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Gaining influence in the boardroom

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If people can visualise your ideas, they are more likely to be taken on

When you reflect back on the hours you spent poring over journals and manuals studying to become a nurse, had you considered that at some time in the future you may have to lobby for funding, resourcing and other management and leadership tasks?

When you are in dialogue with senior leaders right through to the boardroom, remind yourself: they are human (albeit it may not feel like that at times), they have a heart and a brain of equal proportions to yours and they can be pleased or displeased by the information they receive. When you frame your thinking and allow you to be equal, you are instantly on a level psychologically.

There are four themes I want you to focus on: preparation, confidence, communication and outcome.

Start with the end in mind. What is it that you want to achieve? Can you visualise it, verbalise it and show some mutual benefit? The outcome needs to be clear in your mind and, when you are negotiating, it must also be the point of lowest common denomination in your thinking. In other words, the least you will accept in the situation. Therefore, it should never be the starting point of your presentation. Aim high and you may just be surprised at what you get.

If you are able to tell the story of what the ward, clinic or unit may look like or be like as a result of your request, people will also visualise it. If you can’t tell the story to your inner self, no one else will see it.


Tips to make your case in the boardroom


Healthcare boardrooms can be among the toughest. Within their ranks are the likes of psychologists and those who study others for a living, who can assess your every move. So prepare yourself physically and mentally. Your material should match your personal preparation.


No preparation = no confidence because, when probed, you will be unable to respond. Confidence also comes from knowing you’re right so, before you present anything to the board, share it with peers. They will judge if you’re “on message”.


When we communicate, 7% of what we say are the words, 38% is the way in which we say it (tone) and 55% is the unspoken word, often referred to as body language. The unspoken word is powerful. Are you fidgeting or appear nervous? Do you use a lot of umms and ahhs? These are fillers and can distract and show a lack of confidence. Look at your board. What are they telling you from their unspoken words? Are they buying it? The two key elements in communication are congruence and conviction. Congruence is when what you’re saying matches the way you say it, along with your non-verbal gestures, such as positive eye contact. If you’re congruent, you’re authentic and believable. Conviction is developed through all these stages.


Ruth Oshikanlu is a nurse, midwife and health visitor, as well as a coach and managing director of Goal Mind. She is also a Queen’s Nurse.

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