By Samuel B. Bacharach, author of “The Agenda Mover“
To accomplish anything in the workplace – to move your agenda forward – you have to be credible. You can’t just say, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Let’s do it.” When presenting your idea, project, or solution, you have to demonstrate that you understand the problem or situation inside and out, and that you’re sensitive to internal concerns and pressures. You also need to show that you have the capacity and willingness to go the distance.
Here are three things to keep in mind when you want to convince others that you can deliver, so that they will back your agenda:
Demonstrate that you have the knowledge to get the job done.
One way to get others to back your agenda is to show them you know what you’re talking about. This is not a game of modesty, although you have to avoid outward arrogance. Let them know that you have the knowledge necessary to validate and affirm the legitimacy of your change effort or new innovation.
You must assert yourself as an expert who is uniquely qualified to push an agenda forward. But it’s important to tread this line carefully. You don’t want others to reject your idea simply because they perceive you as self-involved and arrogant.
You need to communicate your expertise in a confident but understated way, without seeming to be patronizing. Your experience, training, and knowledge will speak for themselves. Resist the temptation to detail your credentials, show off, or say you’ve done this before. While you might think such talk will burnish your credibility, it will actually diminish your legitimacy.
Show that you have the positional authority to accomplish your goals.
Positional authority means that you have the organizational influence to put your agenda in place. While others might have insight and sway, you can move an agenda simply because of your role in the organization.
Positional authority is a double-edged sword. You don’t want to point to your uniform or your role in the organizational hierarchy too often. You want this type of credibility to be supplementary and understated. Use it too often and your credibility will be reduced to autocracy. You don’t want your coalition building to boil down to “Join my effort—or else!” Rather, you want to convey a sense that if others join you, you will use your organizational strength to make sure that everyone gains. You want to make it clear that if they are on your side, you are on their side too.
Establish your integrity.
To sell an idea and mobilize a coalition, personal integrity is fundamental. Potential coalition partners will endorse your agenda only if they believe your proposal is not governed by your own self-interest, but by your interest in the organization as a whole.
Your personal integrity will be judged by the history of your behavior in the organization. Candidly consider this history when you set out to form a coalition. If your integrity can be questioned at all, try to bring in others with unblemished histories to join you. Such partners can become important spokespersons for your coalition and your agenda.
Think of integrity as your agenda’s insurance policy. Your reputation serves as reassurance for tepid coalition partners and can keep skeptics quiet even if resistance threatens your agenda. As other sources of credibility ebb and flow in a volatile organizational world, your integrity is the buoy that keeps your coalition afloat.
As you evaluate your expertise, positional authority, and integrity, figure out where your weaknesses lie, and take steps to compensate for them. At the same time, bring on board partners who are strong in the areas where you are weak. Don’t worry about sharing the limelight. If you need strong partners to overcome resistance, then bringing in those partners is a demonstration of your leadership, not an abrogation of it. You will be known as someone who can marshal the right people to carry an agenda through. That is part of what pragmatic leadership is about.
Samuel B. Bacharach is the author of “The Agenda Mover“. He is also co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group, which focuses on training leaders in the skills of the Agenda Mover, and is the McKelvey-Grant Professor at Cornell University.