You Can Lead Up


I came at it from a bunch of different angles on Saturday. Topic: How do you get heard? I interviewed a radio producer to see just how the successful supplicants managed to get on JP McCarthy’s morning drive time show. I talked to Lindsay a PR student as MSU about the tactics she’s using to get people to pay attention to her about the census – yawn (about the topic, not Lindsay). I talked to Patty, a 5’1” communications expert who told my listeners: “Stand tall, sit tall, speak tall.” I talked to Crowley & Elster about their book Working for You Isn’t Working for Me, and to John Baldoni, whose recent book captured, the topic, Leading Your Boss.

As a radio interviewer I sometimes find myself hearing my voices of doubt ,saying things like, “maybe this wasn’t a great topic,” or “maybe I didn’t look hard enough for guests,” or “everybody already knows this stuff. This week I kept thinking instead, “wow that’s an interesting perspective,” or “It’s amazing how people with such different perspectives arrive at such similar conclusions.” And I kept having the thought I love to have when I’m doing my “Everyday Leadership” show, this stuff is so USEFUL.”

Hopefully, you’re wondering, “What? What? What was so interesting?” Well, listen to the show. If you’re trying to lead up or across with boss, co-workers, other divisions, managers, etc., you’ll find it fascinating. In the meantime, here’s the Spark Notes:

1. Know your audience.  And here I mean the audience of one, whom you’re trying to move. The people you’re trying to move have different values, pressures, temperaments, and they have different audiences than you do. It’s nice – and totally naïve – to think that the boss should be dying to know your perspective and adopt it whole cloth. The truth is he or she continually lives in their own thoughts, skin, context, and your voice is just one. The more you can understand how they think, what they value, and what challenges they face, the better your chances of getting through.

2. Prepare. If you have a moment at a board meeting, 15 minutes with the boss, 60 seconds with the mayor, you have to be ready. I watched my wife at the Gridiron Diner in D.C. – a comedy roast. Everyone was in tails and gowns. It was all fun and laughter. But I watched Jennifer pick her way through the room. “Michigan is ready for wind technology,” she began with Energy Secretary Chu. “Race to the Top is a great initiative,” she told Education Secretary Duncan, “We’d love to make Detroit one of your first visits as you roll it out.” While most people were kicking back, enjoying the jokes, the people-watching and chance encounters, she was making every second count. She knew who she wanted to see and what she wanted to convey and/or learn.

There’s way more on the show. But if you’re committed to leading up, you’ve got to know your audience and prepare well, to…

Lead with your best self,