12/04/2017 2:13 PM IST | Updated 16/04/2017 10:06 AM IST

3 Subtle Ways To Persuade Your Team To Comply With Requests

These methods are simple… and sneaky!

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Persuading a team, or just about anyone, to do something can be quite an uphill task. This holds true irrespective of whether you are trying change behaviour, sell a new idea, or just trying to ensure compliance to new processes. So what can you do to increase your chances of getting compliance and motivating people to agree? Turns out some simple techniques can really up the odds in your favour.

1. Choose your words carefully to trigger action

The way you present your case to the team can make all the difference. Two strategies can be adopted here:

Connect with the big picture: You must connect whatever you want the employee to do (however small) to the bigger picture. Remember, people love to be part of a larger purpose and if you are able to make them get a sense of it, things become easy.

Employees will willingly buy into an idea if they know that what they are doing is a matter of "significance".

Employees will willingly buy into an idea if they know that what they are doing is a matter of "significance". For example, when the finance function of a bank was undergoing a major change program, a finance leader wanted her teams to adopt new ways of working. Hence, she told her team members—many of whom did jobs which otherwise may seem trivial and inconsequential—that they were just not going to adopt new practice but work towards creating a finance function that would be known across the industry. She made her teams see their work as important. This change brought a positive impact and all those who were earlier reluctant to adopt the new way of working did so willingly. They felt they were doing something meaningful.

Use nouns rather than verbs: Tweak the way you speak to those whose compliance you want. According to Gregory Walton of Stanford University, using nouns instead of verbs improves compliance. Let me give you an example. You want your team member to be a part of a technology improvement effort. You can urge your team members to be a part of it by making one of the following observations. The first one could be: "How do you plan to be a part of the technology change effort?" The other option could be to ask: "How do you plan to be a change agent in the transformation?" Clearly, the latter one is more impactful.

Using a noun creates a sense of belonging and helps them to identify with a specific group. Who doesn't want to be designated as a change agent? When I worked for Marico Industries long time back I could see Harsh Mariwala follow this tactic. I was then their head of corporate quality and he would ask me whenever he met me in the corridor, "Have you been a change agent?"

2. Adopt the "But you are free to" technique

When you request people to comply with something, go ahead and provide the reasons why you want them to change. Provide them with the pros and cons. Tell them about all those who may have also agreed to your request. Or those who have adopted the practice that you are trying to implement in the organisation. However, end by telling them that they are not obliged to comply and are free to choose. It can do wonders. A meta-analysis of 42 studies touching 22,000 people found that providing such a freedom doubled the chances of people agreeing to the request.

When you give an option to people to not comply, it also puts a sort of a quiet moral pressure to acquiesce to the request...

Providing this freedom to choose is non-threatening to people and they are more open to complying. Not to forget humans love choices instead of someone breathing down their neck. When you give an option to people to not comply, it also puts a sort of a quiet moral pressure to acquiesce to the request.

3. Don't make direct demands

Sometimes when you want someone to comply with your request or adopt your idea, it makes sense to not directly talk about it or sell the concept. Instead, talk around the issue. There are two strategies you can adopt:

Ask questions: Ask the following questions: why do you think we should adopt this idea? What are the benefits? What would you miss if you did not adopt this idea? When you ask these questions, it not only forces people to reflect but also helps to plant the seed on why the idea that you are talking about is relevant. This works brilliantly in a workplace/professional setting and it provides a great approach to reflect and seek buy in. It also is a non-threatening technique that makes people adopt and adapt to a new idea.

Skirt around the issue: Sometimes, it can be tough to tell a person to change a behaviour or adopt a new idea—they may be highly resistant. So you skirt around the issue. Say for example, you have a friend who is a chain smoker. He clearly knows that smoking is injurious to health yet continues to smoke. In such a case, one strategy that sometimes works is to read out from a newspaper about the latest statistics on cancer deaths due to smoking. The objective here is to make the person "think" without asking them directly to change. However, I would maintain that in a workplace/professional setting, direct communication is better.