In industry, whether your ideas get taken seriously depends on more than the quality of your thoughts.
If the receptionist shares an idea and the CEO shares the exact same idea, more people will take the idea seriously when it comes from the CEO.
Most people intuitively grasp that the last sentence is true but don’t know how to acquire or borrow power when they lack it.
The CEO possesses formal authority. This is one form of gravitas – the executive presence that gets others to take your ideas seriously.
While formal authority is one type of gravitas, it is not the only type. There are 12 gravitas factors total – 11 of which aren’t dependent on your job title and position in a company.
The other day, I mentioned “relationships” as another source of gravitas.
When you’ve developed strong, individual relationships with the most influential members of your audience, your ideas will be taken more seriously.
Another way to get your ideas to be taken more seriously is to develop a body of expertise or specialized knowledge.
One of the few times I will see a CEO defer to someone several levels below them is when the other person has some specialized knowledge that the CEO wants to understand.
In one of my early McKinsey engagements, I was assigned to conduct 1:1 market research interviews with the client’s top customers.
When the CEO did his business review of the division I was advising, he directed all of his questions about the company’s customer base to me.
He wanted to understand the nuances of the feedback I collected.
The CEO ran a billion-dollar business consisting of multiple divisions. I was a 22-year-old consultant, and he was taking notes on what I was saying!
In any company, any department, or any project, you want to work to develop deep expertise about something.
It can be knowledge about an account, a market segment, a vendor, a particular problem, or an internal process.
You need to know something very, very well.
It is possible that you may develop such knowledge in the everyday course of your work.
However, it is more likely you would be merely exposed to such areas.
In these instances, you want to strongly consider making the extra effort to develop a depth of expertise unrivaled by anyone in your organization.
If the “hot” topics are already spoken for by others, adopt a topic that’s important but not particularly attractive to others.
As people start to trust you in your area of expertise, it will carry over into other areas.
For example, I have expertise in the case interview. Yet, much of what I write and teach about these days isn’t directly related to the case interview.
I’ve written about topics ranging from self-esteem to sales effectiveness, from networking to gravitas.
This isn’t an accident. It’s an entirely predictable process.
When you have deep expertise in an area, people around you will seek you out for that specialized knowledge.
When they do, they get a chance to know your work and to know you, too.
This forms the foundation for building a relationship. When you have a pre-existing relationship with someone, they can’t help but take your ideas more seriously.
Notice how everything is related to everything else.
If you lack the gravitas needed to get your ideas to be considered fairly, I suggest working on developing this area of your skillset.
While formal authority isn’t something that’s easily in your control, the other 11 factors that comprise gravitas very much are within your control.
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How to Develop Gravitas