State your opinions boldly without lots of qualifiers. Then support your views with evidence. Even if you’re not asked to justify your comments, supporting what you say will enhance your credibility and confidence.
Follow these rules when speaking out:
Preface your remarks. When a senior executive asks for your opinion, it helps to know if she harbors any biases. That way, you won’t say something that gets discarded because it clashes with what she already thinks.
Solution: Before giving your answer, clarify what the boss wants. For example, ask, “Would you like the good news first or the bad news?” The response will help you assess to what extent the executive wants the naked truth or seeks confirmation of a pre-existing view.
Say what you see. Just because you’re asked for an opinion doesn’t mean you must let loose with a rash of judgments. A safer strategy is to stick to verifiable facts and quantifiable results. If you lack such facts, rely on keen observation. Pretend your eyes are cameras taking photographs. Then describe the images in crisp detail. Let questioners draw their own conclusions.
Example: Rather than say, “Bill’s terribly sloppy and careless,” say, “Bill’s report contained three factual errors and about a dozen typos.”
Watch your tone. When expressing opinions, don’t get carried away. Speak in a calm, unhurried, dispassionate tone. If you fail to think before you speak, you may say something you regret.