It is entirely natural to have opposition. In fact, I would encourage it. Unless you have opposition the game is too easy ― isn’t it? Well I hope you think that because otherwise you might be wasting your talent, ambition and energy. Opponents stretch thinking, pressure test proposals and balance the corporate agenda. Without opposition you may end up with an organisation being dominated by a powerful few; and this can wreak havoc on the strategy, results and morale ― at least in the medium term.
Yet, desirable though it is, the fact remains that the opposition will still want to win. They may be mature and tell you that it is all about making the right decision for the business, but don’t be fooled. Underneath the rhetoric is a real person. They, like you, much prefer to be the one driving the agenda and prevailing in the cut and thrust of corporate life.
And there are certain things they hope you never learn how to do ― because they can help you to beat them. Things like…
- How to Discover Their Strategy. Although the steps they are taking right now may be apparent, what is really going on behind the scenes, the moves they are making and the contingencies they have in place will be a closely guarded secret. What can you do to discover more?
- How to Identify Their Weak Points. Sure, they may put on a front of sharing their objective assessment of the pros and cons of each option, but chances are they are carefully managing the message around their vulnerabilities. Watch closely for the clues and do a little hypothesis testing to learn more.
- How to Present a Balanced Case. Probably one of their main delights is watching you present a biased case, only presenting the benefits and the rewards that may arise from backing your proposals. They know that nobody will totally believe you, and then they will seek your opponent out for their trusted advice because…
- How to Become a Trusted Advisor. That’s their role and they won’t want you to figure out how to build a stronger relationship with the powerful people who rely on their advice. If you can learn how to do this, you can quickly level the playing field. But don’t abuse it by manipulating things ― once you get it, keep it.
- How to Marshall the Masses. Enter the social domain of organisations. Chances are, if they are a strong opponent, they have succeeded better than others at becoming the trusted adviser to the powerful. They focus on the few and ignore the many. Yet we have seen huge leverage can be gained by weight of numbers, or is it wisdom of crowds? They won’t want you to figure that one out.
- How to Manage the Airtime. Organisational life is busy at the quietest of times. If you can work out how to manage the exposure better than the opposition they may end up waiting to be called into the executive meeting until after it has ended. “Sorry, we didn’t get around to your item”.
- How to Unleash the Passion. They may seduce you with the notion that careful consideration of the facts and logic is the way to make the decision, but will hide that the real influence is gained by inspirational appeals. They’ll do that quietly while you are not looking.
If you can learn these you will dramatically improve your ability to give the opposition a real run for their money. We do not encourage crushing them of course, but we do hope you can focus your development on these areas so that your ideas, your proposals, your results, and your career, can take a big step forward.
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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Other articles by Colin:
Developing Tenacity when Facing Opposition
Everyone should have opposition. It is natural and to be encouraged. If you don’t have opposition, you are not trying hard enough, or you are deluded. Developing appropriate tenacity and displaying the right level of resolve may not win the day, but it should earn the respect of those you are attempting to influence.
The definition of tenacity, which seems most appropriate when it comes to influence in the workplace, is “persistence of purpose”. Tenacity is the ability to display commitment to what you believe in. You keep picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and quickly get going again having learned a little more.
At its best, tenacity…
The Big Seven Stakeholder Management Mistakes
These are the seven most common mistakes I see people making when it comes to Stakeholder Management. If you can avoid all of these, whatever process you are using, you will enhance your success dramatically.
Mistake 1: Not doing it. Often methods of stakeholder management are only called for when something is going wrong. If things are generally going in the right direction you may not even hear the word stakeholder! Stakeholder Management should be a proactive process that can make things which are going well go even better!
Mistake 2: Doing it late. Struggling with the problems that are being thrown up…
Mapping Your Stakeholders
Having a list of stakeholders is a good start; but to get a sense of the priorities, you need to understand their position relative to your Influencing Goal and to each other. That way you can begin to see the bigger picture and develop a clear strategy to accelerate towards your goal.
Using the Stakeholder Influence Map (below), the general idea is that you plot the name of each (impactful) stakeholder based on where you think they are in terms of