It takes courage to voice your ideas and stick up for them. These tips can help.
Hierarchy is disappearing in many companies, and that’s opening the door for employees at every level to contribute–and even lead. The trouble is, many of us haven’t picked up the skills we need to make our voices heard. These six tips can help you get comfortable with communicating with more authority across your entire organization and even outside it.
1. DECIDE ON YOUR CONVICTIONS
It takes some courage to share your ideas at work. Especially if the goal is to influence people outside your immediate team, including those you don’t have any power over—your boss, a senior executive, a prospective client, you name it—you might feel like you’re stepping out of line.
But consider this: The word “courage” includes the Latin root “cor,” meaning “heart.” Don’t share ideas or beliefs that aren’t heartfelt. You need to have a strong conviction in your ideas before asking others to consider them. But if you believe you have a contribution to make, go for it!
2. DON’T HEDGE
Once you’ve decided that the point you have to make is worthwhile, state it boldly, clearly, and confidently. Never lead with an apology (“I’m sorry if I’m saying something you already know”), introduce caveats (“I’m not sure about this, but let me give it a try”), insert tentative language (“It could be that . . . “; “My best guess is . . . ”), fill in the background information first.
Defend your ideas if it turns out that you need to. It may be tough to stand up to dissenting views, particularly if the opposition comes from people more senior than you. But remember that the ideas most worth sharing are likely to be at least a little controversial. So when you say something new, expect to be challenged, then rise to the occasion by showing why you’ve taken your position.
When you do respond, be careful not to be defensive or aggressive–that will only make you look less confident and undermine your message. Instead, acknowledge the other person’s point of view, and succinctly, politely explain why you see things differently. Remember that every challenge gives you an opportunity to reaffirm your point. Welcome it as an opportunity.
4. BE WILLING TO CHALLENGE OTHERS
I’ve coached leaders at all levels, and often senior officers tell me that they value thoughtful input that sparks dialogue—they like it when people challenge each other and share contrary views. “That’s what we’re paying them for,” one CEO told me. “We want their best ideas.”
So when you bring critical thinking to the table, do it in a collaborative spirit. When you challenge a plan, don’t just say, “You’re wrong” or “I disagree.” Instead, say, “I understand where you’re coming from, but let’s take your logic one step further.” Or ask, “Could we achieve the same goal more cost-effectively, by . . .” That dialogue builds better solutions than either staying quiet or getting combative.
5. ALWAYS SHOW RESPECT
It takes courage to communicate in the same open, confident way to everyone. Most of us are conditioned to address people differently, according to their relative authority. So keep that in mind. Don’t talk to senior leaders sycophantically. Phrases like “with all due respect” or “to be honest” sound condescending. By the same token, don’t let executives take over the conversation or silence you. There’s always a temptation to defer to those who have more power than you. But they won’t respect you for that. Ultimately, the best way to show respect for upper-level managers is by sharing your best ideas with them.
And when you address those less senior to you, show an equal degree of respect. Listen to them carefully, acknowledge their views, and build on their ideas wherever you can. Communicating forcefully isn’t possible if it doesn’t come from a place of respect, no matter where it’s directed.
6. BE AUTHENTIC
Finally, it can take extraordinary courage simply to be yourself while you’re sharing your ideas, especially if you work in a company on a team where you aren’t necessarily seen as someone to voice your views.
Sometimes that isn’t always personal–it’s cultural. As you look around at your peers, you might feel there’s a normal way of dressing, speaking, looking, and acting. There’s no need to resist corporate culture in your effort to become a more powerful communicator.
But you also need to have the courage to preserve your spontaneity, creative energy, vitality, and sense of humor. Suppressing those qualities won’t serve you, your message, or your company.
I suggest that the single most important task of the second half of life is the recovery of personal authority, and mobilizing the courage and resources to live our truth in the world.
In What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life, I suggest that the single most important task of the second half of life is the recovery of personal authority, namely, the discovery of what is true for us, really true, and mobilizing the courage and resources to live our truth in the world. Sounds simple, but it is the most difficult thing we will ever do. Yet how could we ever make sound choices about the course of our life, the values which matter to us, and what our life means to us without this personal authority?
This morning I spoke with a woman who has been stymied in her desire for further education by her fear of writing papers. She is bright, articulate, and passionate about her studies, and yet she has postponed them, and therefore her life development. Depth psychology has taught us that “it is not about what it is about.” Her dilemma is not about her writing papers. Rather the blocking energy derives from an old fear of criticism, the fear of losing the approval of others, and the cumulative shaming of her childhood efforts to express herself. It is easy for all of us outside her history to ask why does she allow her future to be determined by these spectral voices of her past?
