Persuade your boss | Inquirer Business

Persuade your boss

You are ready to start the year right. You do due diligence, prepare well, rehearse the presentation. You are sure the boss will support your proposal, but no go. The problem often lies not in the content, but in the delivery.

In 2002, consultants Gary Williams and Robert Miller analyzed the decision-making styles of 1,600 American executives and classified them into five categories: charismatic, thinker, skeptic, follower and controller.



Charismatics exude enthusiasm and dominance. Think Oprah Winfrey or Richard Branson of the Virgin Group. At first, they appear to readily embrace new concepts, but they often hesitate to commit themselves unless they have weighed essential facts, especially the bottom line.


To win over charismatic bosses, refrain from adding to their excitement. Instead prepare the details meticulously, emphasizing results. Keep the pitch direct, be upfront about the pros and cons, make matters as transparent as possible.


Thinkers, such as Bill Gates and Katharine Graham of the Washington Post, pride themselves on logic and reason. They reflect deeply on how to plan for contingencies and have more foresight than less intellectual competitors.

Thinkers are more averse to risk than charismatics, but “interestingly, their thought process is very selective but not always completely methodical,” write Williams and Miller in the Harvard Business Review.

Several family business first-generation leaders in the Philippines exhibit the traits of thinkers.

To convince thinkers, gather as much information as possible: feasibility studies, market research, cost-benefit analyses, etc. Ensure that quantitative data is on hand, and do not lose heart if thinkers do not appear to be extremely enthusiastic about the plan on the surface.



Demanding and aggressive, skeptics are often feared by subordinates. Self-absorbed, they may rely on feelings rather than facts, and often mistrust information that runs counter to their beliefs. Examples are Larry Ellison of Oracle and Steve Case of AOL.

Both thinkers and skeptics conduct exhaustive interrogations of new ideas. “The thinker launches a volley of questions, and it is not personal; with a skeptic, it is. Do not let it get to you; just go through your presentation coolly and logically. The good news is that you will know almost immediately where you stand with skeptics.”

To win over skeptics, seek endorsement from people they trust, such as longtime colleagues or mentors.


Cautious and risk-averse, followers tend to decide based on familiar patterns or proven methods. They prefer to wait and see, proceeding only if other businesses have succeeded. Think Carly Fiorina of HP and Peter Coors of MillerCoors.

Several family business leaders in the Philippines are in this category, such as founders who dare not venture out of the comfort zone, or successors who do not want to rock the boat.

To win over bosses who are cautious followers, provide testimonials and success stories.


Self-absorbed and overbearing, controllers such as Martha Stewart and Ross Perot seldom listen to others and prefer to decide on their own. They lack empathy and blame others.

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It is not easy to win over controllers. The best way is to deal with controlling bosses is to give them enough information in the hope that they will make good decisions.

TAGS: All in the Family, decision making, queena n. lee-chua

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