Wellness program managers can feel like the organization’s poor stepchild — last in line for table scraps and left to scrub the floors long after their more fortunate siblings are off to the party. It’s a condition of our own making in some instances. If we’re not working to influence higher-level decisions, we get what we deserve.
But how do you gain impact on the C-suite when proving ROI is next to impossible? Take a page from the Presidential candidate playbook: Communicate with conviction. Politicians make their careers by being certain of their position. You never hear someone on the debate stage say “I haven’t thought about that… let me mull it over and get back to you.” Whether we agree with their position or not, we like certainty.
Start with the position that you are the expert when it comes to worksite wellness. Yes, you want and need input across the organization, but you’re the one in charge of establishing a vision, creating consensus, and executing strategy. If you’re not prepared to accept that responsibility, you have little hope of getting what you want — and success can happen only by chance. Are you willing to take that risk? If not, here are some steps toward certainty, and ultimately influence:
- Take advantage of the consensus effect. People are more confident in their opinions when they believe other people share them. Assemble credible data and lots of testimonials that support your position. Use simple employee surveys asking questions like, Do you agree that you’re more productive at work when you’re eating healthfully and exercising regularly? Crafting questions that 9 of 10 people will agree with is easy. Just 1 or 2 data points like this followed by an employee quote reinforcing the idea is hard to disagree with.
- Repeat it until it’s true. Repetition breeds familiarity and familiarity engenders trust. You only have to watch 1 24-hour news cycle to know the positions of the major candidates. They “stay on message” because research shows the more often we hear something the more certainty it fosters in voters. Use every venue to repeat your message. And repetition is even more effective when you can get those you’re trying to influence to repeat the message to themselves and others. Dynamic preachers are masters at this technique. Can I get an Amen?!
- Make it easy to understand. We’ve all attended presentations where a slide is so cluttered with data that you can’t make heads or tails of it without a detailed (and painful) explanation by the presenter. If your audience has to work too hard at understanding it, you’ve created uncertainty. Keep it clear, simple, straightforward, and on point.
- Get others to defend your position. This may be the most effective — and most difficult — way to reinforce certainty. If you can enlist other influential employees to be advocates (using the first 3 techniques) for what you want to accomplish, their own conviction deepens and they’ll be more persuasive in advocating for you in the future. For example, if you’re trying to convince a supervisor that you’d like 15 minutes a month in safety meetings to talk about well-being, enlisting their peer in another department to lobby for you may get you over the hump.
Persuasion isn’t about deception. Never take a position you don’t firmly believe in just to get what you want. But if, as the worksite wellness expert, you’re not getting all the resources you need to do the job, get to work establishing certainty to strengthen your influence.