Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.
We have worked a wide variety of with in-house sustainability teams – from one task leader to full departments. The size of the team, or its location in the org chart, have never been a problem.
As long as the company leadership and company values align with sustainability issues, our combined efforts result in real, meaningful progress on sustainability programs.
However, when we’re trying to win a new client, or even work with our clients and help them persuade their own company leadership to take the next big step in a sustainability project, mind reading can go a lot farther than spreadsheets and case studies.
Telepathy might be a stretch, but using perception and doing a lot more listening than talking, might be the best ways to advance your cause, according to this Fast Company article, “Five ways to read someone’s mind.”
1. Start with generational differences
In most business settings, this refers a lot to communication strategies between, say, a Baby Boomer boss and a Millenial intern, but in sustainability planning, you have to consider how clients, co-workers or superiors view sustainability through the lens of how they were raised to view it.
Remember, the EPA was only formed in 1970. Your boss might remember when this happened, and have an opinion about it.
Try to have conversations about how decision makers view the entire issue of conservation, sustainability, government policy, and social responsibility to hone in on their current views, where they are most likely to take proactive steps, and….
2. What are their hot buttons
Everyone has a hot button. When trying to win support for a sustainability effort, doing all of the conversational research on generational differences will help you identify hot buttons before they blow up.
Have conversations about where they believe the company is going and what risks it might face in the future, and then frame sustainability efforts as solutions to the risks the company might face. Then, listen, and listen some more.
3. Consider personalities
Once you’ve figured out a decision maker’s view on the issue, and how to best discuss it to avoid hot buttons, consider the individual’s personality.
How does he or she like to receive information? Lengthy reports? Case studies? Quick meetings? With a strategic plan? On a spreadsheet? During a casual lunch date?
The more you know your client, co-worker, or superior as a person the more you can persuade them of the value of your project in a format that you know is the most persuasive to them.
4. Look for nonverbal communication
You finally get time to present your case for creating a sustainability report for your company or client, but you see that the decision maker is distracted, checking their texts, or looking away. Stop wasting your time.
Instead, toss out the presentation and go back to Step 1.
Leaning in, eye contact, and bringing their own ideas to your presentation are a good sign that you’re going to get a “yes.”
5. Be a good listener
If you’ve prepared a great report on the positive impact of how performing a carbon footprint will help your company’s bottom line, but your CEO keeps interrupting you to ask about supply chain issues, pay attention.
Maybe you can win her over by making the case for doing a Life Cycle Analysis to kick off your larger effort of sustainable change.
If the tone of voice changes, an increase of sighs or (yawns!), or the conversation starts to turn emotional, step back.
Do you feel like you’ve hit a dead-end with your client or supervisor? Consider a one-on-one coaching session with our President, Jennifer Woofter, to talk about roadblocks, circling back, and proven ways to get your project back on the priority list.