The Confidence to Disrupt

There are a handful of sublimely confident people out there who get approval from their executives or customers to proceed with a solution, even if it is deeply flawed. However, there are zero people who receive support from executives and customers for anything if they lack confidence, even when their solutions are brilliantly designed.

For ideas to become real, support from others is imperative. Disruptive innovations directly affect a number of stakeholders, in some cases across multiple companies. These stakeholders include not only executives and customers, but peers in other departments and frontline employees. All of these people care greatly for the continuity of their processes and outputs, and they are not going to support an idea that threatens to harm them. They need to see confidence to take on the change risk. Likewise, when an idea is launched as a project, frontline employees are not going to put their full effort into executing change if they do not have confidence in the change leader.

How do you develop the level of confidence needed to be a disruptive leader? Here are the key components:

  1. Know what you’re talking about: Having a great idea is not enough to take it to the stakeholders; gather enough data regarding cost/benefit analysis and change risk to defend its viability.
  2. Be passionate about it: Conviction is confidence. People who pitch the idea are normally involved in executing it. Your stakeholders need to know there is passion behind the potential project’s execution.
  3. Take questioning in stride: Your executives and customers will ask intensely deep, probing questions. Don’t equivocate or be deferential or you will lose them. Remember, it’s not an insult or a lack of trust, it’s their job to test your idea! If they weren’t taking you seriously, you would not be in front of them.
  4. Do not lie: Don’t even attempt to fake an answer; you will be shaky and will not pull it off (and why would you want to?). Firmly state that you don’t know and then drive a dialogue exploring the importance of the topic and the parameters of what information is needed. Come back to them later with the answers.
  5. Embrace the butterflies: The less experience you have, the more nervous you will be. Embrace it – this is what life is all about. Even if your pitch fails, you will be more fulfilled than if you had let your nerves stop you from doing it.

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