Friday Night Live: Lessons From Business Class

Downtown Detroit was packed with fun on Friday night. Traffic was backed up for miles because of concerts, NBA action and sold-out restaurants.

But in a classroom inside the otherwise dark Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University a group of working professionals wasn’t heading to any of those destinations. They were in a MBA class talking about persuasion and hearing from a guest speaker who had spent the week trying to navigate it. As a credit to all involved, everyone stayed awake.

As that guest speaker, thanks to the invitation of Professor Sheri Perelli, the experience, as it always does when speaking to her MBA classes, has had me thinking ever since. So I figured I’d share here some of what I shared with that class of dedicated, future-thinking pros that has stuck out in my mind.

Too often, business people think of “persuasion” as just the language of marketing. But I encourage consideration of persuasion as the mindset for business communication. I’m not talking about sales, per se. I’m talking about what most of us try to do in our day-to-day business communications, particularly those expected to direct and manage. We’re trying to get others to see it our way, or the organization’s way, to lead to a particular outcome. And even when we’re not “selling” something, we are still trying to lead while earning the hearing of our voices.

That’s a big part of the premise of Steve Herz’s book, “Don’t Take Yes For An Answer,” a how-to guide for speaking with authority, warmth and energy on a path to business success. Those are among the qualities taught in this class on persuasive communication. If you think about the communicators you hear – at work, on TV, on the radio or on a podcast, on a panel at an event, chances are the reason you connect with them is because they communicate using the qualities that Herz highlights.

When thinking of their own careers and their personal brands, inside and outside of their roles, I recommended a mantra, albeit in a different application, by customer service expert Dennis Snow – “Everything Speaks.” It’s not just the words you use that dictate your personal power of persuasion. It’s everything you do and display about yourself that impacts your ability to lead others.

Based on the interaction I enjoyed in this class, and some of the LinkedIn follow-up afterward, I have been thoroughly persuaded. The Friday night crew has a terrific future in business ahead of it.