Whatever you do, at whatever level, we all want to have an impact.
Some of us have minds that are constantly thinking of new ideas, while others will stumble on that golden solution less frequently. Either way, getting these ideas out there can be a great way to further your career, really contribute, and take pride in the work that you do.
But it’s not always that easy, is it? Whether your direct line manager just doesn’t have the time or scope to take on new ideas, or is difficulty to pin down and even harder to please, it’s not always as simple as having a brilliant idea.
So, if you’ve got that golden idea but you’re not quite sure how to sell it in, read on…
How are you perceived?
Before you start preparing your proposal, you need to consider how you’re perceived by your boss.
Of course if you think you’re well respected, the chances are that your boss is much more likely to consider what you have to say. On the other hand, if there’s existing perception problems, you’re probably going to need to address those before you pose your idea, and the likelihood of it gaining traction will be improved.
Otherwise, at least recognizing your position will change how the solution arises. Perhaps you need to be in closer affinity with the way your boss prefers to work for a week or two, or make efforts to reduce confrontation to get into his good books.
Having said that, if the perception problem is around you not coming up with enough original ideas, it looks like you’ve already got a ready-made solution.
Once you’re clear on your idea, spend some time sitting down and trying to destroy it. Be objective, and don’t get precious or sentimental about any part of it. Also, keep the problem that you’re solving central to everything that you do, and remove any unnecessary bells and whistles.
From here, you’re much more likely to present your boss with a complete, instantly workable idea. What’s more, any genuine criticism that they have is much more likely to be something you’ve already thought about, giving you precious time to have considered a counter-argument.
Yes, unfortunately there are bosses out there who will put their ego before incontrovertible evidence. But having proof sure helps.
Be patient, and try to provide data to back up your idea. Has it worked elsewhere in other companies? Do you have any data that proves the problem is even worth solving?
At the very least, you want to make sure that your argument follows a logical order, and that the advantages are clear and simple. Remember, your boss won’t have thought about this anywhere near as much as you have. Which brings us neatly to…
Put your idea in its rightful place
When you think that you’ve come up with a truly revolutionary idea, it can consume a lot of your thinking time. As a result, one of the most important things to remember is to ensure that your idea is understood within the wider context of the business. Make sure you don’t overcook it.
Your boss has probably got a bit more on his plate than you might think, including the pressures involved in managing his whole team and perhaps even a number of projects that you don’t even know about. All this means that when it comes to your proposal, you need to be careful about how you introduce the idea.
If you make it seem like a more revolutionary concept than it is, you’ll not only end up disappointing but will reveal yourself as lacking in understanding the wider context of the company and its goals.
Start with a question
No matter the natural inclinations of your boss, no one can resist an enticing question. Especially if it is followed with a convincing and immediate answer.
Whether they’ve thought about the problem before or it’s all brand new to them, it’s probably going to pique their interest if they think it’s a problem worth solving. Of course, you don’t want the whole proposal to come across as a corporate sales presentation, but if you can get them thinking about the problem more carefully, your solution is going to look far more attractive.
Use their language
One of the most important assessments you’ll make to succeed is going to be all about how you communicate the idea. How has your boss responded to ideas in the past? How was the last successful solution within your team proposed?
With a potentially limited attention span, how you phrase the question is vital. Focus on concepts and ideologies that you know they prioritize, and leave out language or areas of focus that you know they don’t agree with or think important.
This isn’t about being false, or misrepresenting your idea, it’s just about presenting your idea in the way that will shine it in the best light.
Timing is everything
By now, you’ve probably done a fair amount of leg work on the problem. Don’t waste that precious idea by discussing it at the wrong moment.
Avoid naturally busy times, when reports are due or deadlines are imminent. Use your instinct too, and if it looks like your boss is on the rampage, it’s probably best to hold off.
From here, it’s on you and your assessment of what usually works best for them. If they like a more formal process, prepare a presentation and set up a proper meeting with a schedule laid out. If you have a more informal relationship, sell it in casually when you know they’ll be most open to a new concept.
Getting this right is absolutely crucial, and when you’re faced with a less than ideal working relationship, it all counts. Be patient, work to your strengths and you may well find that getting an idea through the office firewall isn’t as difficult as it might seem.