Influencing Up

“I have to convince my boss to provide additional resources for a project I’ve been assigned.   In the past, I’ve gotten tongue-tied and failed to get her support for a similar request. How can I get her to take my ideas seriously?”

That’s a question I often hear as a career and leadership coach. It usually comes from someone seeking to lead from the middle. Influencing up to obtain additional resources, or to impact a staffing decision, or to extend a deadline, or whatever, requires both a business rationale and a smart pitch. Influencing up involves helping your boss see the value of what you’re asking for and to encourage her to take action.

Four Steps to Influence Her to Say “Yes”!

  1. See the world as your boss sees it.
    It’s impossible to sell an idea without understanding your audience’s perspective. What matters to your boss and to your boss’s boss? If they are under the gun to cut costs, then frame your idea in terms of reducing expenses. If customer satisfaction is a hot issue, then frame your idea as a means to improve customer satisfaction. Remember the focus of your “pitch” depends upon the boss’s priorities, not yours.
  2. Tune into your boss’s communication style.
    Think about how your boss likes to receive information. Does she want to hear a narrative of the idea or prefers to see the numbers first? Develop a presentation that plays to her needs. Also, be aware of when are good times and bad times to make your “pitch”. Be attuned to her schedule, her demands and how much is on her plate.
  3. Make it real and relevant.
    There is nothing more powerful than taking your boss to the heart of the action. If you want to improve customer service, invite her to a customer focus group to hear the need first hand. If you are pushing to purchase new equipment, bring him to the factory and show how it can cut waste.
  4. Be the messenger they believe not kill!
    If you want to lead up, you must be perceived as competent, capable and connected. So, how are you perceived by your boss, your boss’s boss and even your peers? Are you considered a rising or falling star? What can you do right now to increase or enhance your personal credibility.

Smart Moves Tip

Influencing up, getting management to buy into your ideas and then act on them, requires personal confidence, professional credibility and skillful communication. Make sure you have all three. To enhance your leadership also see How Well Do You Influence and What’s Your Reputation?

Do you have a great idea that you want to “pitch” to your boss or to a key decision maker? Test it out on this blog and get my feedback.

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What’s Your Specific Challenge?
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My motto is: “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got. Therefore, MOVE outside of your comfort zone; that’s where the MAGIC happens. To bring that magic to your leadership Subscribe to “Coaching Clinic” Marcia’s monthly Execubrief with additional insights, intelligence, and inspiration on leadership and career topics.


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. Good points. I do something similar — explain the world how the person you’re explaining it to sees it. Do they think it? Do they feel it? Do they smell it?

    And when you explain, you be as vivid as you possibly can.

  2. This is a very important and spot on article. You must be able to manage up. Without the support and influence of upper management you will not get anything done. You must be credible and present your ideas based on innovation balanced with knowledge.