3 Ways to Recover When Someone Tries to Take Credit for Your Idea

Executive Speaking
Executive Speaking

Anett Grant has 40 years of coaching top executives, leaders, and emerging leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as countless midmarket and small businesses from all over the world.

Radio. Television. The sewing machine.

These three inventions were all hugely influential — but did you know that all three were allegedly stolen from someone else’s idea?

You may not be an inventor, but you probably know what it feels like to have someone else take credit for something that was your idea. Have you ever proposed a solution in a meeting only to have a colleague make the same exact suggestion just a few minutes later? Here’s a three-step process for standing up for yourself while still remaining professional:

1. Breathe

First of all, you need to take a few seconds to compose yourself. You need to breathe. Take a sip of air, then exhale slowly — another, then another exhale. After three or four of these breaths, you will get into a rhythm. You will be in the moment. Your thoughts will flow. So instead of blurting out “That’s what I just said!” breathe. Think about your options, and prepare to respond strategically, not impulsively.

2. Agree

Once you’ve composed yourself, jump in as soon as possible and explain that you agree with what your colleague said. You could add something like, “As I mentioned earlier, …” and then rephrase the point. The goal here is to take back control of the conversation — a great middle ground between starting an argument and staying quiet.

For example, let’s say you were discussing ways to increase sales, and you proposed revamping your company’s website. However, the idea was met with silence. Then, a few minutes later, you hear from a colleague, “We should think about making some changes to the website.” Once you’ve collected yourself, you could say, “Absolutely — as I suggested earlier, I really think a new website could be a great way to increase our conversion rate.”

3. Elaborate

Once you’re back in control, elaborate on the idea by adding more insight. Whether you have a relevant data point, a thought-provoking anecdote, or you just want to flesh out the idea a bit further, use this time to show that you’ve clearly put some thought into this idea. By elaborating on the idea, you will reestablish control and demonstrate your leadership presence.

To continue my example from earlier, once you’ve “agreed” with your colleague, you could add, “More and more of our traffic is coming from mobile devices, so we need to make sure we keep that in mind if we decide to create a new site.”

Idea-stealing happens all too often in the corporate world. But if you have a plan for how you’ll react, you can go from being a victim to showing that you can be in command of any situation.

Executive Speaking
Executive Speaking

Anett Grant has 40 years of coaching top executives, leaders, and emerging leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as countless midmarket and small businesses from all over the world.

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