What can you do to persuade your leadership team, who stubbornly doesn’t get your point?


It felt like the only thing we could agree on, is that we couldn’t agree on anything. Have you been there before?

We had been discussing our 10-year vision for 45 minutes with the board of directors, and the conversation was going in circles between two opposing views. I felt stuck. I was championing one of these views, I knew that my point of view was right, and I also knew that my emotions were clouding my judgment – I couldn’t see a way out of this deadlock. Why was the other side so stubborn? As the leader of the organization should I simply impose my point of view and be done with this?

Arguing is not persuading

As this experience illustrates, arguing to prove a point is not the best way to change the minds of other team members. “If anything, arguing makes people more intransigent,” explains this Harvard Business Review article on persuasion. “The consequence of you arguing for your point of view is the exact opposite of what you want: people shut down and stop listening,” says BCG partner Julia Dahr, who won the World Schools Debate Championships three times and delivered this and this TED talks on the topic of productive disagreements.

Counterintuitively, listening is more persuasive than speaking. The issue is: when we are blinded by our own emotions in the heat of a debate, listening becomes very challenging – and when we listen, we often do so with the intent to prove our point and to reply; we are not listening to learn. As a result we make sub-optimal strategic decisions – which is frustrating for our leadership team, but which also prevents our business from growing to its full potential.

How can you intently listen when disagreeing with your senior leaders, so that as the CEO you can make better decisions that will help you grow faster and with less pain? This is the topic of this article.

In a debate, choose curiosity over fight

Curiosity makes magic happen. As soon as people sense that you are truly and nonjudgmentally listening to them, they open up – and share their goals and intentions behind their logic. Additionally it also makes people curious about your own point of view – which creates a much more meaningful and impactful conversation. Finally, the insights you learn in this conversation enable you to improve your point of view.

When you switch on your curiosity mindset, your goal has to be to genuinely understand the other person’s perspective. Stephen Covey rated this skill so highly that he called out “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” as one of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. To find out how to listen more intently, read the full article: How can you persuade your leadership team, who stubbornly doesn’t get your point? – Ambrose Growth | Business Coaching.

How did my story end?

The next day I realized that this deadlock was entirely my fault: I was so emotionally entrenched behind my point of view that I lost track of the big picture. I couldn’t even explain the other side’s logic (except that it was wrong): I had listened with the intent to prove my point, not with the intent to understand.

A few days later, I sat down with my “opponent” and asked him to explain his point of view “like he would to a 5-year-old.” Listening to him was uncomfortable: several times I felt the urge to interrupt him because he was crossing strategic red lines. Miraculously I didn’t, and I focused on asking clarifying questions.

As a result in less than 15 minutes, I understood what he wanted to achieve and, much more importantly, why this mattered so much to him. I still don’t agree with everything he proposed, but I fundamentally agree with his intentions, and I am very confident that together we will be able to develop a stronger plan to reach our common goals.

Read the full article here:


Updated: Apr 14, 2023

About the author
Xavier Lederer of Ambrose Growth is a member of XPX Hartford

Call me when your client is frustrated because their business is not growing as fast as they want. As a business coach I help companies identify and remove growth roadblocks so they can grow faster and with less pain.