewards and punishments, they push people in desired directions. Such measures can be especially effective in the short term, and they are usually necessary when prompt and significant behavioral change is called for. Dana should think through how compensation might work for the regional sales directors under the new system and how incen- tives could be structured for dealers. A proposal that responds pos- itively to their objections would weaken a potent restraining force. Framing Decisions Framing is the use of argument, analogy, and metaphor to promote a favorable definition of the problem to be solved and the set of potential solutions. Framing has been characterized as "a burn- ing glass which collects and focuses the diffuse warmth of popular emotions, concentrating them on a specific issue." 7 Because peo- ple’s interests tend to remain latent and diffuse until they face a choice, and because how people perceive their interests depends on how choices are posed, framing is a powerful tool. Dana ought to frame her proposal in a way that elevates some interests while marginalizing other interests or leaving them dor- mant. She can accomplish this by linking her agenda to people’s needs, wants, and aspirations and linking choices she opposes to their worries and fears. Done well, this approach excites emotions BUILDING COALITIONS 143 that color individuals’ choices. Effective framing uses a number of techniques: • Invoking the common good. This approach emphasizes col- lective benefits and downplays individual costs. Dana could stress the overarching importance to the organization of getting sales growth back on track and attempt to frame the costs to Todd and the regional sales directors as a sacrifice that must be made for the common good. • Linking to core values. Marketers and propagandists long ago learned the efficacy of linking choices to the values that define self- identity. Cigarette companies, for example, link smoking to inde- pendence and the freedom to choose. Dana could endorse Todd’s identification with the company’s tradition of producing high- quality products and emphasize that sales growth would support the investment in new technologies needed to sustain it. • Heightening concerns about loss or risk. Some framing tech- niques exploit biases in the ways that people make decisions. Many people are loss averse—more sensitive to potential losses than to equivalent potential gains. 8 Desired courses of action could thus be cast in terms of gains and undesired choices in terms of losses. Similarly widespread is the tendency to be risk averse—to prefer guaranteed gains to risky choices, even if the latter could yield much larger gains. 9 Here again, desired courses of action can be characterized as less risky, undesired choices as more risky. Dana could dwell on the risks of failing to get sales growth back on track, including vulnerability to takeover and loss of control over the organization’s destiny. • Rejection and retreat. Asking for a lot initially and then set- tling for less shapes the other side’s perceptions of interests. This works because people are loss averse—more sensitive to potential losses than to equivalent potential gains. 10 Dana could propose to sell exclusively through large stores and then "retreat" to a plan to sell only midrange lines through large stores, reserving the pre- 144 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION mium lines for existing dealers. The risk is that an extreme initial request might trigger resistance and the emergence of a blocking coalition. • Enlarging the pie. Choices perceived as win-lose propositions are particularly difficult to sell. Broadening the range of issues under consideration can facilitate mutually beneficial trades that "enlarge the pie." 11 Alongside her proposal to sell through large stores, Dana might put on the table issues she knows to be im- portant to Todd. Her earlier analyses might have revealed, for ex- ample, that Todd wants to adopt a state-of-the-art sales-tracking system. • Neutralizing toxic issues. As we saw in Chapter Two, progress on multi-issue initiatives can be stalled by the presence of toxic issues. Toxic issues can sometimes be neutralized by postponing them for future consideration or by making up-front commitments that allay anxieties. Dana could demonstrate her commitment to the dealer network by proposing a two-tier distribution system in which mid- to low-range products would be sold in large stores and mid- to high-range products through dealers. • Inoculating against expected challenges. As far back as Aris- totle, persuaders have been advised to inoculate their audiences against the arguments they expect their opponents to make. Re- futing weak forms of expected counterarguments immunizes audi- ences against the same arguments when they are advanced in more potent forms. Dana should prepare responses to the objections she anticipates from the regional sales directors and dealers. She might say to Todd, "I know that your people are likely to be concerned about X, but the issue is really Y." • Providing a script for convincing others. In addition to influ- encing the immediate target, successful framing provides that per- son a persuasive script for convincing others. As she frames her arguments, Dana should keep in mind that Todd will have to sell them to the regional sales directors and dealers; her arguments should explicitly address their concerns. BUILDING COALITIONS 145
