How to win friends and influence leadership

Feel like you can’t get through to leadership? The problem might be in your delivery. Try using these seven marketing tips that can be tailored to suit any situation.

As an HR professional, the biggest challenge you can face when trying to influence senior leadership is misunderstanding. Quite simply, it may be you are speaking an entirely different language to them without realising it.

So how can this be remedied?

Here are seven tips to becoming influential, taken from the marketing world. The theory is known as the seven steps of influencing that addresses consumer needs. Before consumers buy a product, they are said to need seven positive exposures to it. A one-off presentation simply will not work. There is no reason why a sell to executives shouldn’t be treated in a similar vein.

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Let’s take a scenario where you want to influence the executive team to fund a leadership program.

Step 1 – Work out the needs of each individual on the executive team and strategise how to present the remainder of the steps to meet these needs.

Step 2 – Drive your agenda by finding an interesting article on leadership capabilities and sharing it with the executive team. Highlight the key aspects in that article that would speak to the board (their platform may be innovation, safety, culture – the list goes on).

Step 3 – Follow-up with a phone call to hear their thoughts.

Step 4 – Find an ally. Get an executive team member who speaks your language to go and speak to the others on your behalf about this issue. Have them mention that you would like to present to the executive team about a way forward for leadership in your organisation.

Step 5 – Data, Data, Data. Collate all data into a one page summary, giving an overview of what your leadership challenges are and ideas on how to approach them. Ideally present the data in categories targeting the needs of each executive (e.g, safety, innovation, culture).

Step 6 – Find a fantastic TED talk (there are numerous) and put it either on the agenda at an executive meeting or into the inboxes of those you are trying to influence.

Step 7 – Hone in on the boss. Accidentally find the chair of the board in the kitchen between meetings and request to present to the board on the leadership challenges within the business.

This seven step process can be applied to almost any area that needs influencing. The success of your strategy comes down to how effectively you can empathise and walk in the other people’s shoes, then pitch your solution directly to their problem.

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