The Touchstone Partners team meeting introduced a case study and discussion, while layering researched theories and best practices that inform developing ‘soft skills’ such as persuasion to bear a positive influence for optimal personal development, organizational behaviour, and business relationships. Critical conversations such as this emphasize our beliefs, commitment, and accountability for our roles in building an accomplished team, profound purpose at Touchstone, and the far-reaching impact we come to bear.
Persuasion and Influence
August 3, 2022
Our Touchstone team met to discuss how researched theories and best practices inform developing ‘soft skills’ such as persuasion to bear influence where needed, for optimal personal development, organizational behaviour, and business relationships. Sharing our views on vital topics such as this, highlights aspects of what makes Touchstone truly ‘Touchstone.’ Together, we aim to strengthen our three pillars, namely, our firm culture, our team, and ourselves, by visibly prioritizing the continuum around which we relate.
As a primer, a pre-session exercise had the Touchstone team individually read and analyse a seminal case study, The Kidney Case by Austen-Smith, Feddersen, Galinsky, and Liljenquist. The goal was to determine the most deserving candidate for the allocation of a single kidney amongst eight potential transplant recipients and then rank order for highest priority. After, team members met in groups to together advocate for an assigned candidate and prepare their case to present at the Team meeting. Finally, based on the arguments made by each group, all team members were given the chance to reconsider their initial allocation rankings.
A live poll revealed that many changed their initial allocation decision(s). While individual outcomes for reviewing ranking decisions might be spurred by arguments presented by each group to promote their appointed candidate, a larger picture loomed with the need to understand competing ideas of fairness in reference to this case.
The learnings pointed to analysing the case from different perspectives, such as value-based principles of resource allocation, procedural versus distributive justice, the utility of ethical considerations for the use of markets and ethical decisions criteria. In considering ethics, utilitarianism, care, justice, and human rights emerged. The question, “How do you persuade others when there is no ‘right’ answer?” was posed to further delve into the premise behind the group work and the effect the presented cases would have in changing individual rankings.
Overtly, several criteria served to justly allocate the kidney to the most deserving candidate. Yet, one cannot undermine the subtle influence of persuasion at play, in arguing each case and implicitly winning the audience over to ‘buy in’ to their assigned candidate’s prioritized need. This emphasizes the need for skill in persuasion, used as a positive tactic to exert influence for a desired outcome.
Leaning on cutting edge management science, the discussion summarized three salient elements in developing the skill of persuasion in the workplace. The first described a targeted approach in tailoring your message to fit your audience, as explained in Change the Way You Persuade by Gary A. Williams and Robert B. Miller. This classic article describes decision-maker categories based on temperament and style in making decisions, aimed at building sharpened awareness of your audience. The second, Nick Morgan’s Understand the 4 components of Influence, uncovered the essentials of an effective delivery, namely using your ‘positional power, emotion, expertise, and nonverbal signals’ to relay a message. In Harnessing the Science of Persuasion by Robert B Cialdini, the author states, “working with the premise that persuasion is also a science and works by appealing to a limited set of deeply rooted human drives and needs, and it does so in predictable ways…. persuasion is governed by basic principles that can be taught, learned and applied. By mastering these six principles, executives can bring scientific rigor to the business of securing consensus, cutting deals, and winning concessions.” As described, each persuasion principle has a practical application that can boost agency and influence for needs in business. To sum up, How to Increase your Influence at Work by Rebecca Knight, posed “visible steps that help you become that go-to person that others look to for advice.”
To conclude, while The Kidney case is a study in resource allocation through ethics and justice, it also alludes to the importance of developing ‘soft skills’ such as the art and skill of persuasion to wield influence in management practice. Critical conversations such as this emphasize our beliefs, commitment, and accountability for our roles in building an accomplished team, profound purpose at Touchstone, and the far-reaching impact we come to bear.