The founder of analytic psychology, Carl Jung, observed that all our troubles stem from one place–the separation from our instincts. And yet our dependent, vulnerable existence as infants and children oblige that we meet the demands that the environment around us expects: “do this; don’t do that; it is ok to feel this, desire this; it is not ok; don’t ask, don’t expect; twist and torque yourself into a pretzel to get your needs met and stay out of harm’s way;” and so on. These thousand, thousand adaptations are necessary, but each potentially estranges us from our internal guidance systems which automatically know what is right, what is healthy, for us, and which ones not.
Years later, those necessary adaptations have grown familiar, reflexive, and directive in our lives. For example, we all have internalized adaptive behaviors so long that we reflexively find ourselves in subtle patterns of avoidance or compliance with what seems powerfully demanding in our lives. We learn to identify with emotional deficits and sabotage ourselves, or compulsively seek reassurance from others through solicitations of their approval. Over time these reflexive responses become who we seem to be, and create those self-sabotaging patterns. After all, we don’t rise in the morning and say to the mirror while we brush our teeth, “Today I will do the same stupid things I have been doing for decades.” But chances are today, and tomorrow, we will. Unwittingly, we thus become prisoners of our past. When we ponder these repetitions, we are not belaboring the past, or preoccupied with it–we are wisely tumbling to the fact that the unexamined past governs our present choices and submits us to the reductive, infantilizing experiences of the past.
The good news in all of this is that over time we begin to suffer the discrepancy between this false, adaptive self, and the natural energies within us which wish expression in the world. The ultimate question we have to ask ourselves is, “what wants to enter the world through me?” This is not a narcissistic question; it is a respectful, reverential invitation to reflect on the purpose of our journeys. And then we must ask, “what within me stands in the way of embodying that talent, that enthusiasm, that curiosity, that relational gift that I can bring to my family, my friends, my world, and to myself?” This is not an agenda for being famous, recognized by others, or even understood by others. It is rather a question of what I experience as truly meaningful in my life.
Ironically, we do not have far to look for clues as to what wants to enter the world through us. Our psyche, that autonomous source that grows our toenails, digests our food, and forms our thoughts and emotions, is forever seeking our conscious cooperation. What we call symptoms are autonomous commentaries offered up by the psyche on how it views our life, our choices, or our commitments. If what we are doing is in accord with our inner reality, then we will experience, even in the face of suffering and isolation, the support of the feeling function, the rise of energies to the task of life, and the inherent sense of satisfaction which comes from doing what is right for us.
We all know the feeling of doing what is wrong for us, and we frequently will ourselves to continue, even as the psyche throws up more and more protest. It is the tendency of our culture, perhaps of each of us, to say, “how quickly can I remove this symptom, this depression, this addiction, this anxiety disorder?” But would it not make a profound difference in our lives if we rather asked the question, “why has it come to me, and what does it want from me?” This sort of inquiry is humbling, but it is the beginning of wisdom, and the beginning of that dialogue with our own psyche (which is, after all, the Greek word for soul) that begins the recovery of our personal authority.
In the end, we need to feel that the life we lived was our life, not someone else’s, that it was chosen rather simply our following the instructions on the box, and that we stood in a respectful relationship to that which is larger than ordinary comforts and provided a deep sense of meaning, of satisfaction, and reciprocity. Then it may be said that we have really been here, living the life we were meant to live. The task, and the path we take in addressing it, will be different for each of us, but that is the gift we are asked to share, the gift of our separate selves.
What comes to mind when you hear the word authority? Do you picture the image of a person with a badge and gun, a government official or agency, a parent, a customer, your boss, or his boss? What about God and the Bible? There are numerous sources of authority and power in life, and many are needed to live a life of peace.
Yes, authorities must exist in our lives. We are often under someone or something’s authority and have personal authority over ourselves. There are times when we give some of our authority to our spouse, pastor, friends, colleagues, relatives, and others for our benefit. However, we must be careful in giving up our personal authority because of the potential loss of control.
As we begin our discussion of personal authority, let’s first look at the definition of authority in the Oxford Languages dictionary:
authority — noun
1. the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
2. a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative, sphere.
3. the power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something.
It is clear in this definition that authority is power, command, and control over something or someone. Another way of saying this is the one with authority is in charge, making them responsible for an outcome. Most of the time, that is.
