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The Stolen Idea

You have a great idea and present it. Then someone else says exactly what you just said and gets the credit. Now what? 

A perfect example of this is seen here in this FedEx commercial called  “stolen idea”, and I often reference it when coaching communication and public speaking.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is self-doubt – we try to reason with ourselves as to why everyone listened to your co-worker and not you. The next time this happens to you, not to panic. Instead, use these tools to take back your idea and get the credit where credit is due.  

BE CLEAR THE FIRST TIME

Of course it’s important to be prepared for any meeting. However, it’s especially important in a brainstorming meeting as this is where new ideas will, and should, come up. Whether your idea is prepared or in-the-moment, you say it with clarity the first time.  

One of the reasons ideas are not heard the first time is because they are not said with enough authority, or the idea is not formulated so that it gets to the point. When this happens, it comes across like a subliminal message; everyone hears you and has a basic understanding of your idea, but they do not fully understand it themselves. Then after a few minutes pass, the light bulb goes off, the subliminal message you planted becomes clear in their head and they can better articulate your idea. So now everyone truly gets it, even though it was your idea. 

This is it why it’s crucial to express your ideas with clarity and confidence right off the bat; you have to own the idea and ensure it’s succinct and to the point. A common mistake is to openly pontificate in the moment on everyone else’s time. Instead, wait until the idea is fully formed in your head, then say it with confidence.

Keep in mind you should be able to hold a kindergartner’s attention when explaining and also keep their attention. Even if your idea does not get traction, you’ve at least made yourself visible and contributed to the meeting. Realize that sometimes “bad” ideas turn into great ones – but if you keep them to yourself, they will never be heard.  

REDUNDANCY  

It is critical in oral communication that you have redundancy, otherwise your points will not land and then you’re back to subliminal messaging. When you present your ideas, redundancy is your best friend. You can be redundant and get to the point.  

Let’s say you want to hire a production company for videos rather than doing them in-house. Here’s a BAD example of presenting this idea:

“We’ve all been working really hard on preparing and producing videos for social media and I think it takes up a lot of time and a lot of work to come up with the content. So I was thinking if we maybe outsourced this work load it may be a good idea because we will have more time to work on other areas and the videos will look better. It’s just an idea . . .”

WRONG. 

Here’s an example with clarity, ownership and redundancy that gets to the point:  

“One of my ideas for our marketing strategy is to hire a production company for our videos. By hiring a production company, we will free up our staff and have better quality videos. That is why I think we need to hire a production company for the videos”.
 
You OWN the idea and REPEAT the idea so if someone missed it the first time because they’re taking notes, texting not listening, etc., they will HEAR it. 

THE TAKE-BACK 

You are in a strategy meeting and everyone is throwing around ideas. You have a great idea, say it, but no one picks up on it or even hears you. Two minutes later, your colleague says your idea and everyone jumps on it and is excited to implement. In your mind you’re saying, “I JUST SAID THAT! WHY ARE THEY LISTENING TO THIS PERSON AND NOT ME??!!”

There may have been several reasons why they didn’t hear you the first time. I will get to some of these later, but the most important thing you can do is make yourself  look good in this moment, without a hint of whining or looking like a sore loser. As soon as the person re-states your idea, simply take it back and then add one more thought.

Here’s an example of how to take back  your idea when the other person restates it:

“I’m glad you agree with my strategy plan and I think we can implement this quicker than we may all think.”

What you are doing is politely saying, “this was my idea to begin with and I’m glad you agree that it’s a good idea,” rather than, “I just said that! Why didn’t anyone listen to me and everyone is listening to them?” If you implement the former, you look polished and in control of the situation. If you implement the latter, you look like a sore loser—you are handing over your Leadership Presence. In order to keep yourself credible and not diminish your credibility, agree with your own idea

 Even if your idea is “bad” or not picked up, own it. Don’t use language like, “I just think . . . I think maybe if we . . it’s just an idea . . .”

Say your idea. Say it with confidence. Say it again. And should that fail, use the take-back.
 
By using these tools, you will gain more credibility in meetings, project more leadership presence and gain a new confidence in letting your ideas flow.  

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