External Input and Influence

We’ve witnessed great professionals get increasingly frustrated about "not being heard." The ethos of this problem can be best characterized as "the failure to convince others your ideas are more important than theirs."

Often the selection of best ideas coalesces not on the merit of such ideas but on the personalities of those presenting them around the table.  The question becomes, "How do I make my strategy evident? How can I best support what I see in my mind as the best way forward?" Unfortunately, you can’t do it on your own. Every expert we’ve ever met bases their expertise not a self-enclosed definition of their own knowledge set, but on external vindication of their expertise. In other words, the opinions others have about your professional acumen gives more validity to your strategies than your own attempt to prove their worth. The great news is that this system is easily penetrable. 

All one must do is to create a personal network where expertise is shared, judged, and vindicated. There is indeed merit in debating what you believe with others who have no stake at your professional actions. As an example, in my previous CIO position, after considering several factors, I adopted a policy that reduced the importance and focus on thin clients at my institution. Although I was not debated on that decision, had I been asked to explain my position, I could have explained it in detailed as related to the needs of our institution. BUT… I would have also been able to say that I’d discussed the use of thin clients with a group of 10 other CIOs, which included a CIO of a company with distributed offices in 85 countries, and they all agreed with me. It is not that I am not smart on my own, but that my peers will appreciate I am not acting on baseless impulse rather than carefully considered decisions.

We suggest getting involved with groups that can vindicate your ideas, and arm your decision making and influence with stories about those who succeeded and failed at the same task. If you can’t find such a group, create one.