BLUF: I've received feedback that I could improve my assertiveness when dealing with seniors and the suggested that there could be confidence issues wrapped up within that. It's not MT feedback but it is profoundly insightful. I'd greatly appreciate some guidance on how to address it.

I'm a generally confident, openly dyslexic/dyspraxic project/programme manager with a DISC profile of 6342 (interesting peak in S to counter my D). I was promoted about 3 years ago to the bottom rung of senior management. I'd had a successful career and a successful year. The programme I am currently leading is a corporate priority and consequently has a lot of senior attention. I am regularly working with the folks at the very top of the organisation - 3 and 4 levels up from me. I have found it challenging developing proposals that meet the diverse needs of these stakeholders. I'm new to top of the house politics, I know agreements are being brokered at the top that impact on my programme and for various reasons I only see the decisions and not the supporting discussions. As a consequence I have not always pushed back when things don't make sense. Hence the assertiveness comment.

I think there is something in the confidence aspect. While I am projecting confidence in leading the team I am not feeling it sat around the board room table with the seniors. I am more comfortable with them 1-1. At the board room table complex social dynamics come into play as the seniors consider the matter in hand in the border context of their wider set of objectives and the compromises they may need to make to maximise their success. It's hard to be confident when I know I don't have the whole picture.

I think our standard offerings on confidence and assertiveness are aimed at more junior levels of the organisation (though that might just be my pride interpreting it). I think being more comfortable with top level seniors is critical to my continued success and promotion aspirations. And I am not sure how to address it.

Does anyone have suggestions for improving confidence and assertiveness when dealing with seniors?



pucciot's picture
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It would seem to be perfectly normal not to feel confident in certain situations.

1 -

Remember that this is about behavior, not, feelings.

You were asked to "show" more confidence, not "feel" more confidence. Whoever gave you that feedback has no idea what you are feeling - they can only see how you are behaving.

In many things, our actions will help determine our feelings.

Where do you sit at the meetings ?  How do you sit at the meetings ?

Get there early. Sit up front

Sit up straight - lean forward every once in a while.

Look interested in what every person is saying.

Don't fidget or express any other habits that might be interpreted as showing nervousness.

Eventually your exterior actions may help your internal feelings.   

And if not -- that's OK - you still would be satisfying your Feedback.

2 - 

Be prepared !

Know your Business !

The single most effective builder of confidence is preparation. 

 Come prepared for the meeting.  

And come prepared with knowledge about your department so that you can answer any question that may be put to you about your area of responsibility.

If you don't know -- then show confidence in your ability to look into that and get the answer soon.

Show and express confidence in your team, your collaborators, and the Directs under you.  They make you look good ! Show pride in that, in them by speaking of them in hopeful terms.  Sing their praises.  

Find one example of your Dept that you can be proud of that you can be prepared to talk about or mention at these meetings.  -- Keep that little nugget "in your pocket" just in case you see an opportunity to share it in the meeting - or with a colleague just before or after the meeting.


Example :  

Just before the meeting begins ... usually someone will say hello to you and ask you

"So how are things in your dept ?" 

You answer :

"Great, did you know last week we filled our 200th request this year ? The whole dept was pretty proud about that. "


Get a few of these Dept Factoids ready --- and your confidence will shine.


That's my recommendation.


Good Luck