Building Influence, Communication Skills

Effective Leadership Skills: How To Influence UP

Table of Contents

It was not so long ago that a time-tested mantra to climb the career ladder was ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’

For a long time, relationships that were developed at school, university and in early career days would determine the trajectory of your career. It didn’t really matter how effective your leadership skills were. While it can till exists, this kind of social nepotism is actually on the decline.

With diversity being now a verifiable contributor to organisational success, homogenous groups of ‘copy cat’ people with common histories are simply not as effective as those which draw a broad range of genders, ages, cultures and backgrounds.

It is now competence, drive, smarts and communication that build your career brand. The responsibility to be known and seen by those above and across your organisation is now your own, and will absolutely determine your career path.

If you’re a corporate achiever, you may notice that your goals unite you with the majority of other corporate achievers. Family first, which means commercial stability, driven by consistent career progression. On the professional front, this means you need the experience and capacity to fast-track to executive level. However, as this is a goal that unites many corporate achievers, you have company.

So, you need to stand out from the crowd. No longer can you rely just on who you know, or even what you know. You need impact and influence. You need to be able to persuade the people above and around you that you have what it takes to get to the top. And comes from the way you communicate in every environment.

Professional communication

Occasionally, you’ll be required to present to your executive committee, sometimes you may even be asked to present to the board, or simply participate in some cross-functional meetings These are your very best opportunities to stand out from the crowd, be heard – and more importantly, remembered.

If you’re not putting effort into your style of communication in each of these meetings, there is no doubt in my mind that your career path will falter. Here’s where your effective leadership skills can come out and shine.

The Colin James Method® teaches executives three key principles when turning up to these key opportunities. Read carefully.

Preparation = professionalism in action

You’re given 15 minutes on the ExCo agenda to bring them up to speed on one of your key projects. You need to submit a report prior, in PowerPoint format, and then you’re asked to come into present and field any questions from the committee.

You’ve two choices.

  1. Take along the report, and be anxious that not a single detail has been missed in the reading of said report, you take them through it slide by slide, detail by painstaking detail.
  2. Assume your report has been read. Plan a 7-minute, 5-minute and 3-minute overview. (When was the last time you got the full 15 minutes you were assigned?). Prepare answers to each of your audience members’ likely questions.  Use only the time you’re given, and acknowledge your direct line manager in your presentation or in the Q&A. Then, stop talking.

Which option do you think will be more memorable?

Confidence counts

So, it turns out your project is not going as well as you’d hoped, but it is through no fault of your own. Still, you’re anxious about how this will go, and decide to spend more time looking at your slides than at the committee members. Your eye-averting body language gives away the fact that you’re dreading the Q&A session, because then you’ll really have to answer the tough questions.

There is another way.

You stand tall, walk the talk and remain aware that acting confident instils confidence in your audience. Prior to the presentation, you run a video through your mind – you know, the one that has you connecting and communicating as a colleague – an equal. The one that sees you authentically and transparently delivering results, gaining empathy from the audience and confidently communicating needs to happen next to get things back on track. You leave the committee with a memorable message: that you expect things to turn around.

It is pretty obvious which is the right choice here, but there is an extra benefit of the latter scenario: real confidence emerges from having a positive expectation of future events.

Less is more

You could go through every tiny butt-covering detail in your presentation, in the hope that you’ll come up smelling peachy, no matter what the outcome.

Or, you could keep your overview tight and pithy. You could eliminate the corporate soundbites that annoy almost every living creature (Let’s get our ducks in a row?!) and value your ExCo’s time. You could say what you need to say, and then, quite simply, shut up.

Which do you think your ExCo is going to appreciate more?

Building your personal brand is a labour of love – but one that pays dividends in the end. It is about being known by the right people for the right things, and using every opportunity to present in a memorable and compelling way.

These deceptively simple techniques are just three of the numerous techniques we teach executives in our live Masterclasses. These bite-sized classes can help you to enhance your influence in a self-paced, incremental way.

If you really want to quickly amp up your influence and improve your leadership skills- and the likelihood of being considered for ‘bigger things’, then check out our Mastering Communication program in your nearest city.


The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional development with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.

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