“You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.” Byron Dorgan (1942-present)
While the dictionary definition points us in the right direction, it provides little insight into the meaning of personal authority.
One of the better definitions I have found for personal authority is:
“What constitutes “personal authority”? Stated most simply, it means to find what is true for oneself and to live it in the world… Respectful of the rights and perspectives of others, personal authority is neither narcissistic nor imperialistic. It is a humble acknowledgement of what wishes to come to being through us.” James Hollis, PhD (1940-present)
Hollis speaks truth in his words, and to develop this definition even further, look at what Psychology Today has to say:
“Personal authority does not come from unkept promises but rather by truthful actions and deeds with decent and fair purpose.” Alexei Orlov (1737–1808)
Taking personal authority over your life is essential for living to the fullest. By exercising personal authority, you take control and responsibility for your life, your body, what you do, how you act, and many other things.
Yet, too many of us surrender our authority when it would be far better to maintain it. This leads one to ask, where do you have power over your life? Are you in charge of your life? If so, over what parts? If you have chosen to surrender your authority in some areas, allowing someone or something else to control you, for what purpose have you done so? Should you take control back? So many questions!
“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.” Stanley Milgram (1933–1984)
Certainly, you exercise control over much in your life. You control what you put in your mouth and allow it before your eyes don’t you? Yet how many of us give up this control over our appetites? Who is in control, you or your appetite? Do you allow your appetite to control what goes in your mouth or before your eyes? But then, you and your appetite are one, or are they?
In what other areas is it possible to give up your authority or power? There are far too many to list here, but a few include:
the news media
various routines and habits
Is it possible you have given control to someone or something else in some or all of these areas, even when it’s to your detriment?
“No man has any natural authority over his fellow men.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)
Take your authority back
How can you regain control or authority over your life? It’s as simple as one-two-three.
Make two lists — one of where you have maintained personal authority in your life and one where you have surrendered or given it away.
When you understand where your personal authority lies, consider what you want to control and what you are willing to give up.
Take decisive action to regain control where you must while maintaining control where possible!
Expect friction to develop when you begin taking control back from areas you had given up.
What are a few areas of personal authority you can consider retaking?
Time spent on the job
What you allow before your eyes
What you listen to
Rest and relaxation
Time spent with friends
A few examples of regaining authority include:
A child has you wrapped around their little finger, and you spoil them. You know it is not a healthy way for the kid to grow up. Take charge and change it immediately!
Your finances are out of control due to your and your spouse’s spending habits. Have a conversation immediately. As mature adults find a responsible path forward, enlist a professional’s help if need be.
If you allow work to consume your life, take charge and find a way to get it under control. There are a thousand and one ways to do this. The main thing is to give it careful thought and begin taking action. Control it instead of aimlessly allowing it to control you.
Take control back if a friend takes up too much of your time. You may hurt their feelings, but they’ll get over it if they are mature enough. If they don’t, well, you win some, and you lose some. Friends, that is — time itself is inelastic.
This is the reality of life. It is your life. You only have one shot at it. No one gets a do-over! It is up to you to be the mature, responsible adult, becoming as true to yourself as possible, regardless!
Think about this — if you don’t take control of your life, who can? Someone else will if you don’t step in and step up, I can assure you of that!
I am not saying go around like a bull in a China shop and destroy everything in your path as you take back control over your life. Use your ability to think and act as an adult, not as a child or bully. Especially not with your spouse or kid! Treat them in a kind, firm, responsible, mature way with the love they deserve. But stop letting anyone or anything walk all over you. You are not a doormat!
“Authority without wisdom is like a heavy ax without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.” Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672)
I hope you take away some new thoughts about personal authority by reading this article. Give serious attention to where you maintain control, have surrendered control, and should regain control. Knowing this information will firmly position you to begin living a fuller life of purpose and dignity, enjoying a better future.
When you take full responsibility for your personal authority, you create a better world for yourself and those you love. What a great gift for both you and them!
Mark Twain said it beautifully: It’s never wrong to do the right thing.
Personal authority does not come from unkept promises but rather from truthful actions and deeds with decent and fair purposes.
How one lives their life and impacts upon the common good separates the chaff from the wheat. So much good in life has been orphaned because we humans all too often fail to do the right thing; too often, we are short in action yet long on opinion.
This is where the matter of truth or, if you like, value comes in. We are all limited or freed by the nature and extent of our knowledge as well as the environment that surrounds us.
