How to Get Powerful People on Your side

When approaching a powerful person to get them involved in a project, make sure there’s something in it for them. But what could that be? Get-It-Done Guy Stever Robbins helps you find ways they can benefit from being associated with you.

Stever Robbins
6-minute read
Episode #427

Today’s episode is a bit unusual. It includes a rant, a tip, and a peek behind the Get-it-Done Guy scenes. Let’s jump in. First, the rant.

I was recently asked to contribute to a “round-up” where they ask a bunch of people a question and publish the answers in a big list. They asked me a question about leadership that I thought was oversimplifying, and made many bad assumptions about the issue. Plus, many people on the list don’t necessarily know anything about leadership. They’re likely to have the same cultural motivational leadership points that sound great and don’t work. You know the genre. The sound bite equivalent of a beautifully photographed poster of a Whale with the big word “Leadership” underneath it. Really inspirational—especially if you have a fetish for gigantic aquatic mammals—but not a great source of high-quality information to incorporate into your professional development.

Experts get involved because they expect to get something out of it.

I tried to explain that the question, as phrased, was the wrong question. And the answers might not be as they could be. But they were adamant. They knew what was best. After all, they had a Whale poster. So, under the theory that any exposure is good exposure, I agreed. I sent them my sound bite. At least I tried to hint in my sound bite that there was more to the issue, but I doubt it came across.

Yesterday, they sent me the link to the final article, for me to tweet, Facebook, Instagram far and wide to my audience. It would be great! People would see me in the presence of other brilliant, wise practitioners, and would subscribe to my podcast in droves. But … well … It’s a list of 44 people. And I’m like number 30. And the page is formatted so it’s hard to read, and who even scrolls that far? This isn’t good publicity; this is me 3/4 of the way down a list of leadership bullet points whose quality ranged from the sublime to … wishful thinking! I decided not to tweet because, frankly, it would be embarrassing. They also wanted me to comment on the article. And say what? “Gee, great article. Wrong question. Trite answers. And I’m 3/4 of the way down the page? What an honor. WAH!!!!” My inner 3-year-old would have a field day.

If you’re going to solicit experts to be part of a panel, or a conference, or a “round-up,” use the opportunity! These people clearly just wanted their 44 experts to drive traffic to their site by tweeting out the link. It probably worked. But it could have been so much more.

Get the Most Out of Your Experts

If you’re going to go to the trouble of contacting experts, do it to your own benefit.

You can establish deeper, ongoing relationships with guests for future collaborations. If they’d actually had a conversation about how their question could be improved, we might have hit on an angle for the article that would be unique, go viral, and help them be perceived as sources of Invaluable Insight by their audience. And who doesn’t want to be a source of Invaluable Insight? I mean, c’mon.

They could have arranged the final presentation to make the contributors shine!! Instead, I felt ashamed at my inclusion in such a transparently exploitative venture.

All they wanted was incoming links. They didn’t think about how to make it beneficial to the experts at all.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.