Ian is the Executive Vice-President of Communication Strategy at Kingsdale Advisors, a leading shareholder services and advisory firm. He oversees Kingsdale’s strategic communications division with a focus on proactive communications, crisis management, and winning the hearts and minds of shareholders.
Ian was recently named one of M&A Advisor’s Top 40 Under 40 Emerging Leaders, the only Canadian in his award category on the list of U.S. award winners.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ian to talk about our changing relationship to truth and the art of effective persuasion.
“There is no such thing as truth anymore.”
The biggest trend affecting my industry right now is that there is no longer such a thing as an objective, hard, trustworthy truth that’s going to sway people. We are in an age when people tend to weigh every viewpoint or piece of information equally, regardless of whether it comes from the CEO or an armchair tweeter. People are doing their own investigations, and whatever comes up in the top 3 Google hits is the new truth. This makes it more challenging to convince people that what they believe isn’t true; it’s like convincing a beer drinker that wine is better and vice versa. Truth has become what we construct it to be and what we believe individually, rather than some objective “thing” you can show someone. Numbers are great, but if you don’t trust the person delivering those numbers, well, they might as well not be there.
“Boil out the fat.”
The best communicators and leaders are simplifiers and not complicators. When my team hands me an 80-page document, I ask “what are you trying to say on this page?” Then, I get them to rewrite the page with that simpler, shorter message. When you are trying to say something, start by boiling the fat out – imagine that your audience is a 10-year-old and you need them to understand what you are saying. Research has shown that, no matter how smart you are, when you are stressed or strapped for time, your brain power gets reduced to that of a 10-year-old. Writing and speaking more simply will allow you to communicate in a way that’s memorable, understandable and, ultimately, impactful.
“Persuasion is about understanding that decisions are not rational.”
My job, essentially, is to convince and persuade. The key to effective persuasion is understanding that decisions are not rational. People make decisions primarily based on feelings. To mobilize people, you first need to understand how they are feeling and how you need to make them feel so that they will act. Unless someone feels a kick in the gut saying they need to take action, they’re likely to remain stagnant, because voting and making a choice require effort. People are only going to make that effort if the process is made easier and if they are emotionally motivated. Ultimately, people who feel a sense of risk, or that they have something to lose, are more likely to act and make their voices heard.
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