Your Route to the Top: Winging it

Begin with a bang. Establish credibility with a compelling hook - say, a fascinating fact or an engaging example. No need to be an expert on everything, but know one thing well.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Follow the leader. When put on the spot, listen and gauge what the other person wants from you. Whether it's specific facts or simple reassurance that you're on top of your game, assess the situation before giving too much away.

Ask questions. Make them feel more engaged, while using the opportunity to glean information and trigger knowledge. Keep them talking - 70:30 in their favour is a good rule of chat.

Stop the negative voices. Concentrate on what you do know, rather than worry about what you don't. Replace 'fear of failure' with 'chance to learn', and embrace the opportunity.

Use fewer, better words. Choose your words carefully and give yourself time to think. What you do say will carry weight and you're less likely to get it wrong. If in doubt, don't speak.

Keep your friends close. Ensure that colleagues stay onside with regular positive feedback, then when it comes to the crunch they'll be more inclined to help you out.

Create connections. Steer the conversation onto related topics that you know well: 'We did a similar project with company X. In that case, we went through the following steps to reach our goal... '

Reflect back. If asked a direct question that you can't answer, open it up, if possible, as a discussion: 'That's a very interesting question. What does everyone think about that?'

Maintain credibility at all costs. Avoid being in a position where you can be caught out. Use your authority: change the subject or postpone the meeting. 'That's a good point well made. As team leader, I'm proposing we meet this afternoon to discuss it further.' Just make sure you're prepared by then.

'The Mind Gym: Give me time' is published by Time Warner Books (£12.99). Contact the firm at

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