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Do you have your eye on a seat in the boardroom but are unsure quite how to make the leap? Merit alone is unlikely to get you there, but using flattery on your current boss could well be the boost you need to secure that coveted role in another organisation.

Having quizzed managers and chief executive officers in large industrial and service companies in the US, Ithai Stern, assistant professor of management and organisations at the Kellogg School of Management and co-author James Westphal, a professor of strategy at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan believe they have identified just what tactics a wannabee boardmember should employ to bring about social influence.

They suggest for example framing flattery as advice seeking -”How were you able to close that deal so successfully?” or using flattery in a way that could potentially make the boss feel uncomfortable, “I don’t want to embarrass you, but your presentation was one of the best I have ever seen.”

They also suggest dropping into conversation potential areas in common such as a religious affiliation or a political party. Whilst another option when attending functions and mingling with yourr boss’s social network is to tell his friends and colleagues that you agree whole heartedly with his values.

All of these tactics can help propel you into a boardroom position. However, the authors caution that subtlety is the name of the game and whatever you do, do not appear to be too ingratiating or too obvious.

“Being too overt with one’s intentions can be interpreted as manipulative or political,” says Prof Westphal. “The more covert the ingratiation, the more sophisticated the approach and effective the outcome,” he says.

Another tip which may help you on your way to the top comes from research by Harvard and Columbia academics.

Adopting a powerful pose such as that of your boss, will in turn make you feel more confident and prepared for a stressful situation.

Researchers have discovered that merely adopting powerful gestures transforms behaviour and makes an individual more able to cope with stressful situations. Sitting down with your feet on the desk and your hands behind your head, just like the cliched image of a chief executive officer, will alter an individual’s testosterone and cortisol levels and will also transform risk-taking behaviour.

“Adopting powerful postures allowed subjects to prepare for stressful situations and confidently take risks due to psychological. physiological and behavioural changes,” says co-authors Amy Cuddy, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Dana Carney, assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School and Andy Yap a Phd student at Columbia.

The authors say that adopting powerful poses can have implications in the real world - in a courtroom for example or a job interview. Such non-verbal gestures they add “allow an individual to prepare for a challenge on a deep biological as well as psychological level.”

The paper - Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance, will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

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