Last Updated Mar 31, 2010 1:07 PM EDT
No, I'm not talking about growing thick skin and becoming a human punching bag. I'm talking about learning to handle getting fired upon like a true leader. Everyone will walk out of the room thinking you're the next Lou Gerstner or Jack Welch. Okay, maybe not, but they'll definitely think more of you and will more readily accept your ideas, proposals, and most importantly, promotions.
How'd I learn this stuff? By spending much of my career selling innovative strategies to risk averse CEOs, CFOs, and management teams. Sure, I probably came across as whiny and defensive in the early days, but in time I learned the ropes. Here they are:
How to Lead Under Fire
- Don't get emotionally attached to your ideas. It's good to be passionate about your ideas, but if you're emotionally attached to them, it'll come through when you're getting grilled. And managers are incredibly distrustful of ideologues trying to shove things down their throats. It's all about positioning. In your mind, you have to be willing to walk away. That little separation will give you the appearance of perspective and poise under fire.
- Learn to embrace alternative views. The best way to respond to most objections is by first embracing them, then explaining why your plan is better or at least equivalent. Again, it's a positioning game. But there's a subtle but significant difference between, "My approach is better and here's why," and "That's an interesting idea; here's why I think this might be a better approach."
- Master the art of zinger retorts. When you're getting grilled there will inevitably be some real zingers. Well, there's only one way to beat a zinger and that's with a zinger retort. How do you get good at zinger retorts? By getting good at thinking on your feet, which is really equal parts knowledge, experience, preparation, and of course, self confidence. Also, it's essential to maintain a sense of humor under fire.
- Know your stakeholders. Of course you need to know your material cold and expect the worst. Unfortunately, that's not even close to good enough. You also have to know the stakeholders, aka your audience, and have a pretty good idea of their likely objections. A few one-on-one premeetings are a good idea. Then you'll be ready to counter effortlessly.
- Never, ever lose control of the meeting. It's your meeting, or at least your time to present, so you're in charge and you need to act like it. I don't care if the CEO and CFO start going down a rat hole on some mindlessly trivial point. You have to be adept at all the usual techniques for keeping meetings on track, on topic, and on time. Come to think of it, that's probably a topic of its own.
Here are some related posts that'll help:
- 10 Aspects of Executive Presence
- How to Give a Killer Presentation
- Conquering Your Fear of Public Speaking