10 Ways to Get Your Boss to Support Your Ideas
Most managers are always looking for good ideas. They also often have experience, know more, and are in a good position to evaluate the merits of an idea. When they reject your idea, chances are, your idea may not have been as good as you thought, or maybe you didn’t do a good job pitching it.
Another reality is that most ideas are never implemented. Let's compare it to baseball: With a 300 average (three ideas implemented out of 10), you’re an all-star. But if you never even step up to the plate, or take a swing, your batting average will always be zero. So start by having a realistic expectation of what success is when it comes to innovation.
What can you do to ensure your ideas are heard? Managers are as different as people are different, so there’s no one way that will work for all. Knowing your manager’s style will help, so you can adapt your approach.
For example, using a social styles model, a “Driver” will want you to get to the point and present the facts. With an “Amiable,” you’ll have a better chance if you’ve built a good relationship first. "Analytics" need to see the data, while "Expressives" can be swayed with pizazz. For most managers, consider the following tips.
Develop an Inspiring Vision of Your Idea
Describe it in a way that brings out your enthusiasm, your passion, and commitment. Most people have a hard time not listening to someone that’s genuinely fired up about something. And if you’re not excited about it, how can you expect someone else to be interested?
Do Your Homework
Take the time to think it over, list the pros and cons, and come up with a plan. Check to see if it’s been thought out or tried before, and find out what the results were. In other words, don’t waste your manager’s time thinking out loud—do your thinking on your own time, then present a well-developed idea.
Test Your Idea
Test your idea with a few trusted co-workers. See if it makes sense to them, ask them to be critical, and provide feedback. Listen, check for their understanding to see how well you’re explaining it. While you shouldn’t let resistance squash your enthusiasm, be prepared to accept that if five people tell you it’s ugly, it just might be ugly.
Here are some ideas are more likely to get your manager’s attention:
- A way to reduce expenses
- A way to increase revenue
- A way to get more done with fewer people (improve efficiency)
- A solution to a problem your manager has been trying to solve
- An idea that will help your department achieve one or more of its goals
- An idea that will help one of your co-workers be more successful (rarely do we come up with these kinds of ideas, that is, being an advocate for your peers, and not just yourself or your manager)
Avoid These Kinds of Ideas
Here are a few ideas that are more likely to lose your manager’s interest in the first three minutes:
- Something obviously self-promoting, or blatant empire-building
- A way to make your job easier, but at other people’s expense
- Something that has a great potential to embarrass your manager (and you)
- Something that’s going to cost a lot of money in a tight economy
- An idea built on the assumption that 2+2=5
When you present your idea, answer your manager’s questions patiently and with respect. If you don’t know the answer, admit it, and commit to getting the answer.
If your manager starts making suggestions, then you’re there! That means he/she is starting to buy in, and taking some shared ownership. Don’t be rigid about the details; give a little—if anything, just to get buy-in. Who knows, your manager’s suggestions just might improve your chances for success.
Don't Demand Credit
Be willing to let go of the notion that the idea is “yours.” The best ideas are the ones where multiple stakeholders have had a hand in shaping, and you’ve been able to build a broad base of ownership and support. Insisting that you get credit for “your” idea will be seen as immature and selfish. Don’t worry; enough people will become aware of your involvement, especially if you keep coming up with good ideas. Don’t expect your name and picture to be inscribed on the idea.
Decide on Who Else Should Be Involved
Determine who the stakeholders are, who will be impacted the most, whose support you need, and who else could contribute to refining the idea. Agree on who should talk to whom and by when.
If Needed, Follow Up With a More Detailed, Formal Business Case
Ideas are a dime a dozen, but the execution is what separates the great from the average. This is not a “drop and run.” That is, drop your proposal or business case on your manager’s desk and sit back and wait. Step up and take personal responsibility for making sure the idea gets implemented. That’s a good way to get yourself heard the next time.