Senior executives usually want to build a set of initiatives and programs, both to increase success for the company and them personally, but also to possibly take away in case of a career change.
For each initiative, there are usually three major stages/steps:
- Technical execution;
- Influential support;
- Influential positioning;
While the technical execution is the related to the actual execution of the initiative – for example, if the adoption of a new timesheet tool to better track operational efficiency, this is the IT skills, user adoption and enablement skills – the other two steps involve influence.
While influential support is about gaining executive and board support for the initiative, influential positioning is the successful subsequent “selling” of the initiative/program either internally or externally.
Influential support is nothing more than gaining support for your initiative at different levels. Adopting a full set of influence techniques like my Kingmaker Influence framework can be immensely useful, including effectively assessing and leveraging personality types of executives and boards, as well as being helped by already having in place fundamentals of executive and board relations.
Also, if working with a third party, such as a coach, it’s important to know how to actually leverage the coaching, in addition.
There are some key components of influence that are very useful to obtain support for an initiative:
- Tailoring communication to personality types. If the executive you’re talking to is a Logic-Stability-Dominant, they will want details, proof, replicable processes. If they are Emotion-Achievement-Dominant, they will want stories, the big picture, a clear vision for the future. Tailoring your initiative in terms of their preferred communication will go a long way;
- Eroding convictions. When they raise convictions, asking the other side gently what their experience is or what their basis is for their position makes them show their hand, which you can then subtly undermine and compromise, politely suggesting alternatives that help sell this initiative;
- Draining objections. Starting with the negative and drawing out objections immediately helps you address and patch them. Giving others the freedom to voice negative thoughts allows them to be transparency about objections so you can immediately tackle them;
- Leveraging Investment. If you can get a very little level of support from other executives since the beginning of the initiative, by the law of inertia they will continue to support it, and you can easily ramp it up. You can ask by asking small opinions and asking for them to collaborate on small things and go from there;
Let’s say the initiative has been completed. Maybe even years ago. How do you sell it, whether internally to stakeholders to justify compensation or a promotion, but also externally, for example, to build an executive CV to jump to an executive position in another corporation or group?
First, the fundamentals must be in place. Although influence and persuasion can put some “spin” on initiatives, if they weren’t successful and didn’t achieve very good results, or if your base relationships with other executives don’t have a solid foundation, the impact of influence is limited. This being said, you can take all or some of the components of Kingmaker Influence to sell this initiative as a success:
- Tailoring communication to personality types. Exactly as in the same point, but from a past point of view. For some Logic-Achievement dominant, help illustrate how this initiative achieved ambitious goals and achieved specific numerical results without wasting time. If you have multiple them, position them as a stream of specific, achieved goals;
- Eroding convictions. When the other side doesn’t agree with you on why this initiative was a success or how it went well, gently ask them what their experience or basis for the reasoning is, politely undermine it and suggest an alternative view of facts;
- Draining objections. Assume the negative and draw out objections in order to immediately know what you must tackle, and have answers for each;
- Empathetic Identification. If you know how the person you’re speaking with also has led initiatives in the past, use common ground to build empathy and identification. If they had to lead something through an uncooperative team and without support of a key player, mirror that back in your experience, building an “us versus the world” frame;
Conclusion: Towards a Better Selling of Executive Initiatives
For the seasoned executive both trying to get initiatives approved or later trying to show the value of them to internal or external stakeholders, influence is a very powerful tool for positioning themselves.
Executives who can effectively use influence to better position their past and present initiatives to stakeholders will both obtain higher levels of support and higher results – for their organizations and them specifically.