Monday, December 16, 2019

Four Tips for Speaking Up Effectively

Source: Flickr
Suppose you have a dissenting opinion to share, or perhaps you are the reluctant bearer of bad news.  How can you be sure that leaders in your organization will listen attentively and genuinely consider your views?  What strategies can you employ to speak up effectively?  Here are four tips:

1.  Know your audience.   Understand the background of the person you are trying to persuade and influence.  What makes them tick?  How do they make decisions?  Are they fact-based decision-makers who want reams of data and evidence, or do they rely on their intuition at times?  What's the history of this particular person on this issue?   An effective dissent is not simply the collection of important facts and logical arguments.  Effective dissent entails TAILORING your argument to the people you are trying to persuade.  

2.   Work through the gatekeepers.   For many senior leaders, important information often flows to them through key gatekeepers.   Understand who these people are that have significant influence on the person you are trying to persuade.   Who does that leader rely on as a sounding board or confidante?   Sometimes, the most effective case of speaking up does not entail a direct conversation with a leader, but instead, works through these gatekeepers.  In other cases, the gatekeeper may not relay the message for you, but they can help you determine HOW to convey your message effectively.  

3.  Ask questions.   Don't simply state your opinions and proclaim the facts that support your argument.  Ask questions that help you understand how leaders are thinking about a particular issue.  Ask questions that encourage leaders to question assumptions and examine other alternatives.  The most effective dissenters bring people along, often encouraging leaders to come to the conclusion themselves that they may be headed in the wrong direction.   You are much more likely to succeed if they come to question their own arguments.   

4.  Tell a story.  Don't just convey facts and data through bullet points and charts.  Make sure you have crafted a compelling story - a narrative that integrates the key facts and arguments.  You are much more likely to persuade someone with a story than with a list of bullet points. 

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