Influencing the outcomes of senior management meetings is a mystery to some but for others it is an expectation. Do you leave meetings feeling frustrated or shaking your head about decisions made? May be you feel unheard or you are unhappy with how you made your point? Take charge of what you can control, prepare and shape your company’s agenda.
Yes, there are things you can’t control, your seniority, the alpha male boss who needs little help in decision-making, a block of managers with vested interests and so on. However you can control your preparation, develop realistic and insightful options for consideration, and work out strategies to influence others.
Don’t sell yourself short. Maybe you have always worked hard to get ahead, and now feel out of your depth. Are you looking for the “lingua franca” of senior management? Alternatively, perhaps you have always been able to “wing it on the day” and influence others by talking through your ideas.
Remember that in well run companies, “Talk is not a Plan” and “Hope is not a Strategy“.
Like it or not, preparation is key. Work to find relevant facts, they are a sound basis for you to develop a point of view, and ultimately craft some realistic options. The facts may come from external sources (e.g. marketing surveys, product reviews) or from internal reports or commentary (e.g. operational, financial or annual reports). Sometimes a relevant, objective framework can help (e.g. see our App).
Use the data collected to develop your “point of view“; your synthesis of the facts and your own opinion. This should be conceptual and high level, as it pointless to get into detail before testing it with others.
If this area interests you, last week I covered the 7 Steps to Ace Your Business Planning Preparation. Check it out.
Your “point of view” enables you to discuss the topic one on one with your peers, gaining their insights and recognising constraints. The goal of this phase is to develop two or three options; options are action plans with outcomes and acknowledged constraints. The level of detail required will depend on your audience, do not sweat the small stuff, but be comfortable that you have covered the big stuff.
With your two or three options developed and when you can articulate them in the proverbial elevator pitch, decide how to sell them to your peers including those more difficult to win over. Usually such proactive behaviour will be well-considered as it demonstrates evidence of your commitment and respect for the management process.
Develop different strategies for dealing with different people, appeal to their professional and personal values. For example, definitely give a numbers (dollars) perspective of your options to your Chief Financial Officer, however if he is also passionate about the environment, make sure you engage him on any environmental aspects as well. Listen actively for feedback.
Securing time with some senior managers is itself sometimes difficult, no matter the topic. You may need to spend a little time considering your best approach. As smart sales people will tell you, establish rapport and ask for guidance from your target’s personal assistant or second in charge is often a first step, or perhaps work out how to catch your target at a time when they are most receptive to a chat.
Position your options with an open mind, take onboard the feedback and improve your options and, if at all practicable, discuss how they would like you to progress with your thinking. Remember most decisions are actually not made in formal meetings.
If that senior management meeting goes ahead, with the dialogue and feedback you have had, you will not only have some sound options to discuss, you will also have the backing of others and the confidence to nail it! Let me know how you go.