Using Social Influence People rarely make important choices independently; most peo- ple are influenced by their networks of relationships and the opin- ions of key advisers. 12 Awareness that a highly respected person already supports an initiative alters others’ assessments of its at- tractiveness, its likelihood of success, and the potential costs of not getting on board. Convincing opinion leaders to lend support and mobilize their own networks thus has a powerful leveraging effect. Likewise, a leader who has built political capital with key people can draw on reciprocity to gain a buy-in. Todd’s assessment of the costs and benefits of supporting or op- posing Dana’s initiative will be strongly influenced by the opin- ions of those in his network of relationships. It is thus important for Dana to understand the full range of pressures that could im- pinge on Todd. Research in social psychology has established that people prefer choices that enable them to: • Remain consistent with strongly held values and beliefs, which tend to be shared with important reference groups. People asked to behave inconsistently with their values or beliefs experience internal psychological dissonance, exter- nal social sanction, or both. • Remain consistent with their commitments, because failure to honor commitments incurs social sanctions. People prefer not to reverse themselves or overtly constrain their future choices by setting undesirable precedents. • Preserve their sense of control. Choices that threaten one’s position in a social hierarchy or sense of control are likely to provoke anxiety. • Repay obligations. Reciprocity is a strong social norm, and people are vulnerable to appeals for support that invoke past favors. • Preserve their reputations. Choices that preserve or enhance one’s reputation are viewed favorably, those that could jeop- ardize one’s reputation negatively. 146 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION • Gain the approval of respected others, such as opinion lead- ers, mentors, experts, and others to whom people look for clues about "right thinking." 13 All else being equal, Todd will make choices that appear con- sistent with his values and commitments, maintain his status, repay obligations, enhance his reputation, and gain the approval of respected others. He will avoid choices that violate his values, require him to renege on commitments, create undesirable prece- dents, undermine his sense of control, make him appear ungrate- ful, damage his reputation, and offend respected others. These universal preferences translate readily into effective ways to harness the power of social influence: • Leveraging small commitments into larger ones. As we saw in Chapter Three, a person who has been persuaded to make in- nocuous commitments has already started down the slippery slope to larger ones. 14 This approach to persuasion—entanglement— presumes that people can be led from point A to point B in a suc- cession of small, irreversible steps when doing so in a single leap would be impossible. Note too that public commitments carry more weight than private commitments. Commitments made in pri- vate offer wiggle room; you can argue that you were misunderstood or misquoted. Backing away from commitments made in front of others is significantly more difficult. This is why weighty decisions and commitments to specific goals should be made at meetings: people’s reputations are put on the line. This is also why the first- mover advantage in securing early commitments is substantial; once your opponents secure commitments of support, the battle to win away their supporters is uphill. In addition to making a good case, you must also help targets of persuasion find ways to disen- tangle themselves from prior commitments gracefully. • Drawing on the power of reciprocity. The desire to reciprocate is a strong motivating force. 15 Because Todd’s relationship with his regional sales directors involves long-standing expectations of mu- tual support, he will be loath to betray those expectations. Dana BUILDING COALITIONS 147 can begin to counter this stance by cultivating a sense of obliga- tion in Todd, perhaps by helping advance goals that are important to him. The resulting debt is a source of capital on which she can draw when the time comes to push her initiative. Note that favors do not have to be precisely balanced. Studies have shown that small favors can be leveraged into disproportionately large recip- rocal favors. It is valuable to keep this principle in mind when in- fluencing others and when resisting others’ attempts at persuasion. • Using behavior change to drive attitude change. Everyone knows that attitudinal changes can translate into significant be- havioral changes, but the reverse can also be true: changing some- one’s behavior can change the person’s attitudes. 16 People have a strong need for consistency; once persuaded to try something new, they are likely to revise their attitudes accordingly. For example, Dana might ask Todd to participate in a study of ways to make a two-tier distribution system work. Having worked on the study and helped to shape its conclusions, Todd’s attitudes might shift to align with his actions. • Sequencing through relationship networks. Faced with difficult choices, people often look to others they respect for clues about "right thinking." They seek out opinion leaders for their exper- tise or experience or their access to information, or simply because they have authoritative personalities. Whatever the source of their stature, it is important to understand how opinion leaders formu- late their opinions. As we have seen, this is a matter of tracing who defers to whom on key issues. 17 If Todd defers to senior people in other functions on issues of company strategy, it pays off to secure the support of these people first. As we saw in Chapter Three, Dana should draw up a sequencing plan to decide when and in what order to approach people in order to form a coalition and build momen- tum before she gets to Todd. 18 She should also carefully plan the sequence of individual and group meetings. Dana could meet in- dividually with those whom Todd trusts. Having won their support, she could introduce the issue in a group meeting that Todd attends and then follow up with a one-on-one meeting with Todd. 148 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION
Engaging in Quid Pro Quo Negotiation If crucial people cannot otherwise be brought along, it may be nec- essary to engage them in this-for-that negotiation, agreeing to sup- port initiatives they care about in exchange for their support of yours. Success rests on understanding the full set of interests at stake—which may include reputation and prestige as well as tan- gible needs—and on knowing how to craft a suitable trade. Sup- port can often be bought. But at what cost? Leaders who don’t know when to stop buying support can end up making compromises that dilute their efforts. As illustrated in the accompanying figure, artful use of incen- tives, framing, social influence, and quid pro quo negotiation will strengthen the forces driving Todd in the direction Dana favors and weaken restraining forces. With careful thought and sustained effort, Dana may be able to tip the scales and get Todd to support her initiative. BUILDING COALITIONS 149 Reluctance to say "no" openly Support of CEO and others Reciprocity on other issues Logic and data "Good of company" framing Concerns about company culture Less opposition from the sales force Less opposition from the dealers TODD Driving Forces Restraining Forces New Balance of Driving and Restraining Forces
TASK 3: SHAPING PERCEPTIONS OF ALTERNATIVES Shaping people’s perceptions of their own interests is by no means the only avenue for persuasion. You can also influence their per- ceptions of their alternatives, the set of options among which they believe they must choose. This usually entails directing their atten- tion toward alternatives you favor and eliminating less favorable choices from consideration. Introducing New Options People are likely to perceive their alternatives too narrowly: they overlook potentially attractive alternatives or construe them as nonviable, too risky, or undesirable. Often this phenomenon is a consequence of how decisions are framed. Because organizations tend to cast new choices in the same old ways, coalitions are like- ly to form along predictable lines. Often one can exert influence simply by expanding the range of alternatives under consideration. Dana could stimulate inno- vation, for example, by encouraging people at White Goods to benchmark best-in-class organizations, thus exposing them to al- ternative approaches to familiar problems. Ideally, she would sug- gest an organization with a successful two-tier approach to sales. Introducing new options can put stress on existing coalitions, set- ting the stage for the creation of new ones. Setting the Agenda Big decisions draw on tributary processes that define the problem, identify alternatives, and establish criteria for evaluating costs and benefits. By the time the problem and the options have been defined, the actual choice may be a foregone conclusion. This is why it is so important to shape the decision-making agenda early on. "Pay great attention to the agenda of the debate," cautions Owen Harries: 150 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION He who defines the issues and determines their priority is al- ready well on the way to winning. . . . Diplomats, at least when they are performing effectively, understand this well, which is one reason they often appear fussy and pedantic to outsiders who have not grasped the point at issue. . . . It is just as important, and on the same grounds, to deny your opponent the right to impose his language and concepts on the debate, and to make sure you always use terms that reflect your own values, traditions, and interests. 19 One touchstone to successful persuasion is thus simply to be there during the formative period in order to define the terms of the debate before momentum builds in the wrong direction, or ir- reversible decisions are made, or too much time passes. Another is to help select the information used to define the problem and the options. Dana could commission studies, for example, to ex- plore changes in how kitchen appliances are sold and distributed. Eliminating "Do Nothing" as an Option It is alarmingly easy, even with the best of intentions, to defer or delay a decision. When success requires the coordinated actions of many people, delay by any single individual can have a cascade effect, giving others an excuse not to proceed. A leader must there- fore work to eliminate "do nothing" as a viable option. Dana must decide when the time is ripe and then push for a decision on dis- tribution systems. One approach is to schedule action-forcing events—events that force people to make commitments or take actions. Meetings, re- view sessions, and deadlines can all provide impetus. Those who do make commitments should immediately be locked into timeta- bles that specify incremental implementation milestones. Regular meetings to review progress and tough questioning of those who miss agreed-on goals increase the psychological pressure to follow through. A caveat: avoid pressing for closure until the balance of forces is tipping in the right direction. BUILDING COALITIONS 151 A related tactic is progressive elimination of less desirable op- tions, funneling the decision-making process toward the choice you favor. People are rarely willing to make difficult decisions be- fore they have exhausted less painful options. Sometimes it makes sense to let them try to make these options work, especially if you are reasonably certain that they will fail. If Dana finds Todd strong- ly opposed to her plan, she could suggest that he produce a plan for changing the distribution system and see what he proposes. If his plan isn’t feasible and the CEO rejects it, she will be in a po- sition to say, "Okay, now we try it my way." Pruning of options is often necessary to provide a defensible rationale for a decision, dif- fuse responsibility for unpleasant outcomes, and lead others to the point of readiness to commit. The downside is that valuable time gets consumed. TASK 4: GAINING ACCEPTANCE FOR TOUGH DECISIONS Leaders often have to make unpopular decisions. When someone’s pet project