009 - First, Get Into the Tent

In this episode:

  • How to gain access to the leadership group, even if you don't know anyone there.
  • Starting with an influential individual you do know.
  • Concentrating on adding value as the main currency - everyone wants value.
  • Strategies for building trust and relationship first, using leverage second.


  • N/a


Sooner or later, if you've got any kind of ambition or desire to improve things you'll want to bring ideas to the decision makers around you and hopefully, get heard. Essentially, we're talking here about being influential.

To influence others, you need to have their eyes and ears before you can get their head and heart. This is quite a natural sequence and the best strategy I can think of for working in with it is called "first, get into the tent."

Getting into the tent, of course, is an analogy for having access to those you need to influence.

If you're not in the tent, you can have no part of what goes on in there.

Sometimes, just getting access can be a challenge. But be bold! Ensure you have a good reason why they should give you their attention, and then you will be more confident in making the approach.

Firstly, you'll need to gain the eyes and ears of a few influential leaders as individuals.

Here are some potential strategies you could use.

Approach them because: 

  • You want to ask their advice on a strategic issue.
  • You know of a project they have on and you want to offer a suggestion they could consider to make something easier, faster or cheaper (or you would like to get involved).
  • You know someone who would benefit from meeting with them, and you want to broker a brief meeting between the three of you.
  • You want to extend your skills and experience and you would like the chance of working with them on a new challenge.
  • You want to propose a small, low-risk pilot scheme that can help them achieve important goals. (You might then have a larger scheme that would require their confidence first).

If there is value on the table, most people will be happy to invite you in to hear about it. So, to get the opportunity to sit down and talk, first have a legitimate way of getting into the tent. Often you do that by developing relationships with individual leaders first.

Secondly, once you have them interested and engaged to a degree, you can work on next-level strategies to get access to the leadership group:

Strategies like:

  • Ask your individual to discuss your ideas with others they are connected to.
  • Ask whether they can suggest who else might be interested in these ideas, and whether they'd be happy to broker the connection on your behalf.
  • Explore whether they see merit in securing you a slot in front of a leadership group to propose your views and ideas. (Which they will do, by the way, if they see merit in your idea and have confidence in you to talk credibly about it with the others.)

So, in a way this is a sequential thing. You can't run before you have shown you can walk. But having said that, I've also seen examples where people have gone a long way very quickly because (a) they were keen, (b) they were proactive, and (c) they had real value they brought to the table.

In a Nutshell: 

  1. Start with something of core value to those you want to influence.
  2. Approach a tent-dweller with that value
  3. Develop the relationship with them over time - build the trust
  4. Ask them to help you get inside the tent (and make sure you have a solid reason for doing so).