We’ve has enlisted former Green Beret Sergeant Major (Retired) Karl Erickson to share military techniques to help you win the everyday battles that all entrepreneurs face. He’s talked about spotting a liar, finding out if someone is trustworthy, and this week, he turns his attention to finding success in a high-stakes meeting.
1. Know your enemy.
While you’re not planning to kill your opponents, your plan is to defeat their arguments in the board room. So let’s say you’re going into the meeting and your objective is to convince the board to do something. And you know there are other people coming to the meeting who want the board to do just the opposite. So do your homework: What is their side of the argument? How are they going to twist the facts to advance their position? Have a counterargument to each one of those moves before you even step foot in the room.
2. Come armed with facts.
Hard statistics will always trump generalizations. If you are able to rattle off hard numbers vs. someone saying something vague like, “Our numbers are up since last month,” you are at an advantage. You can counter, “Your numbers are up 11% this month, but that’s coming from them being down 60% for the past two months. You’re not making Jack and shit this month.” Have those hard statistics ready to fire.
3. Keep your eyes on the target.
This is a big one. In the Army Special Forces, we talk about “maneuver warfare.” People think that refers to moving tanks around on the battlefield, and that’s a good picture to have that I want you to have in your head during a board meeting. Like those tanks, you want your argument to keep your ultimate objective in focus. Don’t get distracted by side topics. People in meetings will always bring up a million smaller side issues. Keep your guns—your attention and focus—on the main objective. On the battlefield, you want to avoid anything that will slow you down and impede your ability to move fast and forcefully. That’s what those side topics are in a meeting. Shut them down immediately.
4. Bring overwhelming firepower.
That’s how you win on the modern battlefield and that’s how you win in the board room. You don’t want a fair fight. You want to overwhelm and run over your enemy. Build a coalition of people on your side before the meeting happens. You know who will be there. Take these people out for lunch or drinks or coffee. Sway them one at a time to your side. That way when you go into that meeting, instead of it being 12 people with their own opinions, you’ve got a bunch of them on the same page. And so when you’re talking, you’ve got multiple people in that room nodding in agreement. More time than not, the CEO, like a good commander, is going to side with united advisors rather than one person. That fight was over before you even stepped into the room.
5. Have a wingman.
The Air Force calls them wingmen, we call them a Ranger Buddy, but the point is to have a partner with you. The reason is that we all read people and situations differently. If my buddy sees me starting to screw up, he can just give me a tap on the toe under the table which is the sign to stop talking and adjust my line of attack. Now if I’m really fucking up, my partner is going to reach down and grab my knee! But the point is to have your partner there to help read the situation and divert you if you are heading into an area you don’t want to be.