The Marshall Goldsmith LibraryMarshall Goldsmith, a respected executive coach whose ideas on helping successful leaders change were the subject of an earlier post, has made many of his shorter writings available without restriction at the online Marshall Goldsmith Library.
The article that brought me to the library deals with influencing up, i.e., effectively presenting recommendations to people in your organization who are senior to you. Goldsmith offers these ten guidelines (slightly edited):
- When presenting ideas to upper management, realize that it is your responsibility to sell, not their responsibility to buy.
"The effective upward influencer needs to be a good teacher."
- Focus on contributing to the larger good, not just on the achievement of your objectives.
"Don't assume that executives can automatically 'make the connection' between the benefit to your unit and the benefit to the larger corporation."
- Strive to win "big battles"; don't waste your energy on trivial points.
"Don't waste time on issues that will only have a negligible impact on results. Focus on issues that will make a real difference."
- Present a realistic cost-benefit analysis of your ideas; don't just sell benefits.
"Acknowledge the fact that something else may have to be sacrificed in order to have your idea implemented."
- "Challenge up" on issues involving ethics or integrity; never remain silent on ethics violations.
"The best of corporations can be severely damaged by only one violation of corporate integrity."
- Realize that upper managers are just as human as you are. Don't say, "I am amazed that someone at your level ..."
"When your managers make mistakes, focus more on helping them than judging them."
- Treat upper managers with the same courtesy you would accord to partners or customers; don't be disrespectful.
"Before speaking it is generally good to ask four questions: 1. Will this comment help our company? 2. Will this comment help our customers? 3. Will this comment help the person that I am talking to? 4. Will this comment help the person that I am talking about?"
- Support the final decision of the team; don't say to your direct reports, "They made me tell you this."
"Managers who consistently say, 'they told me to tell you' to co-workers are seen as 'messengers' not leaders."
- Make a positive difference; don't just try to win or be right.
"The more other people can 'be right' or 'win' with your idea, the more likely your idea is to be successfully executed."
- Focus on the future; let go of the past.
"This future orientation may dramatically increase your odds on effectively influencing up. It will also help you build better long-term relationships with people at all levels of your organization."