“If you want to get across an idea, wrap it up in a person.”
~ Ralph Bunche ~
Being able to influence upwards allows your ideas to be heard and implemented. This directly enhances your value because you are the owner of that idea. Yet how do you break through the layers of bureaucracy to find advocates for your ideas? Diane McGarry, Xerox’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “Success at a big company such as Xerox requires an understanding of the many layers of office politics as well as the confidence to put your best ideas forward. You have to know which people you need to get your ideas in front of in order to get those ideas advanced…”
Diane knows how to present her ideas in order to get them implemented. This is a skill you need to master if you want to be an influential leader in your company. Here are seven ways to sell your ideas through upward influence:
1. Know what’s important to your boss.
Have a clear picture of what is important for your boss. Keep that as a priority and make sure these priorities are met. It’s not about trying to meet your needs, but thinking about how your ideas are beneficial for your boss. Part of your role is to support your boss for his/her goals.
2. Get other stakeholders on board
To buy into your ideas the right stakeholders must be on board. This might require going upward and across the organization to build coalitions. If your stakeholders believe the ideas you are suggesting are what they want to support and invest in, this can influence a decision in your favor.
3. Articulate a clear and defined goal.
Focus on why your idea is so important and should be considered. What is the desired end result? This may take a lot of preparation, but in the end your idea will be easier to sell if you provide realistic projections of the desired outcome.
4. Use facts and data.
How many dollars will be generated by your idea? How will it reduce costs or improve customer service? Facts like these are how you achieve buy-in to your ideas. Spend time researching and providing information based on data so it will have a greater chance of being accepted.
5. Be prepared to answer questions and respond to criticism.
Anticipate how others might question or challenge your proposal. Consider submitting a list of “frequently asked questions” with your idea. If you’re presenting in person, rehearse your sales pitch to fine tune your approach and build your confidence.
6. See yourself as the “owner” of your ideas.
See yourself as being self-employed, even if you work in a large company. Your mind-set should be similar to an entrepreneur who is the owner of his or her ideas. Be confident, and enthusiastic about your idea.
7. Don’t give up.
Don’t be discouraged if someone slams the door on your terrific idea. Maybe your timing wasn’t right or you didn’t consider some of the objections. Take stock in your approach and ask for feedback. If your idea has merit, its time will come. And so will yours.
Do you need help selling your ideas to your superiors? Joel’s executive coaching program provides an individualized action plan to help you reach your specific career goals. Click here to see how it works.
Talkback: Do you have great ideas but lack the confidence to pitch them to management? What are the stumbling blocks that keep you from gathering the courage to make a presentation?
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“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”
~ Lee Iacocca ~
Dylan is responsible for the succession management of his large company. “Sometimes the results have been frustrating,” Dylan says. “We plan. We prepare them. We check the past performance of our top employees.
“And still, when they step into that leadership role, sometimes the ramp-up takes far too long. Sometimes they are less than what we expected.”
Dylan decided to use more quantifiable tools to help him gauge the talent performance of those within his succession program. “I thought if I could learn some triggers or some key performance measures beyond the standard reviews and recommendations, maybe we could do better.”
Dylan’s goal was to increase the success of those stepping into management roles.
1. Personality. Dylan determined that personality plays a key role in predicting the success of promotions. “Of course other factors are important,” Dylan said. “But all things being equal, personality matters.”
It wasn’t just that Dylan wanted hard-chargers at the top. But when he understood the personality of the candidates in the succession management, he had a better feel where to place them. Some departments would respond better to a consensus builder and cheerleader. Others required a firm take-charge attitude.
To check this out, Dylan explored tools like the traditional Myers-Briggs interest inventory as well as newer personality assessments with labels of colors and gems. He found many of them gave the broad-brush assessment he needed.
“For example,” Dylan said. “My R&D department needed someone who was patient with the facts and science and yet willing to encourage and be open to exploration. The past leader really pushed for results and was impatient with explanations—excuses, he called them. It didn’t bring out the best in my scientists.”
2. Skill Sets. Dylan worked to find tools that could accurately assess the skill sets of the rising talent. Of course past performance was measured. But often new skill sets were needed for the future job.
Dylan had current leaders assess the skills needed for their jobs. Then he found ways to measure the abilities of those selected for succession. He sometimes gave them a project that called for these skills.
On key abilities, Dylan asked a co-worker or mentor to evaluate the worker for several weeks. He asked them to look specifically for that talent or skill, and assess the employee’s mastery of it.
When there was a gap between need and skill set, Dylan worked to train the employee in that area before the promotion and the need to have that skill arrived.
3. Drive. In the past, management had gathered to discuss who they felt should be part of the succession plan. “I know this is important,” Dylan said. “But I thought we needed to add another element.” Dylan wanted those interested to “raise their hands.”
