You are an advocate. I don’t care if you are a leader, a sales professional or a teacher. It doesn’t matter if you’re a founder, an entrepreneur or a parent. You advocate every day.
Advocating is building belief. If you’ve ever told someone they have to watch Ted Lasso, you’re advocating for Ted. You believe in the show, and you want others to believe enough to watch. If you’re a leader who wants the team to return to the office, you’re advocating for change. You believe returning to the office is a good thing, and you want your team to believe as well. Salespeople advocate for their products or services. They believe in what they’re selling, and they want prospects to believe. Founders advocate for their ideas and businesses. They want investors to believe. All of these people are advocates.
The simplest illustration of advocating is when you want a child to eat their broccoli. You believe it’s something the child should eat, and you want them to believe it is something they should eat…You’re advocating for broccoli.
You’re a leader-trying to lead the child to eating broccoli.
You’re selling broccoli.
You’re in “customer experience” – providing the experience of broccoli.
But most of all, you’re advocating. You want the child to believe in broccoli enough to eat it. And ideally, the child will tell their siblings how amazing the broccoli is. When you’re very good at advocating, you turn people around you into advocates.
I know a lot about being an advocate. I was a trial attorney for over 20 years. One of the (nicer) things that people call trial attorneys is “advocates”. We build belief. We lead the jury to making the decision we want them to make. We sell our case, our story and our evidence. We provide an experience for the jury, and we hope that at least one juror will advocate for us and our client as they deliberate.
Providing a good experience to my jurors was very important to me during my trials. I wanted every juror to feel seen, safe and special. And I wanted them to know I valued them and their time. So I talked fast. I tried not to hesitate and look for information but to have it at my fingertips. I thought moving fast was a service and that the jury believed that I wanted to help them. But then a court reporter asked me to slow down, as I spoke so fast it was making his job difficult. And I realized that my speed may be making the jury’s job difficult too.
I changed my perspective on the way to provide the best experience and I became a better advocate. You want to do the same as you’re advocating. You have a jury too. Your jury is the person who has to believe in order for you to win.
Leaders – it is your team
Sales professionals – it is your prospects.
Customer experience professionals – it is your clients/customers.
Parents – it is your children.
A good advocate tries to see the world from their jury’s perspective and is willing to ask questions to understand that perspective more thoroughly. Then they are willing to make changes as their understanding of their “jury’s” perspective changes.
When you’re advocating, you’re leading, selling and providing an experience. And you do all three all the time. If you’ve ever read Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human, you know he makes the case that we are all in sales. He’s right. You’re selling your ideas, your products, your innovations and your broccoli.
But leading is also human, and you’re always leading. If you want your boss to give you a raise, you’re trying to lead them to that decision. When you want someone to go on a date with you, you’re leading them to believe that date will be worth their time. Leading and selling are ways of building belief, and they are human.
So is serving, or creating an experience. You want to create an experience of broccoli for your child so they’ll keep eating it. You want to create an experience of dating you for that potential partner, so they’ll go out with you again.
Advocating is leading, selling and serving on steroids. It’s all of those things, to the nth degree. Because when you get good at building belief, you have a lot of power. And when you’re very good, you turn your “jury” into your advocates. This was one of my goals in the courtroom. It saved me from a loss in one of my cases.
I defended doctors in medical malpractice cases in Philadelphia, and we had 12 jurors in our cases. Civil cases don’t need to be unanimous. We need to have ten of the twelve jurors agree in order to win. But in one of my cases, they couldn’t reach that number. That means we had a mistrial. Sometimes, when there’s a mistrial, the judge asks us to talk to the jury and in this case she did. The jury told us that when they first started deliberating, nine of them wanted to find for the patient. That would mean I’d lose. But then the three who believed in me, my client and our cases started advocating for us.
They started pointing out evidence I’d shown the jury. They told stories I’d told. And over time they persuaded one juror, and then another. Ultimately the jury was tied – six believed the patient had won, and six believed we had won. The jurors who believed in me and my case saved me from a loss that day. And when we retried the case – we won.
You can turn the people around you into your advocates as well. If you are a leader, and you are advocating for change, you are much more likely to get that change if the people on your team become your advocates. If you’re in sales, and you turn a prospect or client or customer into an advocate, then they send other business to you. And if you’re in a customer experience or service role, you want people to stay and you want them to refer other businesses. When you teach people how to advocate for you by advocating effectively to them, and giving them stories and evidence to advocate for you, you turn them into your advocates.