It follows then that it is important not to assume that one’s own perspective supersedes the knowledge and values of others.
Our cultures, and national and personal histories, will never be a unifying bonding agent but kindness gives us the right to call ourselves “humankind.” And we are faced with dramatic change like never before seen by this living generation. Meaningful change is fundamental to our very existence.
Undergoing tremendous change is often an unavoidable necessity. Change usually brings degrees of fear. Dread of the unknown, mostly.
But we do have choices. We can always opt to do the right things in a manner that we can live with, not with blind or foolish courage, but rather, with valor. A coeur vaillant rien d’impossible is a much-loved French proverb—it suggests that with valor, nothing is impossible. Valor is courage with care and responsibility; a steadfastness that faces truths and overcomes with care and conscience. When one witnesses such character, it truly is a thing to behold, especially as the most important things in life that need to be done are almost always the most difficult.
Embracing and being thoughtful, whilst at the same time being resolute and getting things done properly for the eventual common good, is a far better alternative than abject complacency or surrender.
It is, to my mind, far better to live the absolutes of a life well and play the game of business and life successfully by being ever true to one’s persona and authority, giving credence to the inherent power that lives within us all.
It is a careful yet progressive change that holds out the promise of what it means to belong to humankind—and hopefully, the value that it brings.
Source: psychologytoday.com ~ By: Alexei Orlov ~ Image: Canva Pro
Have you ever wondered why, in nearly every set of search results, a Wikipedia entry ranks on the first page, usually near the top?
That’s because the site has gone to great lengths to build authority at the domain, site and page levels. Google recognizes the value of Wikipedia’s rich content that links out to well-documented sources.
To create website, or domain, authority for your own site, it might benefit you to take a page from Wikipedia’s book. While your site may never have the hundreds of thousands of pages that Wikipedia does, the same principles apply.
In fact, niche sites have an easier time building authority. By restricting themselves to one niche, content creation efforts are concentrated on one specific theme.
What Is Website Authority?
Before I get into how Wikipedia has mastered website authority, let’s go over what it is and clear up any confusion.
When discussing website or domain authority, we’re not talking about the metric created by Moz. To be clear, Google does not use Moz’s domain authority to determine ranking.
However, we know site authority is important to Google. They mention it 186 times in their Search Evaluator Guidelines, in the context of E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trust).
Whether Google employs an authority signal in its ranking algorithm is pure speculation. But we do know human site evaluations, conducted using Google’s 164-page guide, are used to refine their search algorithms.
There’s strong evidence that quality content affects ranking. Since its release in 2013, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm has been using semantics and AI to match search results more closely to the intent of a query.
Instead of relying on keywords on a page, the search engine seeks to match a search query with the most relevant content.
Google’s web crawlers look at links, too, both external and internal. As it crawls a site for relevancy, it follows links on those pages. If it finds related content, that paints a better picture of a site’s offering.
What does that mean for websites trying to rank?
It means that the more time you spend creating comprehensive content that feeds into holistic topic clusters, the better your chance of ranking well.
One site has absolutely mastered topic clusters in their content strategy. Can you guess which it is?
Wikipedia: The Authority Website Example
Just take a look at this page about the Jewish holiday Purim.
If you scroll down to the table of contents, you’ll see content on every aspect of the holiday, from its history to its customs, to its various versions around the world.
At the bottom of the page, you’ll find 102 authoritative and reliable sources cited and linked, where possible. Google now knows that this page includes a key component to its ranking assessment: EAT (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness).
But Wikipedia provides more than just rich content on each topic it tackles. It builds topical authority by creating comprehensive topic clusters that address all subtopics.
Look in the right rail of this page, and you’ll see this:
This article is part of a more extensive series on Jews and Judaism. The Purim page is actually a subtopic of a subtopic.
Click on Religion, and you get Holidays, where the Purim page appears. All of the other subtopics drill down further and further until you get to individual pages, as well.
All of these pages link together and point back to the pillar pages: Jews and Judaism.
Building Website Authority for a New Site
If you have a brand new site, building website authority from scratch is going to take some time and some patience. But a lot of what goes into creating that authority has to do with your content.
Your Overall Site Authority Strategy
Before you create any content, make sure you’re keeping in mind everything you need to do to create site authority. Plan your content using the following steps to ensure it’s automatically working toward your ranking goals:
Address User Intent: Make sure your content matches the intent behind the search term you are targeting. If, for instance, your keyword is baking a cake, most likely people want to know how to do it. Your content should match that intent.