“I wanted those motivated enough to step up and say, ‘Pick me,'” Dylan said. “I think that extra measure of confidence, initiative, and drive matters.”
In the review process, they added a series of questions.
- Where do you hope to be 2 years from now?
- What steps do you plan to take to get there?
- What is your next step right now?
As Dylan implemented these tools in his succession management, he saw the talent performance of the newly promoted rise. “I’ve been very pleased with the results,” Dylan said. “I think matching personalities, analyzing skill sets, and assessing drive has helped us step up our promotions. At this point, I feel very comfortable with our succession plan.”
Do you want to make sure your talent performs up to expectations when placed in your succession management? If so, contact Joel for assessment and coaching.
Talkback: What extra steps have you taken to see that your top talent is properly prepared for the succession slot they are expected to fill?
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“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
~ Lao Tzu ~
Dennis felt excited at this new recognition. He’d just been asked to take a considerable promotion. He wasn’t new to leadership, but this was certainly a new position. A stretch. He was moving into a position of greater responsibility. He now had five teams to oversee. Some of the people he didn’t even know.
Dennis knew in order to succeed at this new job, he needed extra preparation. He didn’t have a lot of time to be up and running. He had to learn the essentials of this new leadership position right away.
One of his first steps was to Google “first 90 days as a leader online resources.” There he found articles and resource books. “I wanted to follow the principle of ‘Be. Know. Do’,” said Dennis. “I didn’t want to shoot from the hip.”
To get himself up and running in the shortest amount of time, Dennis decided to focus on these qualities.
- Resilient. Every leader will face some opposition. He needed to be prepared for a lack of agreement with his vision and direction. Also, managers, especially new leaders, make mistakes. That’s part of the risk taking. It’s why they were hired to lead. Dennis realized he needed to accept that mistakes and failures were part of the job. The important thing was to be resilient. Keep going. Keep confident. Keep motivated.
- Unique. Dennis was not hired to do the same old thing. “I needed to recognize my unique strengths and abilities,” Dennis said. “I bring my own brand, my own personality to the mix—and that’s a good thing.” Dennis knew he was good at cross-pollination, bringing ideas and methods used in other industries and finding applicability in his area.
- Thoughtful. The last leader had been autocratic. Dennis wanted to thoughtfully consider the merits of every team member’s ideas. He expected to research—online, and with company resources—to thoughtfully asses the strengths and limitations of the choices. “I wanted to avoid the ‘ready, fire, aim’ I saw in some management,” Dennis said.
- Vision. Dennis needed to know the course he wanted to go. He had to have a clear vision of his position, his responsibilities, and his goals.
- People. There were many new people for Dennis to get to know. He wanted to understand their strengths, their personalities, their attitudes, and how they fit with the teams.
- Culture. Even though Dennis was pretty familiar with the corporate culture, this new position put him in a different aspect of it. He needed to learn what was expected of him in as a leader in this particular place.
- Lead with Confidence. “Once I determined I was the kind of leader I needed to be, and I knew what I needed to know, I wanted to lead with confidence,” Dennis said. “I wanted my people to feel confident I knew what I was doing. I wanted them comfortable following me.”
- Set an Example. Dennis liked leaders that led by example. He wanted to make sure all his actions were impeccable. “If I asked my people to do something, I wanted them to know I was willing to do it too,” Dennis said. “I had skin in the game.”
- Embrace Change. Dennis works in an evolving industry. It is constantly changing. Rather than being reluctant to move in a new direction or cling to established ways, Dennis determined to embrace the change and lead the way.
Dennis implemented his plan. He used online resources freely and felt that he learned new leader essentials faster than he had anticipated. “I’m glad I put in the work early on,” Dennis said. “It really paid off. I feel comfortable in my position and I’ve heard feedback that my workers respect me.”
Just landed your dream leadership position? Contact Joel to learn the new leader essentials that will launch you to success.
Talkback: What have you found most helpful as a new leader? What tips or techniques would you recommend?
“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”
Fidel was assigned to manage the succession planning in his company. Little had been done and he needed to identify key management positions and ideal replacement personnel within the ranks.
In the past he’d seen people promoted who didn’t succeed even though they had the proper training and skill sets. Fidel felt there was a key missing ingredient.
He turned to personality assessments. He looked at Myers-Briggs, the Color Code, Fascination, and other methods to understand the way personality influenced success.
Fidel understood that personality type was only part of the equation in management succession planning, but it was still important. “The company needs all of the personality types to function optimally,” Fidel said. “I realized part of my job was to create an atmosphere of respect for each personality type, so they felt free to bring their strengths to the table.”
- Detail oriented personalities. Some people naturally attend to the details. They make sure the reports are done on time, they meet deadlines, and assist others at being responsible and timely. “I looked at the jobs that required this kind of close attention to detail,” Fidel said. “Then I made sure the person we put in our succession planning program had those qualities.”
