Ten Points to be a Better Up and Out Influencer
Categories: Communications, Leadership, Upward Management
Alberto has just been hired to head up the program management office for Aspiron Group.
Alberto prepares a 30-minute presentation to replace the organization’s status reporting system for his vice president, Irene.
Alberto and Irene will be meeting each other for the first time.
At the beginning of his presentation, Irene gets an urgent phone call and apologizes to Alberto saying she only has 15 minutes.
Alberto presents slide 1, his view of why the organization needs a new status reporting system.
Irene immediately starts questioning Alberto about his reasons for wanting to replace the current system and why money should be redirected from other priorities to the new system.
Alberto, unable to satisfactorily answer some of Irene’s questions, fumbles for answers and gives a lot of “I’ll have to get back to you on that” statements.
After 15 minutes, Irene again apologizes for having to cut the meeting short and leaves the room. “What is he talking about?” Irene thinks as she leaves.
Alberto is left alone sitting in the room, having never gotten past slide 1, feeling as if he’d blown setting a positive first impression with Irene.
Poor Alberto. Not only is it less likely that he will get the new status reporting system, but he has also failed to establish credibility with Irene. Rather than starting from a positive or neutral credibility position, he’s now operating from a deficit position, making it more difficult to influence Irene in the future.
As a leader, there are two vitally important concepts you need to clearly understand when influencing up and out. The first is the five tollgates that I believe leaders must successfully pass to effectively influence up and out (who I will refer to as recipients):
With tollgate 5 comes the second important concept, which is about decision ownership. There are four decision ownership scenarios, as follows:
I can’t over-emphasize enough the importance of these two concepts when influencing up and out. The first ensures alignment with how a problem needs to be solved and what you expect the recipient to do, and the second articulates the roles you and the recipient play in any decision-making.
Do you need to be better at influencing up and out? Here are ten points to consider:
The Consequences: Being ineffective at influencing up and out can lead to the following:
The Next Steps:
Impressive First Impressions
Categories: Leadership, Project Management, Social Media, Upward Management
So check this out.
Recently I received an email from someone who found me on LinkedIn. The person wasn’t a connection of mine, so I had no idea who he was or where he worked.
Let’s go through some of the items on the email (indicated by red letters A-F) and how it influenced my impression of this person. I changed personally identifiable information and will call him John Doe.
A – John’s email in the “from” line is from what I call “CompanyName1.” All good so far.
B – The subject of the email is “Offer for Thensetta Group of Companies.” This seems all fine and well except my company name is “Consetta.”
C – In his signature line he identifies himself as working for “Company Name 2,” which is different from the company in his email address
D – His website is listed as “Companyname3.com,” which is different from both the company names in his email address and signature. What’s even more interesting is that the underlying URL is different from the listed company name. When I copied “Companyname3.com” into my browser I got a “Page Not Found” message. When I clicked on the hyperlink it took me to a parked webpage.
E – The portfolio in Vimeo has yet another company name which is different than all the others.
F – John tells me that if I want to stop getting emails from him I need to reply with “remove.” I presume that means to put the word “remove” in the subject line. Any reputable company uses an email service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp with a structured unsubscribe process.
Needless to say, there’s no way in heck I’m going to do business with John Doe. The first impression he left was so abysmally bad that I could never imagine entrusting him with helping me resolve a business problem.
I suspect that if you’ve been in business for any period of time you’ve heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Despite this saying being as old as dirt, I’m amazed at how frequently I’ve seen professionals, both seasoned and newbie, create a negative perception in a first interaction. It’s even worse when, like the John Doe email, a negative first impression is earned through careless and reckless mistakes. The way John Doe bungled his first interaction with me told me volumes about what he might be to work with. While it’s entirely possible he is a competent professional, I’ll never know because he’ll never get a second chance with me.
If you think you might need some help on creating positive first impressions, give the following six tips a look before your next meeting with someone new.
Positive first impressions matter. Creating negative first impressions through carelessness or being unprepared is just shooting yourself in the foot. Take first impressions seriously and do all you can to make your first impression impressive.
The Very Real Consequences of Evasive Answers
Categories: Followership, Leadership, Project Management, project sponsorship, Upward Management
Some time back I was in a meeting with a project manager who presented the status on his troubled project to the project sponsor and other executive stakeholders. This project was of high interest to the sponsor and stakeholders as they were depending on its successful completion to make some major changes in their respective organizations. The project sponsor asked the project manager a very straightforward question:
Why is the project slipping?
The project manager went into a long, meandering monologue. The sponsor interrupted and asked the question again. More meandering from the project manager. Seeing the sponsor and other stakeholders’ growing frustration, the project manager’s boss stepped in and said they needed to do more homework and would come back the next day better prepared. The next day, the project manager’s boss presented the status and answered questions--along with a new project manager.
Through my career I’ve seen (and been in) plenty of situations where an exec’s (who I will refer to as “the asker”) questions were met with evasive responses. It could be that the person being asked (“the askee”) didn’t want to admit not knowing something or be proven wrong. The askee would then, as we liked to say in the consulting world, “tap dance” to attempt any response that might satisfy the asker. More often than not, the asker would grow frustrated with the evasiveness. This led me to the following hypothesis:
If an asker asks a question, the asker expects a direct answer.
