How do you break through to get upper management to take your ideas seriously? I’ve learned throughout my career that it can take some sophistication and finesse, because I’ve witnessed enough mistakes that I’ve made personally and seen from others who want management’s ear.
Fortunately, from those experiences, I’ve found there are a few important suggestions to share that will hopefully provide you with a much better chance of not only capturing management’s attention but also gaining their confidence to support your ideas more often.
1. Walk A Mile In Management’s Shoes
It’s easy for us to rush into the boardroom full of energy at our brilliant ideas that are going to change the company. However, before you make any kind of grand “pitch,” ask yourself if you’ve looked at your idea from management’s perspective.
Does this move the ball down the field for them? Does it fit into their priorities? In fact, do you know what those priorities actually are?
If you think the idea is in sync with management’s goals, don’t celebrate just yet. You still have to paint a picture for them of the next steps that are going to take place. By the way, this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to show every step to the last one either. What are the first, second and third steps to get this idea off the ground? Management needs that to visualize the concept so they can begin to see that your idea is credible.
2. Don’t Present To Them. Interact With Them.
Keep it simple. If you have an hour to share an idea with management, you need to be able to communicate that entire idea and next immediate steps – often within a lot less time than you think you need. Because here’s the secret to potentially moving an idea along: After presenting the idea, it’s the interaction that may mean even more to that idea’s continued survival.
I like to think of TED Talks that are 18 minutes as a rule of thumb, really. If you’ve ever viewed those videos, you know the person only needs that window of time to present to an audience to convey everything they could want to. So if you’re still talking beyond 18-20 minutes maximum, their eyes could start to glaze over. Why? It’s not that the idea is bad. It’s that they haven’t been engaged yet.
So make sure you’ve reserved ample time to turn it over to them for questions. This segment of time is so crucial to them internalizing your idea and thinking it through. If you’re armed ahead of time by anticipating as many of these questions as you can, you’ll show management that you really have thought this through.
3. Embrace The “Enemies” Of The Idea
It’s very rare that people who are looking to implement transformative ideas see those ideas sail through without a shred of resistance. In fact, you’ll probably encounter a fair amount of pushback or politics.
Try, if you can, to see how this idea will affect the political landscape and perhaps try to make an ally or two of people who you think might resist that idea. How can you convert that opponent today into a proponent tomorrow?
Remember that pushing back on them or trying to shout them down doesn’t usually go well. Make a concerted effort to listen, understand and get them to verbalize what they are thinking and feeling. At the end of the day, people want to be heard and respected. They may be right or wrong, but trying to dismiss objections too quickly won’t reflect well on you or your idea. Think of it this way – wouldn’t you rather have them raise objections now within your office walls compared to actual customers doing it in the marketplace?
4. Appreciate The Small Victories
So they didn’t buy off on the entire idea the way you wanted them to. Remember that as long as you’ve moved the idea forward, even a little, that’s a success. Again, expecting a manager to approve the whole idea, including implementation, right off the bat is extremely tough. There may be budgetary constraints or other considerations that you can’t immediately see or know about happening behind the scenes.
Your optimism in these moments means everything in how you’re perceived by management and whether or not your idea has momentum. Have some perspective and embrace the progress you’ve made today so that more can be made tomorrow.
If you’ve taken these steps, you’re ready to share your brilliant ideas with management. Now go get ‘em!
What other suggestions do you have for moving your ideas through an organization and getting buy-in from upper management? Were there any moments where you thought an idea of yours was going nowhere but made a comeback and thrived? How did that happen? Share your stories with us!
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