One of the most endearing characters on another popular AMC television show, Mad Men, was Peggy Olson. Peggy starts her career on Madison Avenue as a naive secretary and gradually moves into the creative side of the business, assuming more and more responsibility and influence.

In a Season 7 episode titled “Waterloo,” Peggy pitches an advertising campaign to the fast food chain Burger Chef. She’s already done a lot of hands-on research, having visited 20 Burger Chef locations across nine states and interviewed hundreds of customers in order to form her pitch.

Peggy asks the Burger Chef decision-makers to re-imagine the fast food joint as the new “family dining room,” a solution for busy families who are tired of sacrificing quality dinner time together. Her pitch takes place the day after the July 20, 1969 moon landing, which Peggy leverages as she begins her effort to win the chain’s business:

“…I certainly can’t tell a better story than the one we saw last night,” she says. “I don’t know what was more miraculous—the technological achievement that put our species in a new perspective or the fact that all of us were doing the same thing at the same time. Sitting in this room, we can still feel the pleasure of that connection, because, I realize now, we were starved for it. We really were. And, yes, we’ll feel it again when they all return safely. And, yes, the world will never be the same in some ways.”

Peggy continues, “But tonight, I’m going to go back to New York, and I’ll go back to my apartment and find a 10-year-old boy parked in front of my TV, eating dinner. Now, I don’t need to charge you for a research report that tells you that most television sets are not more than six feet away from the dinner table. And that dinner table is your battlefield and your prize. This is the home your customers really live in. This is your dinner table. Dad likes Sinatra, son likes The Rolling Stones. The TV’s always on, Vietnam playing in the background. The news wins every night. And you’re starving. And not just for dinner.”

After a dramatic pause, Peggy adds, “What if there was another table where everybody gets what they want when they want it? It’s bright and clean, and there’s no laundry, no telephone, and no TV.

And we can have the connection that we’re hungry for. There may be chaos at home but there’s family supper at Burger Chef.”

The Burger Chef executives stare at Peggy for a long moment, as she and her team anxiously await their response. Finally, one of the executives simply says, “That’s beautiful.”

Peggy beams. “That’s nice to hear because that’s the name of the spot. Family Supper at Burger Chef.” Peggy wins the account.

Influence has been defined as “the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others.”

Sometimes, like Peggy Olson, we’re in a position of not just adapting to changes around us but helping others to change as well. Influence is one of the most important skills for any professional, or anyone who needs to navigate complex relationships—which amounts to, essentially, almost everyone on the planet. From my perspective, here’s what Peggy did well to influence the desired change—i.e., the fast food executives deciding to hire Peggy’s firm to run their advertising campaign. She earned credibility by visiting the restaurant locations, talking and listening to customers. Burger Chef’s leaders were willing to hear Peggy’s pitch because she was willing to invest quality time on their turf, and not just create things from an ivory tower on Madison Avenue. Peggy then fostered an emotional connection that was fresh on everyone’s hearts and minds: the historic moon landing. In addition, she connected the dots between the moon landing and people’s heartfelt need to bond together at the dinner table.

And finally, Peggy made the case—“beautifully”—that Burger Chef could, in fact, become that common table most relevant for today’s busy families.

People will be open to new ways of thinking and behaving when they believe we care about their best interests, even if they’re not fully sold on every detail of an impending change. Listening to their needs and goals helps us to form the talk track and game plan that links another’s best interest to the action steps we desire.

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I’m an ICF-certified and experienced professional, coaching authentic human leaders in the age of AI, with a focus on organizations whose Director+ population is facing complex, nuanced problems. Use this link to schedule a call with me to discuss potential coaching services. You can also email me or message me on LinkedIn.