You Can Lead Up


I came at it from a bunch of different angles on Saturday. Topic: How do you get heard? I interviewed a radio producer to see just how the successful supplicants managed to get on JP McCarthy’s morning drive time show. I talked to Lindsay a PR student as MSU about the tactics she’s using to get people to pay attention to her about the census – yawn (about the topic, not Lindsay). I talked to Patty, a 5’1” communications expert who told my listeners: “Stand tall, sit tall, speak tall.” I talked to Crowley & Elster about their book Working for You Isn’t Working for Me, and to John Baldoni, whose recent book captured, the topic, Leading Your Boss.

As a radio interviewer I sometimes find myself hearing my voices of doubt ,saying things like, “maybe this wasn’t a great topic,” or “maybe I didn’t look hard enough for guests,” or “everybody already knows this stuff. This week I kept thinking instead, “wow that’s an interesting perspective,” or “It’s amazing how people with such different perspectives arrive at such similar conclusions.” And I kept having the thought I love to have when I’m doing my “Everyday Leadership” show, this stuff is so USEFUL.”

Hopefully, you’re wondering, “What? What? What was so interesting?” Well, listen to the show. If you’re trying to lead up or across with boss, co-workers, other divisions, managers, etc., you’ll find it fascinating. In the meantime, here’s the Spark Notes:

1. Know your audience.  And here I mean the audience of one, whom you’re trying to move. The people you’re trying to move have different values, pressures, temperaments, and they have different audiences than you do. It’s nice – and totally naïve – to think that the boss should be dying to know your perspective and adopt it whole cloth. The truth is he or she continually lives in their own thoughts, skin, context, and your voice is just one. The more you can understand how they think, what they value, and what challenges they face, the better your chances of getting through.

2. Prepare. If you have a moment at a board meeting, 15 minutes with the boss, 60 seconds with the mayor, you have to be ready. I watched my wife at the Gridiron Diner in D.C. – a comedy roast. Everyone was in tails and gowns. It was all fun and laughter. But I watched Jennifer pick her way through the room. “Michigan is ready for wind technology,” she began with Energy Secretary Chu. “Race to the Top is a great initiative,” she told Education Secretary Duncan, “We’d love to make Detroit one of your first visits as you roll it out.” While most people were kicking back, enjoying the jokes, the people-watching and chance encounters, she was making every second count. She knew who she wanted to see and what she wanted to convey and/or learn.

There’s way more on the show. But if you’re committed to leading up, you’ve got to know your audience and prepare well, to…

Lead with your best self,


  • Dan,

    I agree completely with your know your audience and then prepare. For example, sales people fail when not paying attention to these, as well.

    Why do sales people fail?

    1. They think they can get away with “winging it.” This expression comes from the theater; where it alludes to an actor studying his part in the wings (the areas to either side of the stage) because he has been suddenly called on to replace another. First recorded in 1885, it eventually was extended to other kinds of improvisation based on unpreparedness.

    Being prepared for the customer interaction is important. Knowing what action you want the prospect to take based upon this sales interaction allows the sales person to focus. Having a strategy of what to ask, what to show and tell helps to move the prospect to taking the desired action. Anticipating obstacles to the sale will allow you to plan how to go around or over potential “road-blocks” in accomplishing your sales objective.

    2. They don’t understand the impact of their personality on specific buying styles. This shows up in not really listening to the prospective customer and, instead, filling the sales interaction with sales talk. They don’t answer questions well because they don’t listen for the assumptions/beliefs that’s behind the prospect’s words. Their presentations are not in line with what the prospect wants to know. Being out-of-touch with the prospective customer’s personality style insures that the inability to communicate will sour the sale.

  • Mr. Mulhern,

    You are phenomenal! I have been trying to reach my audience for the past (3) years with the Mentoring Awareness March in Jackson, an it seems that the last two years my audience had gotten smaller. Despite Mussette Michael, Tim Walberg, and Congressman Schauer’s efforts of being the keynote speaker’s at this event, it is apparent I am missing something; That something is…… I have not been standing, sitting or speaking tall. This event is to help raise awareness, recruit mentors, and inform everyone about which organizations and individuals are involved with mentoring in the Jackson community. Though I have no intentions on giving up on this event or this community, I can see now, I am gaining some momentum by paying attention to other people, and learning from my mistakes.

    God Bless you,
    Thomas K. Burke- Mentor

  • Dan,

    I connected to the radio show. On dial up this is a slow proposition. I can’t complain since this is for free. Did not have time to down load, since computer timer said that would take ten hours.

    A local radio station for a while had a program that was availble by streaming audio, and I think Tim Skubick’s TV show can come in by streaming video. That may be more expensive and beyond the budget. But it comes through pretty much without delays and downloading.

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