“Why can’t I get my boss to buy-in on my good idea?”
It’s easy to get frustrated when no one—especially your boss—doesn’t get excited about your good idea. I get it; you’re the one that sees the issues. You’re the one that has to deal with those issues every day. Those issues are not going to get any better by themselves. You’ve mentioned your idea to your boss, but she didn’t get real excited about it. Why?
Getting your boss to buy-in and support your good idea is not as simple as “flipping a switch.” Just envisioning and talking about the “better mousetrap” doesn’t mean that anyone—especially your boss—will immediately want your mousetrap.
But with that said, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a good idea. It’s time to work on developing those influencing skills.
What Are Influencing Skills?
The ability to influence is a critical skill for the modern IT professional. Influencing skills can be thought of as techniques or approaches that can be used to convince someone to agree with your ideas, shape opinions, or make a decision that they believe in. There are a number of specific techniques and approaches that can be used to influence, all of which take some time and practice. Research shows that influencing skills can be divided into four broad categories:
Communication and Reasoning. Thinking logically, presenting and communicating ideas, listening, and conveying energy and enthusiasm.
Assertiveness. Presenting ideas strongly, being persistent, behaving authoritatively, and using a compelling tone of voice.
Interpersonal Skills. Being friendly and sociable, showing genuine interest in others, being sensitive to others’ feelings, and building close relationships.
Interaction Skills. Building consensus, taking the initiative, negotiating, and being willing to ask others for favors and do favors for others.
What Influencing Skills Are Not
In my opinion, the most important aspect for influencing others is that you must be genuine. Influencing others is not an exercise in deception or plotting schemes to “get one over” on someone. It’s not exerting power or authority over another. In fact, in most cases, good influencers have no authority over those they’re trying to influence!
Influencing others is not about exerting power or authority over another.
Good influencing skills are not acquired instantly but are built over time. It takes time and practice to build influencing skills. Good influencing skills start from having a solid foundation of personal credibility and emotional intelligence. Recognizing how feelings and emotions impact both your behavior and those around you will help you adjust your approach in the moment to a particular situation in pitching your good idea. Building credibility and trust with those with whom you work makes them more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Things You Can Do to Begin to Influence Your Boss
Developing the ability to influence your boss will take some investment of time. It’s not going to happen overnight. So where do you begin?
Meet with your boss. It starts by having regular meetings with your boss. If the only time your boss sees you is in a staff meeting or during a crisis event, that won’t cut it. Set up and keep a regularly scheduled meeting to let your boss know what you’re doing, how things are going with your job, and to learn about issues that are concerning management.
Be prepared for these meetings and be respectful of your boss’s time; don’t go over the agreed meeting time. At the same time, don’t pack so many topics into this meeting that it becomes a one-way meeting—where you’re doing all of the talking. Actively listen to what your boss has to say and ask good questions to build your understanding. This will help you build rapport with your boss, which is a critical foundation for building influence.
Talk with your peers. Talk with those who have had success in influencing your boss. What has worked for them? How does your boss like to have ideas presented? What kinds of questions does she ask? Incorporate their suggestions into your approach.
Be observant. As you do your job, watch and learn about what is important to upper management. Look for opportunities to resolve issues or contribute to initiatives that are important to upper management. Then work with your boss to strategize how to present and implement solutions.
Be flexible. Take a balanced, “team first” approach to your job. Recognize and understand that what is best for the company may not always be optimal for you personally or your area. But if a decision is made that will negatively impact your area, give your boss a “heads up.”. Clarity and objectivity is critical here. Provide specific and objective reasons why the decision will have negative consequences on your area. Provide tangible examples of the repercussions of the decision, then commit to working to find solutions that work for both your area and the business. Become known for working toward win-win solutions.
Be prepared. When you have that great idea, be prepared to discuss why it is a great idea. How will your proposal benefit the organization? Will it save time or money? Does is solve a problem? Be prepared and provide specific examples and how success will be measured. Then support your boss as she promotes your good idea within the organization.
Stick with It
Your first suggestion might not receive much consideration. Your second good idea might not either. But stick with it. As those around you recognize your credibility and genuine intent of your ideas, your influence will begin to grow. Invest the time, and practice those influencing skills!
Doug Tedder is a strategic, innovative, and solutions-driven IT service management professional with more than 20 years of progressive experience across a variety of industries. He’s a resourceful and hands-on leader with track record of success implementing ITSM and IT governance processes. Doug is a certified ITIL Expert and ISO/IEC 20000 Consultant Manager and holds many other industry certifications. In addition, Doug is an accredited ITIL Foundation trainer and HDI Support Center Analyst and Support Center Manager instructor. Follow Doug on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.