Not in Charge? Persuasive Techniques for Better Decisions

June 4, 2013

not in charge

How do you make better decisions if you are not in charge? Some of the toughest situations arise when each person involved in a particular issue has positional authority, but no one has definitive control to make the final decision. For example, division managers from marketing and R&D need to work together to develop a new product but neither one has power to direct what the other person does. Both people have risen through the ranks as the result of their ability to get things done in the area where they are in charge, but now they can’t make anything happen together. Patience wears thin, tempers soar, and tough issues fester.

In truth, control is an illusion. No one person is really in charge. CEOs report to boards of directors. Boards of directors are accountable to shareholders. When it comes to dealing with the toughest issues, no one is really in total control.

Although you are not in charge, a few simple techniques can enable you to be an agent of hope in fear-filled situations and shift the dynamics to a positive course.


The key theme of all three techniques is to appeal to people’s better nature. Help them get out of the box of expectations that keeps them from participating in an inclusive and constructive process and stymies the possibility of achieving productive results. In addition, you must accomplish this without raising your colleagues’ fears about loss of control. The following persuasive techniques will help you get better results when you’re not in charge.

 Technique #1: Invite People to Try a Different Approach

Control-oriented people generally resist someone directly challenging their authority or the way they do things. Such people are unlikely to directly adopt a new system of discussing and deciding tough issues, regardless of the process’s proven effectiveness.

Scott Adams on Understanding Basic Human Psychology

To sell them on the concept, you don’t need to sell them on the entire process or even advocate it as a new process. Instead, you can take a simple action to introduce steps subtly and effectively. Don’t try to change their personality; tweak the way the team discussed issues. Opportunities abound to do small things that make a big difference. No matter what role you play, you can improve situations.

Express your invitations in ways that use the positive appeal of each step to attract interest. You may wish to outline one or two steps at a time so that the process doesn’t seem too threatening or overwhelming.

 Technique #2: Offer Choices and Let Others Choose

When you encounter people who want to control decisions or actions, offer them choices. Identify two or more options that work for you and your group’s objectives and then let them choose among them. For example, say, “Shall we gather the team members and other potential sources of information to discuss this topic today or at a time later this week?”

It’s like offering a child who doesn’t like vegetables the choice between broccoli and peas. This allows the child to control the choice, but you have the satisfaction that he or she is eating vegetables. Give people choices, and they’ll more readily cooperate with you.

Technique #3: Interrupt Behavioral Patterns That Aren’t Working

Workers assume that leaders and managers intentionally behave as they do. The reality is that most people in charge are not fully conscious of their self-limiting behaviors. Others want to change their behavior but don’t know how. Sometimes even small changes can improve interpersonal dynamics. Try sitting in a different place, or suggest a creative teamwork game to start the meeting. Another alternative is to offer a story.

Become Indispensable

Adapted with permission from How Great Decisions Get Made by Don Maruska (Amacom Books).

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About The Author

Christina Parisi is Director of Digital Content at the American Management Association. Previously she was an Executive Editor at AMACOM Books and the Director of AMA Self-Studies.

One Comment »

  1. avatar

    Interesting article, we need Always show trust to persons and talk sincerely.

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