Last week there was almost a full house at the PM Forum’s  workshop on “Assertiveness, impact and effectiveness for marketing and business development assistants and executives”. Delegates were from legal, accounting and actuarial firms in a variety of roles including marketing, business development, digital, graphic design, events and client services – some with sector responsibilities (e.g. private wealth, property) and others with service line roles (e.g. pensions).

Be visible

Whilst most of us assume that working hard and achieving results (see Productivity – Inputs vs outputs Achieve more by doing less ( is critical for our success, there are other factors at play. Research indicates (Harvey J Coleman “Empowering yourself: The organisational Game Revealed”) that performance is only 10% of the consideration for promotion whereas image accounts for 30% and exposure for 60%.

We looked at two models to help with visibility:

We also explored ideas from Digital Body Language on how to build trust at a distance Book review: Digital Body Language – How to build trust by Erica Dhawan (

There were exercises to identify and compare our personal values (and limiting assumptions) to develop our personal brand. There was recognition that many of our values – courtesy of relatively junior positions or “support” roles – worked against us when trying to be assertive and challenging.

It was also interesting to note delegates’ views on what made an impact when others were speaking – eye contact, energy, tone of voice, engagement and positivity.  See a short video on using Non-Verbal Communication.  We need to be more confident about speaking up at meetings to increase our visibility. This requires learning not to self-censure.

To understand better how we are perceived by others we need feedback. But an early exercise showed that many of us were uncomfortable about giving and receiving feedback – as we often think it implies some sort of criticism. See The art of giving feedback – top tips ( We can request feedback in a focused and positive way (e.g. “What one thing could I have done differently?”). 

Another implication was that we all needed to invest time to expand our personal networks – both within and beyond our organisations. Networking provides access to greater market and marketing/BD knowledge and a constant stream of new insights and ideas. Our networks also provide a form of benchmark against what we are achieving for our team and firm and how this might need to change in the future.

Assert and Challenge

We looked at what aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive and assertive behaviour looks like. There’s an introduction to assertiveness.

We saw that assertive communication requires us to be confident, clear (we considered a video on the power of three in messaging) and controlled (i.e. in control of our emotions). Emotional regulation is an important personal skill.

Assertive communication means saying exactly what you want, but in a way that it doesn’t hurt the other person’s feelings. You take ownership of your views and requests by using “I”.

We need to develop empathy and strong relationships with fee-earners before we can be assertive and challenging. And we may need to spend more time on scoping requests and projects before we consider the best way forward. There’s a short video on empathy and emotional intelligence.

Sometimes we must challenge the status quo and move those who are entrenched in their opinions and requirements. However, we and others are driven by habits so it can be hard to take a different approach. And it takes courage and effort to break out of our comfort zones.

By asking (incisive) questions and allowing others to form their own conclusions, we improve our empathy and understanding of their aims and requirements, demonstrate our knowledge and avoid the need to have to persuade people or get them to buy into our ideas. Coaching skills – the power of questions (

The other area of challenge was to help educate people – to set and manage their expectations about what is possible within the time available. Or to negotiate what could be delivered and by when and by whom. leader’s guide to negotiation – book review ( and Never split the difference: Negotiating by Chris Voss ( are helpful guides to negotiation skills.

You can learn a lot about how to challenge people by developing coaching and consulting skills. Here’s some information from a recent workshop on these topics: Coaching and consulting skills for M&BD workshop (November 2021) (

Remember your goals

Be clear about your short and long term personal and professional goals. And those of the firm, the teams, key projects and campaigns and individuals.

This makes it easier to align our efforts and to prioritise. It also enables us to be more assertive in deflecting inappropriate requests that divert us from strategic, marketing, business development, campaign or personal goals.

We recognised that goals were constantly changing and sometimes in conflict with each other. This means we must regularly review goals – perhaps with our line manage – and re-assess priorities as a result.

We explored a number of time management techniques. The need to be clear in what we must achieve each day, week, month and quarter was emphasised – both to focus attention and to gain  sense of achievement. Some found the urgent vs important matrix helpful whilst others preferred the effort vs impact matrix which are described here: 35 tips to improve Time Management for busy professionals (

This book provides lots of ideas on how to be more effective Book review – Brilliant personal effectiveness by Douglas Miller ( and it has a section on goals.