is shut down, spending is curtailed, or someone is de- prived of responsibility, the challenge is to get people to accept the consequences of the imposed decision. Although never easy, tough decisions can be made more palatable by paying careful attention to process. Creating a Fair Process People at White Goods are more likely to accept the consequences of Dana’s decision if it is perceived to be the outcome of a fair pro- cess. 20 When people believe that the decision-making process was legitimate and that their views were taken seriously, they are more likely to support implementation. Leaders who gain reputations for being thoughtful and deliberative enlarge the scope within which people will accept and support their choices. Those known for arbitrariness, thoughtlessness, and apparent disregard for equity 152 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION fuel resistance and furnish focal points around which opposition can mobilize. Engaging in Shared Diagnosis Involving people in the diagnosis of organizational problems is a form of entanglement: participation in the diagnosis makes it more difficult to deny the need for tough decisions. By the end of such a process, people are often willing to accept outcomes they would never have accepted at the outset. This is another reason for Dana to engage Todd in an analysis of changes in how appliances are dis- tributed. Consulting Before Deciding Consultation promotes buy-in. Dana should consider consulting throughout White Goods about the emerging challenge from com- petitors and the role of large retail stores in the market. The knowl- edge gained could promote acceptance of the eventual decision and deepen her grasp of the state of play in the organization. Good consultation means active listening. 21 Posing questions and encouraging people to voice their worries, then summarizing what you have heard, signals that you are paying serious attention. The power of active listening as a persuasive technique is vastly un- derrated. By channeling people’s thinking and framing choices, active listening can promote acceptance of difficult decisions. Be- cause the questions leaders ask and the way they summarize and feed back responses powerfully affect people’s perceptions, active listening and framing are a particularly potent persuasive pairing. Giving What Is Asked For It is disconcerting to be asked what you would need in order to ac- complish something difficult and then to be given it. Having made a difficult decision, the leader asks those responsible for imple- mentation what resources they will need. After carefully probing BUILDING COALITIONS 153 their assessments, the leader then says, "You have it! Let’s get go- ing." This tactic is a variation on persuading people to make a commitment and then holding them to it. TASK 5: PERSUADING AT A DISTANCE Finally, leaders can’t possibly communicate individually with every- one they need to persuade, so they must be proficient at persuad- ing from a distance—communicating themes and priorities in speeches, memos, and other forms of one-to-many communica- tion. In addition to persuading top management and the sales organization, Dana also has to win the support of the larger work- force; they are justifiably proud of the high-quality products they produce and may resent a decision to move down-market. Constructing Reliable Communication Channels Just as nature abhors a vacuum, informal networks spring up to fill communication voids in organizations. In the absence of re- liable formal communication, people rely on the grapevine for information. The problem, of course, is that the grapevine intro- duces distortion into the communication process. Some of this distortion is unintentional, a product of error and omission in person-to-person transmission. But those seeking to advance par- tisan goals can intentionally distort information. As Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell put it, propaganda functions by "with- holding information, releasing information at pre-determined times, releasing information in juxtaposition with other infor- mation that may influence perceptions, manufacturing informa- tion, communicating information to selective audiences, and distorting information." 22 Whatever their intentions, the people at focal points in these informal communication networks have substantial power to shape messages. Thus, leaders like Dana must preempt the grape- vine by building reliable formal communication channels. Whether 154 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION this means publishing a new newsletter or writing memos to the workforce or convening town meetings, the goal is direct access to the target audience. Good communication channels transmit the right information in a timely and responsive way. It is easy to fall behind the com- munication curve, especially when the decision in question has negative consequences. It may seem easier to withhold bad news, particularly if the full picture is not yet available. But doing so sets up a vicious circle in which official statements come out in bits and pieces, reactively, and never catch up with the grapevine. It is wise to assume that bad news will leak out quickly; plan to be there first so you can shape the message and avoid triggering re- sistance unnecessarily. Focus and Repetition Leaders who try to communicate too many messages at once often end up with a muddle. One of the core insights of research on per- suasive communication is the power of focus and repetition. 