But what do you have to do in order to build belief and turn others into your advocates? It’s three steps. It is knowing what you want, asking for it out loud and with delight, and mastering the art of the ask.
Most of the time in a business setting you know what you want. You want the sale, you want the client, you want the customer, you want the positive review. You want the person to go out and advocate for you. If you’re a leader you want that change to happen and to happen in a way that the team is supportive of and even delighted about it.
And then you ask with delight. Now that part of the advocacy, three steps, is really making sure that you are in full belief. When it comes to belief, you go first. A leader must believe in the change they advocate for. A salesperson must believe in the product or service. A customer experience professional must believe in the service. And that is where that second step comes in. It’s your belief, your delight.
The third step is mastering the art of the ask. This is where facts become evidence that actually proves something to someone. Facts are never enough to build belief. In the courtroom, everyone in the room has the same facts. But we use it to turn it into evidence in different ways to prove different things. The same is true with stories. In the courtroom we told stories of what had happened in different ways and from different perspectives, in order to influence our juries.
You have your juries too. And if you can learn how to master the art of the ask, that’s where you become a strong advocate and you start getting what you want.
That’s why I always say facts tell stories sell. But advocates win. Because storytelling isn’t enough. Storytelling is a vital skill in business. But when there’s an opposing story – broccoli versus brownies, change that a leader wants versus staying the same, your product versus a competitor’s product, your experience versus someone else’s experience – storytelling isn’t enough. You’ve got to learn to advocate to turn stories into proof and facts into evidence.
And that begins with seeing things from the other person’s perspective. You must learn to see things from your jury’s perspective, the people that you’re serving, the people you are leading, the people you are selling to, you need to see things from their perspective.
Communicating is sharing perspectives. Advocating is changing them.But you can’t change someone’s perspective until you really know their perspective and where it comes from. And until you understand that there are different perspectives, there are different ways of seeing this.
So mastering the art of the ask is seeing things from different perspectives and then speaking to that perspective. Because when you do that, your jury, your team, your clients or customers, the people you serve, they will advocate for you. They will know what you want,and they will be delighted to ask for it on your behalf because they believe in you. And you will have given them the assets, the evidence, the stories that they can take out and advocate for you.
Ultimately, it’s all about building belief. An advocate knows how to build belief, first our own, so that we can ask with delight, and then others’, those we lead, those we sell to, those we serve and those we want to eat their broccoli.
When you do this, people advocate for you in ways you’d never imagine. It happened to me in the courtroom.
I was a very young attorney, and this was a big case. I represented a very well known and respected surgeon, and I was determined to be the best possible advocate for him. I had prepared for the cross examination of the other side’s expert for months. And I was ready. When it came time to cross examine that expert, I was in flow. Time had no meaning. I put down my notes, I put down my legal pad and I just remembered. Everything that I had read and reviewed, page numbers of depositions, articles, they were just at the top of my head.
It was a moment that I will never forget. The expert was squirming. He was embarrassing himself, trying to distance himself from things he’d said and written. I knew it was coming to lunchtime but I didn’t have that much more to go. I wanted to finish my cross exam before the lunch break so that I would leave the jury with the memory of me really eviscerating this witness before lunch. And I was getting there. Then the judge looked at the clock. She said, “You know, it’s coming time for a lunch break.” As an advocate, I’m always aware of the jury’s experience. I would never say “Oh, Judge, I’m almost done. Please let me finish.” Because what if one of the jurors is starving? What if one of the jurors really has to go to the bathroom? And then they resent me for the rest of the trial because I stopped them from what they needed. So I nodded my head.
But one of the jurors yelled out to the judge “Let her finish!” And then the Judge asked them “Do you want to finish cross examination before lunch?”
They all nodded, so she let me continue.
That juror advocated for me.She made me feel like I was doing a good job and reinforced what I already believed. She made me believe in my case even more, and I finished my cross examination.
It was the best cross examination I have ever given. And we won that case. That juror became my advocate because she believed. I had built belief in her.
You can do this too. This is not the job of an attorney. It’s the job of a parent trying to get their child to eat broccoli. And all you need to do is to recognize that advocating is a skill and that you can learn it. You can practice it and master it. And you will win.