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There you are in the big meeting with the big boss, and your big idea is just bursting to get out. There's only one problem: You have no authority, position, or place in the hierarchy that makes what you have to say top of the list.
As frustrating as this scenario sounds, if you understand how to lead without authority, you never again need to feel the frustration of your impact going unexpressed.
Saying something that inspires others to follow your lead requires attention, planning, and care on your part such as:
1) Before important meetings, talk to people who will be attending to get the lay of the land, and make sure your conversations will be relevant to their concerns. You build champions and sponsors for your ideas when you invest in dialogues prior to meetings.
2) Determine whether the people you are trying to influence are more interested in finding out facts or hearing stories. Leading without authority requires speaking in the language your audience wants to hear.
3) Build buy-in by doing your homework. If you have an idea that you think is compelling and want to bring forward, do your homework; anticipate people's needs and concerns before meetings so you are ready to address them on the spot.
4) Don't get defensive about your ideas or be a know-it-all. Instead, make it your goal to come across as a partner, not the sole expert, by having a recommended strategy that you communicate with confidence and clarity.
The key is effectively framing your ideas so that others respond positively. Here are a few Dos and Don'ts:
The Don'ts of Framing Your Ideas
Being tentative. Phrases such as "I think," "I may not be the expert", "I may not be right" or "This may only be how I feel" lack confidence and inspiration. This includes filler words such as "probably," "essentially," "correct me if I'm wrong", "I guess", "hopefully," "you know," or "in my opinion."
Over-apologizing. When you speak to people, look and speak at them directly. Make steady eye contact and use a confident tone. Never apologize for offering your point of view...just say it with tact.
Giving too much detail. Too many details make you sound unfocused and defensive. Simply ask your listeners beforehand if they require a lot of detail. Keep on track with the essence of the message you are trying to deliver.
Making people wrong. It's important to honor the integrity of someone else's title, especially when dealing with people in senior positions.
Adopt the mindset of a consultant. Consultants don't always have the answers, but they know how to ask thought-provoking questions. Learn to frame questions in such a way that your audience can see the potential of what you are proposing.
Balance confidence with humility. If you are going to be a leader without authority, you have to have the humility to complement your confidence. One way to do this is to use humor when you engage with others to lighten the intensity of what you're saying. You can also use short anecdotes where you can make others the hero in your story.
Speak with conviction and convey a clear perspective. You need to go beyond just believing what you say to articulating a clear understanding of where you're coming from and the direction you're going. This means investing time in pre-work for credible research and statistics to back up your message.
Give people a sense of safety. Reduce anxiety about potential change by stressing what is not changing. I always tell people: "I'm not going to change you; I fine tune perfection." Emphasize improvement which tells people you are still honoring what has been done in the past.
Create a two-way dialogue. People want to feel that you are engaging their ideas, not ignoring them. Make sure you ask: "What are your questions?" in a way that truly invites participation. Don't forget the power of the pause so others have a chance to think about their concerns.
Use people's objections to your advantage. If someone objects to your message, take their objection and weave it back into your idea. First find something to agree with before you disagree.
Begin with the end. What's the last thing you want to say? What's the last thing you want people to know? Begin with the end and then end with the beginning; this way, you get people to visualize the end results.
About the Author:
Since 1990, Roz Usheroff has been one of the most sought-after personal branding executive coaches and trainers in North America, working with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, executives, managers, sales teams and individuals.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.
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