- Team building personalities. “There are some people that are natural team builders,” Fidel said. They are good at creating enthusiasm, gathering consensus, and helping the team get along. Fidel made sure these personality types were matched with the jobs that especially needed that group leadership. He recognized, however, that this personality type would not excel at the detailed follow-through that might be needed.
- Analyzing and processing personalities. Some people naturally follow critical thinking skills. They work well in positions that require analyzing information. They are gifted in sorting through massive information and understanding that it means and how to use it to their advantage.
- Think-outside-the box personalities. These intuitive thinkers are great for getting projects started. They are creative, inventive and vital for brainstorming. Fidel understood they should not be placed in management succession for a position calling for analyzing and processing. They would serve the company best in places where their creative thinking was welcomed and essential.
- The excellent personality. Some people just want the best—for themselves and their company. Excellent is barely good enough. They are effective at driving others to be the best. Fidel wanted this personality for succession planning for top talent that encourages the company forward.
- Nurturing personalities. When people know others care for them they respond better and perform better. They can be more effective sales people. They can see a need and fill it. In difficult situations, the nurturing personality can keep things running smoothly. Fidel assessed the key jobs that needed someone who could be supportive under pressure. Then he evaluated potential successors for these attributes.
“People looked at me a little strangely, when I first required them to take these personality assessments,” Fidel said. “I even got a little push back from HR when I incorporated personality types into the management succession planning. But it’s worked out beautifully.”
In the three instances where Fidel’s chosen successor moved into the new job, they have performed exceptionally well. “I feel vindicated,” Fidel said. “It’s doing everything I hoped it would.”
Do you have concerns about your company’s management succession planning? Contact Joel and he can help you with this and other options to insure you have key players in place when you need them.
Talkback: How does your company work its succession planning? What are key factors to consider?
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“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings—and put compensation as a carrier behind it—you almost don’t have to manage them.”
~ Jack Welch~
Carlos oversees the human resources department for an expanding oil company. As part his goal to educate and improve abilities of HR and the staff to manage human capital, he decided to find and share great articles. “I wanted a resource that would be of value for our employees and managers,” Carlos said.
“I wanted our people to understand that they could have more control over their advancement,” Carlos said. “It’s not just HR that controls talent management, leaders and workers have a say, too.”
Carlos researched talent management articles for human resources he could draw on for information to share. “Often I’ll ask the writer of a great article if I can repost it for my people,” Carlos said. “I know it’s unethical to just lift it from the web without permission.” Even without permission, however, it is acceptable to quote excerpts and provide a link back to the original article.
Great talent management articles can offer education and value nearly equivalent to semesters of coursework. Carlos looked for articles with depth and vision.
Ten Ways to Keep Your Star Employees is a great example of the best kind of article for his managers. “It fit right in with both empowering employees and managing talent, Carlos said. “Look at some of the points it covers!”
- Empowering employees use their own gifts.
- Discovering tasks your top talent loves to do.
- Focusing on what workers are doing right in feedback and less on what’s wrong.
- Communicating effectively so each person- management and staff- understand the task, the company policies, and what’s expected.
- Helping your employees work smarter, not harder.
- Offering quality of life enhancements—even when the tough economy doesn’t let you pay them more.
- Letting employees focus more on what they enjoy.
- Looking for advancement opportunities for your employees and helping them find those openings within the company for themselves.
- Coaching and mentoring as a way to increase skills, value to the company, and chances for advancement.
Carlos also found cost effective ways to improve employee morale with this article: How Managers Can Improve Their Workplaces for Employees. The article covered the value of:
- Keeping lines of communication open so employees feel their comments matter.
- Adjusting work schedules with flex-time and other ways to keep talent that might otherwise leave the workforce.
- Recognizing accomplishments—which have been show to add satisfaction to workers.
- Developing programs and plans for workers to increase their skill levels. This increases the talent pool and makes the job of human resources easier.
“As I looked at talent management articles, some were particularly appropriate from a human resources perspective,” Carlos said. “3 Reasons to Invest in Leadership Development added to my understanding of the value of outside coaching in ways I hadn’t considered.” It said:
- Coaching and training is cheaper than bringing on new recruits. The cost of training them and bringing them up to speed is much higher than training or coaching current employees.
- Outside coaching relieves a burden on managers and allows managers to focus on their company job. Plus, you have an expert trainer teaching your employees, instead of a manager whose skills lie in a different direction.
- Talent development benefits both the company and the employees. The company creates a succession plan of rising leaders and keeps proprietary information within the company. Staff knows they are valued and appropriately challenged.
“I found great value in reading talent management articles to help me with my company’s human resources,” Carlos said. “It also gave me insights into breaking news and new ways of using traditional strategies.” Carlos likes the fast learning that comes from articles and plans to continue mining top articles for more valuable information to help him retain his company’s top talent.
Talkback: Have you read a great article? Let us know so we can all enjoy it.
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