When it comes to your career, what do you need to know? You are thinking, ‘I need to know the way to success’. Life coaches and motivational books that encourage personal achievement will generally push ‘the art of the sell’. In plain language, you need to know the best way to sell yourself and promote your abilities. Why? The benefits are large.
From day one on the job, you’ll be writing your narrative, your story that will create an image along your career path. The quality of your story will depend on communicating persuasively. This is because you’ll be selling your ideas, solutions, and improvements which will get the attention of those in control of your professional future. Your ideas will be communicated in the form of persuasive business documents: email, memos, reports and proposals.
What is the best outcome? Think résumé. Think being able to say SOLD! Each time your ideas or solutions are implemented, you can add them to your list of accomplishments.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ’S]
You need to know your audience. This is imperative. Know the ‘readers’ of your documents. Think of them as ‘buyers’. You are the seller. They are the buyers.
Your readers will be your bosses and colleagues. Creating an impression that promotes your ability to communicate clearly and persuasively is directly related to your level of success.
To know your reader is to have a good idea of the position your reader takes on issues in the workplace. Your bosses will need to be persuaded to accept your good ideas, solutions, and improvements. In order to persuade your readers, you must have knowledge of their stated or unstated beliefs on workplace issues. Meaning, you must be familiar with their thoughts and assumptions in areas of the business, particularly those for which you are offering improvements.
- Be diligent on the job. Stay informed. Engage your colleagues in meaningful conversations on job-related issues.
- Be aware of your boss’s success objectives. These are specific things that must be achieved to demonstrate success in your department.
When you have a strong idea of what may be going on in the mind of your boss, you will have a strong idea of how to sell your idea. This is the same as building a strong persuasive document. A persuasive document is an argument. And building a good argument starts with creating the foundation upon which it rests. This foundation is the need to know your reader. Basic composition courses call this analyzing your audience. In my book, this principle of knowing your reader is based on the writings of Stephen Toulmin. He calls this knowledge ‘warrants’. Whichever label you choose, here’s how both work on the job.
WRITING YOUR PERSUASIVE DOCUMENT AT WORK – A MEMO
You have decided to write a persuasive memo that will justify a change in office hours. You want to convince your boss to give you a shorter work week for the same pay. For example, you will argue increases in productivity will occur with a Monday through Thursday work week rather than Monday through Friday. First, you’ll need to understand why she wouldn’t want to do this even though you will be putting in the same amount of hours.
Before you begin to write your persuasive memo, you must figure out what she believes on the subject of shorter work weeks. This is where you begin to make assumptions or guesses. These assumptions or guesses are ‘what you need to know’, or as Toulmin puts it, the “warrants.” When you couple information with her success objectives, you’ll have a strong idea of what type of evidence you’ll need to convince her.
FIRST STEPS IN PERSUASIVE BUSINESS WRITING
Your great ideas for solving problems or improving processes in the workplace will only be ideas if you are not able to ‘sell’ them. As a friend advised, ‘don’t let your ideas fall on the floor’. You want your ideas to be implemented, to become real, and to produce real benefits for you and yours.
To sell them, you must master persuasive business writing, and to master persuasive business writing, you must understand the first two steps in an effective model that produces results:
- Step 1 – Know your reader’s stated and unstated beliefs with regard to the issue you are addressing.
- Step 2 – Know how to locate the evidence that will serve as your support and appeal to your reader’s stated and unstated beliefs.
For a more expanded discussion on persuasive business writing, ‘warrants’, ‘the need to know’, and the Toulmin Model of Argumentation in business writing, see my book, Royce Murcherson, PhD, The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.
Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010
This article is the third in a four-part guest series written by Royce Murcherson, PhD, on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.
For more information on BOSS course offerings in communications, the BOSS degree and certificates, and how the BOSS program can help you with your career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, firstname.lastname@example.org 972-238-6215.
- Currency [value]
- Articulation [voice]
- Selling Power [promotion]
- Endurance [strength]
It involves giving your great ideas an honest and principled foundation based more on the good of all versus the good of one. In the hit medieval HBO series, A Game of Thrones, several warring noble houses repeatedly clash in their quest for the “iron throne.” They resort to the most questionable tactics to seize this great prize as their own. It is obvious that ethics and ethical behavior do not factor into their strategies. From that world to the business world in which you will likely find yourself, the great prize could be a corner office with a view, a dedicated administrative assistant, a six figure income, and an annual bonus with stock options.
Unlike the nobles in A Game of Thrones, you must stay within the ethical boundaries of ‘Corporate America.’ And staying within these boundaries means understanding the nature of ethical behavior. It doesn’t always boil down to the simple difference between ‘right and wrong.’ More often than not, you may find yourself in an ethical skirmish where the right thing to do may not be fitting, the wrong thing to do is not an option, and the in-between still leaves you with an uneasy feeling.
Surviving an ethical skirmish in the workplace requires a strong sense of self. What does this mean exactly? It’s simple. It’s when you realize it’s not about you all of the time. So forget the notion that a skirmish has to involve another party. The most challenging ethical skirmishes may be a conflict between ‘you’ and ‘you’ when trying to answer questions such as:
- Is sharing a good thing?
- Is taking responsibility a good thing?
- How much commitment should I show?
- Am I being truthful and honest?
What do these questions of ethical behavior have to do with persuasive business writing? The obvious. You must be able to communicate your ability to solve problems and improve processes in a fair and principled manner. And to do this, you must be able to survive ethical skirmishes in the workplace.
TWO BIG RULES OF SURVIVAL:
Rule #1 – Avoid the ‘Me-Condition’
Try not to base all of your ideas, choices, and decisions on personal interest. Self-interest can be a good thing, but it can also run contrary to other people’s best interest.
Rule #2 – Test Your Conclusions
When situation and circumstance come into play, it can be hard to avoid the ‘me-condition’ and come to the most ethical conclusion. So ask yourself three simple questions:
- How might this conclusion benefit me?
- How might this benefit hurt or help other people?
- In the long run, how might this conclusion contribute to the kind of person I ultimately want to be?
Remember, more often than not, you may find yourself in an ethical skirmish in which your character could be tried. And as I state in my book, it’s hard not to think of your own best interest first. Because of this, you should practice the rules of survival being fully aware you may be engaged in a clash of conscious in what I refer to as the ‘grey zone,’ a place where interpreting the difference between right and wrong behavior can be tested.
This guest blog, which is the first in a four-part series, was written by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., who is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.
For a more expanded discussion on ethics and ethical behavior in the workplace, consult Dr. Murcherson’s book, The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.
*You can refer to the HBO series or the novel, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin for further description and discussion of the “iron throne.”