Phrases and advice to help you manage up

It’s no secret that having a healthy, positive relationship with your boss and clients can make your work life easier—and it’s good for your job satisfaction and career. You want to be truthful in your communications, but how do you do that while sometimes expressing differences?

In a Smart Meetings webinar titled, “How to Get a Seat at the Power Table,” Howard Givner described how to challenge ideas and clarify goals respectfully through phrasing. Givner is the founder of the Event Leadership Institute. With 20 years of experience in the industry, he advocates helping corporate event professionals shift into trusted adviser roles. We’ve curated some of those phrases and his advice into a list to help you get ahead faster.

Not-So-Great Idea(s)

When a client or boss comes up with a bad idea, it can be difficult for others to say so. Instead of challenging the idea, challenge it in that particular circumstance. Say, “I hear you with your idea about XYZ, but I don’t think it’s right for this event, and here’s why.” You’re not attacking them personally, or even the idea. You’re challenging the idea in that situation.

Regardless of the situation, you may need to actively raise your concerns that a choice or idea will not lead to the right outcome, which can be difficult. “I’ve been in a room where the executive looked across the room to the in-house planner and said, ‘You’re the professional—why didn’t you say something?’ You don’t want to be in that situation,” Givner advised.

Bad News

Delivering bad news in any context is hard, but sometimes things simply go wrong. For example, what if a slide of the CEO that’s projected in a room during a big conference is an old head shot? The first and most important step is acknowledging there was a problem. Most tension that develops in these situations does not stem from the actual issue, but instead from a lack of awareness and/or denial of the problem.

Next, a trusted adviser needs to put the situation into context. The adviser might let the CEO know that the photo got lost and will be updated as soon as the event concludes. Actually, only the CEO and a few others know that it was the wrong head shot. Few if any of the audience members or guests know. But you don’t want it to happen again, so the last step is to focus on solutions.

Define Success

Establishing goals can also be a source of conflict. This can be avoided by defining what a successful event or meeting looks like. It’s not always easy to get someone to articulate those goals, so ask the person to describe success.

Other questions have to do with timeliness. Under what circumstances will this event happen again? What do you want people to think about your brand after the event? Are your goals being reinforced or shifting? What will happen if you don’t host the event?

Vocalize Your Ideas

Now that you know how to handle communication with others, you can keep perfecting it. Be proactive in suggesting new ideas. You want to be known as a hub for trends, innovation, new technology and more. So, you need to know about developments elsewhere in, as well as outside, the industry.

The key is that even if your ideas don’t get implemented in events, you will get credit for suggesting them. You have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on, and need to share your ideas internally whenever possible.

Actions speak louder than words, and doing nothing can sometimes be one of the loudest. “I think all of this together positions you not as an order-taker, or meeting or event planner, but as a true trusted adviser and business partner,” Givner said.