Get Prepared: Approaching Your Boss With a New Idea

February 28, 2018

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Nowadays, it seems that creativity is expected of everyone — an employee who’s able to discover a better approach or pitch a project that brings additional value to the company is considered priceless. New ideas can also lead to more responsibilities, increased focus on your professionalism, and open more opportunities for your future career development. So, how do you present that idea of yours the right way?

The challenge of selling an idea to your boss is in understanding the strategic framework. Most people who try to sell an idea do so as if they were addressing an investor who’s looking for the next big thing. The truth is that your boss, in their everyday work, is more like any other worker, and their efforts and focus are already deep in other things. Imagine that your boss is working through their to-do list, trying to cross things off: you don’t want to appear like you’re just adding more tasks to it. So how do you sell an idea inside the company, especially to people who have their own agenda?

The trick is not to convince them to adopt your way or idea — bring up ideas about how they can successfully implement their strategy. This is a subtle but crucial difference. If you get this first tip right, you’ve done most of the job already. Your boss is already disciplined and it’s their duty to define and defend a strategic agenda. So, you need to frame your idea into what’s already there and show how your idea will further their set agenda.

Plan your case, understand and confirm the top-level agenda

Do your research and try to understand your boss’s agenda. Not the one which is openly presented to everyone, but its deeper story. To figure out the key themes, listen carefully to their strategic and organizational announcements. If your idea doesn’t impact one of their top three topics, you’re not following the agenda.

Practice, build community and present your idea

Present your idea to a trusted co-worker who is aware of what’s going on in the company and start building a community around that. If your suggestion is of real benefit to the business, it won’t be too hard to convince some of your team members to endorse it. And then you can share it with the stakeholders and your boss. Back it up with data, be armed with some research.

If it’s a yes, give it your best to make it work

Your future reputation is on the line, so do everything in your power to make sure that it will work. You may need to put some extra effort in, as not everyone might be on board with the new project. Ask regularly if your colleagues need help adopting the new ways and make sure that everyone likes it.

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