Create Quality, Linkable Content: Closely related to user intent, creating quality content that users can trust will keep them coming back for more. Content on baking a cake should have step-by-step directions, helpful tips, and images. The more reliable the material, the more likely your users will enjoy it, increasing the chance other sites will link back to you (more on that in a minute).
Link Out to Quality Sites: Your content should have external links to authoritative sites. That signals to search engines and users that you’ve done your homework and you’re offering the most reliable content out there.
Gather Quality Backlinks: Start link building once you have some content up on your blog. Reach out to sites similar to yours that might be interested in linking to your content. Promote your content on social media to attract attention to yourself and increase your chances of getting links. Guest posting is another way of garnering quality links. The more quality backlinks you have, the more Google and other search engines understand that your content is authoritative. Wherever possible, use relevant anchor text in your link (or close to it) as that provides additional relevancy to the link.
Remove or NoFollow Toxic Links: If you find questionable sites linking to your content, do your best to get those backlinks removed. Websites with bad reputations will hurt your reputation, too. If you can’t remove them, consider disavowing those links.
Create Relevant Internal Linking: Linking internally connects your content to one another. That gives web crawlers more to look at when they’re determining whether or not your content answers a search query. It can also increase pages per session as users click from one page to another. Make sure to include relevant anchor text for each link – it’s good for both your audience and search engines.
Focus Less on Individual Page Traffic: The goal is to create the ultimate resource on a specific topic. While some articles will have little traffic, they’re still a necessary part of the information resource that defines you as an expert in that topic. The overall increase in organic traffic to the cluster (or site) as a whole will more than make up for individual page performance.
Let’s take a look at another example from Wikipedia to give you an idea of how that works.
First of all, user intent has been addressed completely. The page defines the concept thoroughly, discusses micro- and macroeconomics, delves into its history and covers other subtopics having to do with economics.
This page is clearly the pillar piece. In the right rail, the same box with related cluster topics appears, just as it did on the Purim page. It leads you to other pages having to do with economics: its theory, famous economists, etc.
So, it’s safe to say that user intent has been covered, no matter what a user might be searching for.
Second, this is quality content pulled from trustworthy sources. And while maybe ten years ago, an editor would never dream of linking to user-generated content, Wikipedia has proven that with a little verification, their content can be trusted and linked to.
You can tell by the source information, where authoritative sources are linked to, the third element in our checklist.
Finally, Wikipedia is famous for its internal linking. Every post, including this one, includes dozens (if not scores) of links to related Wikipedia pages.
It’s so easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of Wikipedia pages as you click link after link to read more about related topics. Imagine how easy it is for Google crawlers to see how much rich content a site like this has and push it up to the top of results pages.
Using Topic Clusters to Create Site Authority
You’ll notice I called Wikipedia’s economics the pillar page. That’s because it’s part of one of thousands of topic clusters Wikipedia has created to pull content together.
Creating clusters of content around a central topic gives you the opportunity to cover that topic fully using various sources and formats, not only blog posts but infographics, videos, white papers or other pieces.
Each piece addresses a different aspect of your pillar topic. You can even bring in influencers to create content and divert authority to your site.
Wikipedia keeps it simple and sticks to encyclopedia-like entries, but they create amazing topic clusters, nonetheless.
Like the page on Purim, Economics has a box in the right rail that lists the entries within this topic cluster.
When planning your own content, think about how you can frame it in topic clusters, rather than disparate pieces that cover a range of topics.
To do that, walk through the use journey for each topic. What are the questions that led a user to you? What are the related topics they may search for in their journey?
Tools like MarketMuse can help you research those related topics. For example, plug in baking a cake, and you get a list of related topics.
Improving Website Authority for an Existing Site
If you already have a good library of content, you can still use the steps outlined above to enhance your website authority.
In this case, the focus will be on auditing your existing content. Look through each piece to shore up your linking strategy. Run your content through MarketMuse semantic analysis to determine if there are any topic gaps within each piece itself.
Any substantial improvement in an article is a good reason to reach out to gain additional authority backlinks.
Then, look at your content holistically to see if there are any opportunities to create topic clusters. Group pieces together by topic and create a pillar piece they can all link back to. Create content for any gaps within your clusters.
Wikipedia has mastered the art of authority when it comes to search engines. You can do the same by following their lead. Create in-depth content pieces with strong internal and external linking. See out those backlinks. And, most of all, group your content into topic clusters to demonstrate thoroughness and authority.