Ways to make an impact included:

  • Treat everyone with respect
  • Anticipate – Think and plan ahead
  • Take the initiate
  • Offer new ideas
  • Update team members and fee-earners on your progress
  • Be positive and passionate
  • Be reliable – do what you say you will do
  • Listen to others (and develop empathy)
  • Speak up
  • Go the extra mile
  • Find solutions
  • Report on what you delivered against your goals

 Ask for help!

No man or woman is an island! This is the age of collaboration. In The Human Edge – How curiosity and creativity are your superpowers ( the author identifies four attributes that will protect us from being replaced by automation: creativity, curiosity, consciousness and collaboration.

Most of us work in teams that allow us to pick each other’s brains and seek advice and help. Having diverse people in teams makes crowdsourcing ideas and decision-making more effective.

In the exercises, we saw the value of peer-coaching and team problem-solving. Where M&BD professionals work without a team there is even more need to develop their networks.

This book provides lots of advice and tips on how to ask for and receive help Reinforcements: How to get people to help you by Heidi Grant (

Selected delegate poll results

The polls throughout the session allowed delegates to benchmark their reactions against those in similar roles/firms.

Which topic is of most interest to you?

  • 15% Impact
  • 54% Assertiveness
  • 31% Effectiveness

On a scale of 1-10 how much impact have you made in the last year?

5 15%
6 46%
7   8%
8 31%


How clear are your goals?

  • 77% Very clear
  • 15% Not very clear
  • 0% Confused and conflicting
  • 8% Constantly changing

Personality (see a short personality explainer video) are you mostly:

  • 31% Cat
  • 69% Dog
  • 0% Bear

How confident do you feel in your role (see explainer video on self-confidence and confidence):

4   8%
5 25%
6   8%
7 17%
8 33%
9   8%


What’s your assertiveness style?

  • 0% Aggressive
  • 67% Passive
  • 17% Passive-Aggressive
  • 17% Assertive

How persuasive do you think you are?

4  8%
5 62%
7 15%
8 15%


How often do you want to say “No” but end up saying “Yes”?

  • 0% Never
  • 54% Sometimes
  • 46% Often
  • 0% Always

How often do you feel stressed?

  • 0% Never
  • 77% Occasionally
  • 0% Regularly
  • 23% Quite often
  • 0% All the time

How much do you think your fee-earners trust you?

  • 15% I really don’t know
  • 0% They don’t know or trust me
  • 62% They trust me on some things
  • 23% They trust me completely

When it comes to time management:

  • 33% I feel confident about how I manage my time
  • 42% My manager is good at helping me to prioritise
  • 25% Sometimes I struggle to prioritise
  • 0% There are too many conflicting demands on my time
  • 0% I don’t have any control over my time
  • 0% There is never enough time to do everything

How often do you ask for help? (see  Reinforcements: How to get people to help you by Heidi Grant (

  • 0% Never
  • 8% Rarely
  • 46% Sometimes
  • 46% Often

How often do you have to deal with arrogant people (see Dealing with “difficult” people – Nine strategies for dealing with arrogance (

  • 8% Never
  • 62% Hardly ever
  • 31% Often
  • 0% All the time

Previous articles on assertiveness, impact and effectiveness

Book review – Brilliant personal effectiveness by Douglas Miller ( January 2022

Dealing with “difficult” people – Nine strategies for dealing with arrogance ( June 2021

assertiveness, effectiveness and impact – We’re all in the same boat ( May 2021

Book review – Persuasion: The art of influencing people by James Borg ( March 2021

Insights into assertiveness, confidence and effectiveness ( October 2020

Soft skills – Dealing with difficult conversations ( September 2020

Business relationships – Using the drama triangle to resolve conflict ( September 2020

Be more visible – the PVI model ( September 2019

improve impact, assertiveness and effectiveness for marketing and BD ( August 2019

Be more confident and convey confidence – top tips ( June 2019

Reinforcements: How to get people to help you by Heidi Grant ( October 2018

Making an impact, influence and persuasion – Professional Marketing Forum event ( August 2018

assertiveness, impact and effectiveness ( March 2018

How do you make a personal impact – Make a difference ( March 2018

Assertiveness skills – getting what you want and saying “No” ( March 2017

35 tips to improve Time Management for busy professionals ( January 2017

10 tips to increase your resilience – Kim Tasso March 2013

Six top tips for improving personal impact – Kim Tasso February 2012

Assertiveness confidence and effectiveness ( July 2011