How to… impress powerful people


Powerful people are comfortable with ambition, but attempting to impress them at someone else’s expense is a high risk strategy that could backfire. So make sure you have strong and wide-ranging opinions, but don’t criticise other people.


Show the powerful individual that you value his or her attention by remaining fully focused during your conversations. Give good eye contact, speak clearly, and don’t let anything distract you from what the person is saying.


Managing expectations is crucial. The best way to achieve this is by undercommitting and over-delivering. Set time scales you can improve on and list objectives you know you can accomplish, then add in something extra. By consistently going beyond what is expected, you’ll stand out.


Powerful people expect to be challenged by those around them, but this should never be done in public. So pick the right moment and make sure the conversation can’t be overheard.


You will be better thought of if you take a proactive approach to delivering bad news. Powerful people don’t like being the last to know something, so explain negative developments promptly. Even if you don’t have the full picture, it pays to speak up as soon as possible, and explain that you’re still looking into the specifics.


No job should be too small. If you want to build trust with a powerful person, proving yourself adept at modest tasks is a good starting point. By showing that you do even the small things really well, you send out the powerful messages that you pay attention to detail and are happy to roll up your sleeves. Both will be appreciated.