The Only Two Things You Need To Be Persuasive

Photo: Pixabay/3dman_eu

What are two secrets to successful communication?

Persuasion is more than a somewhat salacious word. It is a useful tool in life and in business to be able to not only convey your ideas accurately, but to convince your audience effectively. In order to be persuasive, however, you have to fully understand who you’re addressing and what you want to communicate. What are the tips that can help you address an audience in a way that leaves them completely persuaded?

G. Riley Mills today is a keynote speaker, executive coach, and communications expert, who's worked in more than 30 countries. He's the co-founder of Pinnacle Performance Company, and co-author of The Pin Drop Principle: Captivate, Influence, and Communicate Better Using the Time-Tested Methods of Professional Performers. I recently interviewed Gary for the LEADX Podcast where we discussed his trade secrets for being persuasive. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)

Kruse: You come at the topic of communication from being a professional actor. What do you see is the connection between acting and communicating as a leader?

Mills: Yeah, our company, Pinnacle Performance Company, and the book, is all about what we call “intention-based communication skills,” meaning all of the things that actors have utilized for centuries, to engage an audience, to project confidence, to be persuasive and influential, to make you feel a certain way. Those are the things we bring into the corporate environment. We package it in a way that's very simple to understand so that anybody can use it. Now of course, we thought we were the first ones who came up with this idea of bringing the tools of the actor into the corporate environment, but as we researched the book, I went back in history and found there are instances of everybody from Reagan, Obama, JFK, Clinton, all the way to King George VI, if anybody saw ‘The King's Speech.’

Even Demosthenes, who was the greatest of all Greek orators, they all used acting coaches, or they all worked with actors to learn these techniques, to be more influential communicators.

Kruse: You say the success of your communication depends on two things, one of them is intention, and what's the other one?

Mills: These are the two things our company was founded on; this idea of connecting intention and objective. Objective, very simply, for your listeners, is your goal. That's what you want at the end of your meeting, your phone call, or your performance review. “Here's what I want, that's my goal.” Your intention is not the same thing. Your intention is going to be a one word verb that's going to inform your delivery and help you accomplish that objective. If your objective is to get your folks to show up on time and not come in late, that's your objective. Your intention is going to be a one word verb such as, “I'm going to reprimand them, I'm going to challenge them. I'm going to frighten them, I'm going to inspire them.” Any of those you could utilize, depending on how you want them to feel at the end of your communication.

Kruse: The one word intention is always the feeling you're trying to instill?

Mills: Exactly. “I want to challenge you, I want to motivate you, I want to reassure you. If you're a client and I've made a mistake, I want to reassure you that this mistake won't happen again.” If I choose “reassure,” it's going to inform my delivery, which means my voice, gestures, body language, word choices, all have to be aligned and congruent so that the person I'm talking to knows exactly what I want them to know and feel.

Kruse: If you want someone to take action, to decide, to act at all, you have to reach them on an emotional level.

Mills: Influence emotion to motivate action. That's what we talk about through our training, through our coaching. And again, going back to the election that just happened, whether you liked Donald Trump, don't like Donald Trump, whether you like Hillary Clinton, don't like Hillary Clinton, which candidate influenced emotion and motivated action? Got their people out there? That was the person who ended up winning.

Kruse: I was predicting how that election was going to go because I thought, “Okay, which side's more motivated to show up?”

Mills: Now it looks like that's starting to turn, right? That's starting to turn if you see some of the polling and you see the emotions at some of these town halls now. It seems like that's starting it pivot, so it'll be interesting to see how that happens in the next election, whoever's the candidate, can they influence emotion and motivate action the way Trump just did?

Kruse: How can frontline leaders and managers activate engagement through communication?

Mills: Communicating is key. We've all seen the studies that lay out the number one reason people give for leaving a job. It’s not the pay, it's not the workload, it's not the benefits, it's poor relationship with the boss. “I can't deal with that manager.” Just recently, I've seen studies that state 71% of people surveyed feel their managers don't communicate effectively to them. Sixty-five percent want more feedback; they're dying for feedback that they're not getting. I think for employee engagement, communication is key and a lot of managers take it for granted that they're communicating just fine, or doing what they need to do. I think for things I'd recommend, you've got to solicit feedback from your people to keep them engaged. “How's it going? What do you need? What can I do for you?”

You've got to give feedback in a timely manner, right? So that they can take it in, they can process it, and they can improve. Don't give them feedback after it's too late. I think the third thing is, I'd say show appreciation, which means giving them some attention, if they need to be rewarded for something great. Praise them if they've done something that deserves praise, give them credit. Then, I think the fourth thing is, people like to be empowered. Give them wings, explore things, and be creative. People like to work with you, they don't like to work for you, if they have the option.

Kruse: I always like to challenge our listeners to get 1% better every single day. Give us something that we can do today to improve our communication skills.

Mills: Here's one very simple thing. This is the three step process called the “Pinnacle Method,” that we've won awards for, that is the foundation of our book, three quick steps that every single one of our listeners can use in their conference calls, in their meetings, in the presentations, in their performance reviews. Here are they, really quickly. Number one: analyze your audience. Who are they? What benefit can you provide to them? What questions might they ask? How do they feel about you? What do they know? What do they not know? You have to start by analyzing your audience.

Second thing, understand how you want them to feel and what you want them to do as a result of hearing your message. You've got to understand that, because that gives you an objective. Then the third thing is to modify your delivery, and that's your attention. That means you're going to change your word choices, your vocal dynamics, your gestures, your movement, your facial expressions, depending on how you want them to feel and what you want them to do, so that your communication is aligned, so that the arrow is hitting the bull's eye, and you're going to get what you want at the end.

Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at