Simplifying the Art of Persuasion – How to Make a Case for Change

Persuasion – it’s such a powerful word and such a critical skill for leaders to employ on a daily basis. Most of us are used to tapping into our powers of persuasion every day – convincing our child that eating vegetables is a great choice, asking our boss for the opportunity to present at a Steering Committee and (all too familiar to me) trying to talk our way out of a speeding ticket.

When you need to translate your personal “persuasion” skills and convince a large audience to behave differently or take action, many leaders find that their own personal skills just can’t scale. In my experience, one of the best ways to convince others to do something different is by creating a Case for Change.

I’ve seen complicated/over-engineered versions of this concept in action, but want to focus on simplicity – when creating your own Case for Change:

  • Get crystal clear and specific on what you are asking your audience to do and why. This is no small feat as it often requires the equally important skill of stakeholder management (i.e., herding cats) to get everyone aligned around that common definition.
  • Write down 5 bullets/sentences outlining the changes.
  • Answer the “why”. Incorporate simple non-jargon about the outcomes you expect.
  • Define the business objectives you’re trying to achieve. Yes, change has to be personal, but employees need to buy-in to the business reasons and drivers behind a change in addition to what you’re asking of them specifically. For example: We’ve decided to do this because we need to achieve some specific business objectives, including…
  • Define the personal impact or WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Help people understand what they need to know or do differently, and how they will be impacted.

Evaluate your communication strategy and ensure that your Case for Change:

  • Rolls out early in the project, after your audience is aware.
  • Is tailored to the specific audience group (one size definitely does NOT fit all!).
  • Is delivered by the right leader with the right power and influence to help people listen.

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.