Aristotle in the Boardroom

(7 Minute Read)

As the sales team takes their seats in the boardroom, CEO, A.C. Tosser, rises from his seat and begins to address the staff.

Tosser begins by explaining how the next level of sales will positively affect the commissions and bonuses for the people in the room. He chides Mary, “You could finally get that new pool you have talked about,” and, “Fred, you will finally be able to start saving for Little Fred’s college tuition.” He continues, “If sales continue to rise, we will be implementing a program to support the local dog rescue. Ed and Anna, will I be able to get your help on that?” “Oh, and, by the way,” he adds, “we are confidentially trying to arrange to hold this year’s Holiday Party in Las Vegas. It will depend on our mid-year totals, but I just thought you’d like to know.” As he continues, the tone is not only a discussion, but the staff begins to become excited and the room fills with energy!

A.C. Tosser understands how to motivate his staff. As a student of Greek philosophy, he knows that Aristotle’s rhetoric is as relevant today as it was twenty-five hundred years ago. The theory advanced by Aristotle includes three categories of focus when presenting a convincing argument. They are Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

  • Ethos is the essence of your character. It is your charismatic appeal.
  • Logos is the intellectual appeal. It is the logical factors or the truths that make up the foundation and structure of your presentation.
  • Pathos is the emotional appeal. It is that which appeals to the wants and desires of the audience; what it is they want to believe and what makes them happy.

Effective persuasion is accomplished when the speaker is able to understand the importance and depth of his own character, reason logically, and understand the emotions that motivate and inspire the listener.

Let us begin with Ethos; your character. You must have character to successfully lead and convince others to follow. There are no exceptions. It is far easier for us to believe the words of a good person than a bad person. Character is in many instances the most effective means of persuasion that we possess.

Tosser has built credibility by working with his team, getting to know them, and keeping them on track. He is one of them. They can relate to him. Tosser is a constant. If you do not remain consistent, your personality becomes a distraction that disrupts the flow and confuses the ultimate message. If every time your team gets comfortable with you, you change your personality, demeanor, or overall attitude, they will have to reconsider their position as to whether they like you or not. The mental process will then be stuck in a rut, and they will be hard-pressed to give thought to your “message.”

So, what is it that A.C. Tosser knows?

  • He knows the pains of rejection and the anguish of a week with no sales,
  • He can remind them of the team accomplishments, and the joy and thrill of the hot streaks that kept contracts flowing in,
  • He can speak their language,
  • Tosser understands the products and benefits the company offers, and
  • He is there to assist with better ways of relating the needs to the customers.

The ability to trust is, at its core, an emotional decision. We want to trust. With all the proof we can gather, and with all the emotion we can create, our goal of being accepted will fail if we do not have a character that people can embrace. Trust is critical to effective persuasion.

Logos is the ability to present the information in a coherent fashion, to lead everyone to the same factual conclusion. If you give people enough acceptable and understandable information, the logical choice will be easier for them to make. Accordingly, you give them the information they need to control their own decision-making process.  This is a core component of effective persuasion.

People will resist a position that is forced upon them. Skepticism becomes a major defense mechanism that fights against the possibility of harm, loss, or deceit. Education and learning are phenomenal co-pilots that allow us to guide people on the path we design. Knowledge and information are the precursors to the logical choice. If people are provided sufficient information to make an educated choice, they will do so freely and comfortably, without the need for excessive persuasion.

Most people are vulnerable when they feel that their goals are in sync with the company goals, and when those weaknesses are eliminated, people are more likely to follow. Take the time to find the positive weaknesses in those you lead. The positive triggers are much more rewarding to target and exploit; in fact, when done well, everyone wins!

The goal of a leader is to lead, not direct and order people to act. The more people want to follow you, the more success you will achieve. So, how do you get people to follow you? Be a solution to their problems. Give them what they need. Work on their hearts and minds in a positive and healthy way to be the person they look to for direction.

How to be Personal

By remembering that they are individuals with their own definitions of success, he has listened enough to know what makes them feel alive. Not everyone is inspired by the greater good or team approach. For many, motivation is grounded in self-interest. What have you done for me, lately? What can you do for me, now? People are generally motivated by self-interest.

Also, Tosser understands the products and benefits the company offers, and he is always there to assist with better ways of relating the needs to the customers.

Most importantly, he has taken an extra few minutes at the water cooler to learn each team member’s passions. He attends the Friday Happy Hour to listen to their dreams. He has taken the time to give his leadership and motivation a personal touch. He is not tied to charts, graphs, and PowerPoints. He is bound to Mary’s pool and Fred’s son. He cares about Ed and Anna’s humanitarian efforts. His heart is in his team’s success.

When Tosser assumed the lead, he did so with an eye on the room. Who is listening? Who is daydreaming? And, most importantly, what makes them tick. He spoke with a focus on herding the hearts and minds of the team to bring them together as a cohesive unit. He did not expect them to run to him as he spoke; he went to them and guided them back to center. He knew exactly what carrots to dangle in front of their eyes.

Consider spending time listening to and observing those you lead. As you mingle, chat, and observe, pay attention to the needs of the team, and lead discussions as you search for the group’s mindset. Look for common truths that shape their beliefs and thoughts. Frequently question their dreams, and their beliefs, to find a common thread.

A well-structured presentation, like a well-structured argument, must contain balanced proportions of Character Appeal, Intellectual Appeal, and Emotional Appeal. The measurements change from person to person and from task to task. For some, success is a matter of patience and practice. For others, it will flow as if it is their birthright. For the majority of us, the art of effective persuasion requires a balance of our natural skills and our learned techniques. The challenge will always be finding the balance that is right for you.

When you walk into a meeting, have your facts, charts, and statistics ready, but pay attention to the room and your audience. Put your commitment to the team first. Be ready to go with the flow. Allow them to come to you and be inspired to follow.