‘Politics is a dirty word’ the saying goes. But day-to-day office politics is a core part on business life and successful leaders need consummate political skills to persuade employees, clients and stakeholders across the spectrum to trust them and follow their lead.
An Ipsos MORI poll, in 2015, showed that the British public are less likely to trust politicians to tell the truth than estate agents, bankers or journalists. Just 16% of Britons trust politicians to tell the truth, and whether the percentage is any higher in the U.S. during the current presidential campaign is doubtful.
“Many people find politics objectionable and unseemly,” says Wharton's Professor Richard Shell. “They see it as inauthentic, about playing games when you should be telling the truth. But no matter what you think about it, you can’t opt out.”
Shell, a renowned expert on negotiation and persuasion, says at the heart of organizational politics is relationship-based persuasion. In this insight piece he offers four invaluable approaches to persuading the seemingly unpersuadable:
For Shell, persuasion is as much art as science. “Science is involved because you create hypotheses about what might convince the other person, and then you test them. There is a structured process you can learn. But you also need creativity." says Shell, Thomas Gerrity Professor, Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics and Management, at The Wharton School.
In Wharton’s 'Strategic Persuasion Workshop: The Art and Science of Selling Ideas', Shell and Mario Moussa the co-author draw on lessons from their book ‘The Art of WOO’ (Winning Others Over), to help participants strengthen their political skills.
The program helps people think about the process of getting buy-in, finding allies, crafting a compelling message and then adjusting it for different audiences, building coalitions, and gaining consensus. It also addresses three common errors: First, people blurt out their idea before they frame it strategically. Second, they impinge on someone else’s turf or disrespect another person’s function. Third, they’re too impatient. The idea-selling process rewards patience.