Persuading people: How to convince the followers and the controllers

No one decision-making style is inherently superior to the other. The key in getting a buy-in from anyone lies in understanding who the real decision maker is among all the stakeholders

Bhavna Dalal
Updated: Jun 6, 2017 11:28:39 AM UTC

Bhavna Dalal [[www.bhavnadalal.com](http://www.bhavnadalal.com/)] is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India. She is an Executive Master Coach [ICF MCC Certified] with an MBA from IIM Calcutta and has a B.E. in Electronics. She has authored the books Checkmate Office Politics and Team Decision Making endorsed by the likes of Marshal Goldsmith and Dr. Jadgish Seth among many other business leaders. Bhavna has been serving on several compliance commitees and is the Vice President on the Board of Directors of Bodhi Education Society (A not-for-profit that supports schools in rural Andhra Pradesh).

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In Parts One and Two in this series of articles, we explored the best way to obtain buy-in from anyone. The key lies in understanding who the real decision maker is among all the stakeholders, and tailoring your arguments to that business leader’s decision-making style. The first three decision making styles i.e. The Charismatic, the Thinker and the Skeptic have been analysed in Part Two.

This part explores the remaining two styles.

The Followers: Followers are experienced students that base their decisions on how other trusted executives or they themselves have taken similar decisions in the past. Since they are wary of making wrong choices, this group seldom falls in the category of early adopters. Followers prefer to trust in known brands and practices - options that are low on risk. They are sensitive and good at perceiving the world through other people’s eyes. They are responsible decision makers, which is why they are most often found in the corporate space. An example of a Follower is Carly Fiorina.

Similar to Skeptics, Followers will engage you in several issues and repeatedly challenge you but eventually they will only agree to something if they have seen it done before. Of course they will not admit to this - they do not like being seen as Followers because that implies they are not risk-takers and not pioneers, and almost every leader wants to be considered innovative and progressive. The point to note about Followers is that they are not inherently suspicious like the Skeptics. Although they demonstrate a take-charge demeanor, they yield when challenged. People that are difficult to classify into a decision-making style are generally this type, because people who fall into the other categories tend to show their characteristics more definitively.

The good news is that Followers are often the easiest to persuade. To obtain buy-in from them, they need to be made to feel confident about deciding to move in a certain direction by seeing examples of others that have succeeded on that path. They tend to focus on proven methods, so references and testimonials are powerful persuading factors.

Ideally, this lot wants solutions that are innovative yet proven, new but trusted, leading-edge yet not too risky. At the end of the day, what Followers need most is to know that they won’t lose their jobs. This is why they rarely make out-of-the-box decisions. The keywords that they like to hear are: innovate, expedite, old way, what works, fast, bright, just like before, expertise, similar to and previous.

The Controllers: The Controllers are cautious puppeteers that focus on pure facts and analytics because of their own fears and uncertainties. They tend to appear unemotional, sensible, detail-oriented and accurate, but they can be overbearing. Controllers believe they know it all and are the best strategists and salesmen. While Followers are empathetic enough to put themselves in another’s shoes; Controllers are quite self-centered and see things only from their own perspective. They frequently make snap judgments and remarks that alienate others. Ross Perot and Martha Stewart are examples of Controllers.

Even though Controllers seek accuracy and facts, that does not necessarily mean they will make intelligent, rational decisions. Often, a Controller will jump to illogical conclusions, but unlike Charismatic decision-makers, who will take responsibility for their decisions, Controllers try to avoid being held accountable. When something goes wrong, they assume others are at fault. Over-selling to them is not a good idea. When dealing with them, you need to help them overcome their own fears even though they will pretend not to have any and are in fact very adept at masking them. You will always be playing a game of cat and mouse with them.

Controllers and Skeptics have many characteristics in common, but the main difference is that Controllers need sufficient time to make decisions and don't like being rushed, while Skeptics on the contrary are much quicker. Buzzwords and phrases to use with a controller are: details, power, facts, reason, logic, handle, physical and just do it.

The fact of the matter is no one decision-making style is inherently superior to the other. Depending on the situation, each style can be extremely effective and valuable to observe. The labels in these articles are meant to give a brief description of the dominant behaviors in broad categories and nothing more. Knowing and understanding the preferences that business leaders adopt in receiving information for their decision-making processes can significantly improve the chances of tipping the outcome in your favour.

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