While my focus is in executive interaction, the same principle applies to other relationships like spouses or business partners. When an askee is evasive, the asker makes up his/her own answer, and the askee now has to dig out of a hole to reestablish credibility and set the record straight.
Need to build your answering skills? Keep the following eight tips in mind:
This bears repeating: the consequences of evasive answers not only means the asker makes up his/her own answer, it also harms the askee’s credibility. Give straight answers and control the narrative.
Six Crucial Lessons to Becoming and Staying a Trusted Advisor
Categories: Leadership, Project Management, project sponsorship, Upward Management
In a recent phone call I told the CEO of my insurance brokerage that after being a loyal customer for 15 years I had moved all my business to other providers. Given our long-standing relationship, I felt I owed him an explanation; not because I wanted to see someone fired, but because I wanted him to know my reasons for leaving so he could put any lessons learned to use.
It started about seven years ago when the person assigned to my business insurance seemed to lose interest in me. He wasn’t on top of my renewals, made me do work that he could have done for me, and didn’t competitively bid my insurance. I moved all of my business insurance to another agency. A similar issue happened in the past year with my personal insurance; I simply didn’t feel that I was important to my agent. The final nail in the coffin came when my bank notified me that my homeowners’ insurance had lapsed two months earlier without any notification from my insurance agent. I then reached out to another agency, who quickly bound coverage for me at 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening.
While the CEO of the original brokerage wasn’t happy that I moved my insurance business elsewhere, he was grateful I took the time to calmly and constructively give him feedback. We ended the call on a very cordial note, and I am confident that if we ever ran into each other at a coffee shop we’d shake hands and exchange regards.
I open with this story because for years I considered him and the agents at his company as trusted advisors. I openly shared my personal and business goals with them and believed they advised with my best interests at heart. But after a time I realized I didn’t feel important to them, and my personal and professional interests were no longer their primary concern. The people who were at one time my trusted advisors now had exactly none of my business.
So what’s a trusted advisor? In my four decades in business I’ve boiled it down to six crucial principles:
Being a trusted advisor isn’t something project sponsors and other internal stakeholders automatically grant; it takes a track record of demonstrating these six principles through actions that elevate someone to trusted advisor status. Following are six crucial lessons I’ve learned about what it takes become and continue as a trusted advisor:
Becoming a trusted advisor is something that’s earned through behaviors and actions and can be quickly stripped away if taken for granted. Keep these lessons in mind to help you not just attain trusted advisor status, but keep it.
How to Succeed Under an Insecure Leader
Categories: Followership, Leadership, Upward Management
In Part 1: Ten Differences Between a Secure and an Insecure Leader, I contrasted ten key attributes that distinguish a secure leader from one who is insecure in his or her abilities. Part 2 is dedicated to giving you eight nuggets to help you succeed under an insecure leader.
For years I was an insecure leader. My greatest fear in leading others was that I would be "found out" and that everyone would see me not as a strong, competent leader but as a bumbling fool. Through the years I've learned that the quest for infallibility is impossible to reach and that making mistakes is part of the growth process. I'm less insecure today because I am more comfortable saying "I don't know" without everyone in the room thinking I'm an incompetent twit. Having said that, I am secure in knowing I will continue to screw up until my last breath.
So okay, you've accepted and embraced the fact you work with an insecure leader. What next? Here are eight specific things to consider in better securing a good working relationship with the leader:
Respect the leader's position - Regardless how smart or competent you feel your leader is, the first step to a healthy relationship with an insecure leader is respecting his or her position as leader. To an insecure leader, disrespect for the position is no different than disrespect for the leader.
Don't overdraw in the feedback bank account - Insecure leaders need to hear that they are doing some things right. When presenting feedback to the leader, start things off with something positive before raising constructive feedback. The spoonful of sugar will truly help the medicine go down better for the leader.
Don't dump problems - If you have a difficult issue you need help with don't dump it on the leader's doorstep. Clearly articulate the issue and present some alternatives to how you and the leader can resolve the problem together. Dumping the problem can put insecure leaders on edge because they may now feel as if they are being tested.
Criticize in private - Publicly criticizing or embarrassing an insecure leader puts the leader in a "fight or flight" situation and can severely damage your relationship with the leader. Save the negative feedback for a private session.
Don't suck up - A savvy leader will see sucking up as insincere. In addition, other team members will resent you if you are viewed as a brown-noser in it for personal gain.
Allow the leader to teach - Being insecure doesn't necessarily mean the leader is incompetent. Find something you can learn from the leader and become a student of the leader's viewpoint. Being less than open to learning something from the leader may suggest a problem with your attitude versus purely a problem with the leader.
Understand the leader's communication style - Some leaders truly are "open door" while others prefer scheduled appointments. Some prefer verbal discussion while others like written emails. Understand how the leader likes to communicate and stick to his or her style. Also beware of the leader who says the politically-correct "my door is always open" but seems annoyed if someone barges in. Keep your ear to the railroad track and understand how the leader truly likes to communicate.
Don't compromise your principles and values - learning how to work with an insecure leader doesn't mean blindly following whatever the leader asks you to do. If an insecure leader asks you to do something against your principles be very clear in articulating your objection and why you are objecting.
My one nugget to you is this: recognize you work for an insecure leader, embrace it, and decide you're going to make the best of the situation. It will not only yield a better working relationship with your leader, it will also reduce your stress level.