Jul 11 4 Secrets Every Leader Needs to Influence their Boss When Communicating Up
I have never believed that you need a title or position of authority to manage and influence your boss. You just need to be a thought leader who can be trusted.
Great leaders don’t want “yes” people. They want confidential advisors and insightful partners who will help them to think differently and challenge, not reinforce, the status quo. It’s important to have that kind of productive, dynamic relationship with your boss and senior management. But ideas aren’t enough by themselves. You also have to be capable and confident enough to present them to your superiors in a way that inspires them to listen. You need leadership communication skills that influence up the chain of command in a way that ensures your insights are sought out and highly respected.
Master the Art of Higher-Level Communication
A mastery of powerful language when communicating upwards gives you three priceless leadership benefits:
- You’re seen as capable leadership vision communicator, worthy of taking on greater challenges/responsibilities, and being the face of your organization.
- You’re perceived as the kind of leader who can effectively address any audience, on a moment’s notice, with an articulate, powerful, strategically-crafted visionary message.
- You have the rare communications tools required to create and strengthen the DNA of dynamic relationships across the grid, both internally and externally.
4 Secrets Becoming a Master Influencer
To master the skill of influencing your boss, adopt these tools and strategies:
1) Proactive Perspective/Support
Be proactive to anticipate and respond to the needs of your boss. Ask the right kinds of probing questions to determine and clarify the challenges they face in your area of expertise. Add value as a soundboard, put forward timely, innovative ideas, and schedule regular times for them to brief you regarding their priorities, obstacles, and strategies. Offer them an unbiased perspective while keeping the success of the team, organization, and your boss in mind.
2) Peer-to-Peer Power Language
Go in with the mindset that you are “the expert” and communicate in their particular language or vernacular. Take mental notes about the way they phrase things and what key words they often use. Then incorporate those into your own conversational glossary. That makes them respond more easily and openly to your suggestions…because in a way it sounds like they are coming from them, in their style and voice. I also advise my clients to view these conversations as though your boss is a respected peer, not someone you are subordinate to. When you start to see yourself as adding value as a peer and trusted confidential partner, that changes the whole dynamic. You’re there to help them improve their results through your insights, vision, and expertise.
3) Adapt Your Language Skills.
When communicating upward to influence someone in a higher position, be flexible and strategic in your speaking. High level executives think at the highest altitudes. Give them that kind of panoramic perspective, and value their time. Succinctly land your key points, giving your content the right context that paints a clear picture of why it’s good for them…not you. It’s always a win-win when my clients use this approach because when you help someone achieve what’s important to them, you’ll always get what you want, too.
4) Reframe “No” in a Positive Way
At times, you may need to disagree with your boss or a senior executive. But that’s sensitive territory, especially when ego might be involved. Instead of saying, “No I don’t believe that approach is going to work.” Reframe your language and swing it around into a more positive approach by not using the negative word “no.” Did you notice how “No, I don’t believe that is going to work,” sounds like a roadblock or confrontation? Now as an example here’s a way to rephrase it with positivity. “There is another way I believe would work even better. Would you like to hear it?” Practice removing and replacing them from your language for a month. You’ll see it’s really hard to do, but the payoff from practice is huge. My clients practice daily ways to reframe their language for positive impact, and they see dramatically successful results.
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Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Deloitte, McKesson, Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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