23 Dana’s persuasive messages are most likely to take root in the minds of White Goods’s workforce if they consist of a few core themes, repeated until they sink in. It is a sure sign of success when people begin to echo your themes without knowing they are doing so, and focus and repetition are effective means to this end. By the third or fourth time we hear a new song on the radio, for instance, we often cannot get it out of our minds. Of course, we may also grow irritated by repetition: using precisely the same words over and over is likely to annoy and insult your listeners and will make it apparent that you are trying to persuade, which can provoke backlash. The art of effective communication is to repeat and elaborate core themes without sounding like a parrot. Dana had to craft the message that a move down-market need not compromise quality. In early tours of White Goods plants, Dana had learned that the workforce was proud of its products but ashamed that the company sold only to wealthy customers. Dana BUILDING COALITIONS 155 could tap into this sentiment by subtly emphasizing that the new products would be affordable for workers and their families. Matching the Medium to the Message Decisions about how to communicate a message shouldn’t be made lightly. Leaders have at their disposal a variety of forums and me- dia, including speeches, small-group meetings, town meetings, newsletters, memos, interactive videoconferences, videotapes, and Web pages. News is nearly always best delivered in an interactive forum, such as a meeting at which people can ask questions, but complex technical and data-intensive arguments are best conveyed in written form. 24 Speeches and live videoconference and town meeting presentations are ideal for communicating broad goals, values, and inspiration. Prerecorded video presentations, though useful for disseminating information about the progress of initi- atives, can seem contrived when used to communicate a new vi- sion. In developing her communication plan, Dana should take into account how White Goods employees feel (or could feel) most comfortable interacting with top leadership. Do senior man- agers meet regularly with employees in town hall formats? Are such meetings viewed as open and risk-free opportunities to ask questions or as one-way streets for management to tell employ- ees how it’s going to be? If the latter, Dana could send a message by running a more open process. Building Personal Credibility Personal credibility is an important persuasive resource. Numer- ous studies have found the persuasiveness of a message to be strongly linked to the perceived credibility of its source. 25 This is not a new observation; as Aristotle pointed out in Rhetoric: Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal 156 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATIONcharacter of the speaker; the second on putting the audience in a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or appar- ent proof, provided by the speech itself. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and readily than others; this is true gen- erally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided. 26 Just so. Leaders with a reputation for integrity are listened to because they are respected, considered trustworthy, and perceived to possess the experience to make good judgments. They are also more persuasive when their approval is highly valued. Leaders who demand and reward excellence, and who spotlight and condemn inadequate performance, are likely to find their approval a rare and sought-after commodity. A leader who takes this too far might earn a reputation for never being satisfied, but a reputation for not being tough enough is probably more damaging. OUTCOME FOR DANA In the end, Dana successfully transformed White Goods. She em- ployed shared diagnosis to convince top management, including a reluctant Todd, of the need for change. This initiative led to the selection of a project team to plan changes in the product devel- opment process and, in turn, to two pilot projects for midrange offerings. As these projects began to bear fruit, but substantially before they were ready for launch, Dana began communicating ex- tensively with the company as a whole about the need to move in the direction of midrange appliances. She made the case for change in a series of in-person meetings and written communications, and emphasized that the proposed new offerings would bring the com- pany’s products within the reach of everyone. She also highlighted the likely downside of not moving in this direction: progressive erosion of the company’s competitiveness. BUILDING COALITIONS 157 The final piece involved placating salespeople and the net- work of independent dealers. Working closely with Todd, Dana met directly with groups of salespeople and dealers to explain the decision to sell midrange products directly through large retail stores under a different brand name. Though upset, they were re- lieved to be reassured that the company was committed to retain- ing the dealer network for higher end products. HONING YOUR DEFENSES Efforts to persuade are a pervasive part of life. Negotiators and lead- ers don’t merely need to know how to persuade; they must also know when to permit themselves to be persuaded and when to re- sist. The former calls for understanding your own biases and blind spots and how they might impede openness to good arguments. The latter calls for understanding others’ persuasive techniques and honing your defenses. All the approaches to persuasion that we have surveyed are as likely to be used on leaders as by leaders. People will strive to frame arguments, employ entanglement, and exploit the power of reci- procity; they will seek to alter perceptions of alternatives and ar- tificially constrain choices. Recognizing these strategies is the most potent defense: forewarned is forearmed. The next best defenses are to broaden options and defer commitment. Slowing down the pace of events and thinking things through are bulwarks against making decisions you will come to regret. Techniques of persuasion are inherently neither benign nor malign. Like many other tools, they can be used for good or ill, and without them leaders would be unable to lead. 158 BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS NEGOTIATION

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