This is the fifth in a series of nine blogs focusing on one of the eight modules in the Office Professionals Certificate Program developed by SyN. This one looks at an essential management skill that all office professionals need to be successful – how to get buy-in for their ideas.
No matter what your title is, no matter where you fall on the org chart, there are certain “essential management skills” that everyone needs. One of these is how to get your ideas accepted and supported by the work team.
Most of us think we’re right – most all of the time. We also think we have great ideas and know better ways to do things (especially if someone else is the one who has to execute the details). But, the truth is, there are many times when we throw an idea on the table at a meeting or a planning session and nobody grabs onto it. Now, if we were fishing, we’d pull in the lure (idea) and replace it with something that would cause the fish (group) to take the hook and bite (vote it in). We all seem to understand that that’s the way to fish, but most of us can’t get it through our heads that it also is the way to get our suggestions implemented.
Let’s put on our fishing hats and look at the signs that our ideas aren’t floating and we need to regroup and refocus.
- You’ve said the same thing twice (or more) and no one is acknowledging it. That’s a subtle (or not so subtle) way of saying, “we’re not buying it.” Drop it. To keep repeating the same thing only makes you look silly and clueless.
- People aren’t making eye contact. Direct eye contact acknowledges you. No eye contact is dismissing you. Take the hint and back off.
- The group starts shuffling papers or looking ahead in their notebook or agenda. These are signs that they have tuned you out. So, no matter how many times you repeat the same thing, nobody is listening and nobody is backing you. Bring it quickly to a close and let the idea go.
- You reference another organization or individual and they all start rolling their eyes. Find another source. This one has grown stale with the group. To keep using it will make you look like you haven’t done your homework and that you have limited contacts or resources.
- Is the group chatting among themselves but leaving you out of the banter? That could be a sign you aren’t gelling with the group. Pick up on the interests of others (during and outside the meeting) so you’ll have something to contribute that they find useful or interesting.
- Do you see a lot of doodling when you speak? That typically means that you have gone on for too long and need to zip it.
- Are bodies stiffening up when you take the floor? Nonverbal language can tell you a lot. Look for signs of disinterest or disagreement – folded arms, bored expression, rearranging paper, checking iPhones, stretching, getting up for coffee…you’ve seen these telltale behaviors – and may have engaged in them.
Obviously, these signs are telling you that your idea won’t float this time around. So what can you do to re-initiate the idea and present it in such a way that it has a chance to be considered?
- Test it with people outside the group. If they think it is a dumb idea, it might be.
- Think back to when you started to lose the group. Was it when you first stood up and introduced the subject? If they knew it was coming, they may have already mentally voted it down. Was it at the beginning of your presentation? Maybe they need a timeline to follow or a schematic to keep them on track. Was it in the middle? Maybe you droned on too long and didn’t get to your point soon enough. Could it have been at the end? If they were with you all the way through and then didn’t take the hook, maybe the bait pulled them in, but wasn’t good enough to have them bite. Replay the meeting in your mind.
- Go to someone who was at the meeting and is usually supportive of you. Ask what happened and how you could fix it and if the idea is good enough to bring up again.
- Sell your idea to allies before the meeting. See what they think are the weak points and refashion the concept. Ask them if they will stand up and support you next time with these changes. Stuff the ballot box. It’s okay to do that.
- Really look hard at your idea. Maybe it wasn’t such a good one after all and it does need to be scrapped. But maybe it can be salvaged with a few changes.
- Prepare a concise outline of the idea. These people may be analytics and need to see it in black and white, with numbers attached, costs projected, and how it fits into the overall program. You might even add “obstacles” you recognize and how you’d overcome them. If there are too many roadblocks, kill the idea for now. This will force you to really think the idea through and will counter any objections. Talk is cheap; putting an idea in writing requires more thought and effort on your part.
- If this idea has been successful for others, let them know. Copy the article/information showing it can work and make it a part of your packet.
- If the idea is solid, distribute your info before the next meeting so they can mull it over and be prepared to talk about it and ask questions.
- Practice presenting the idea and keep it short and to the point. Record yourself and critique until you can present it in a compelling manner that holds people’s attention.
- And if you do all these things and it sinks faster than a 20-pound weight, admit it wasn’t such a great idea, let it go, and move on.
If you run your idea by colleagues, get their input and incorporate it, create an engaging narrative, get buy-in from influential colleagues before the meeting, present it in a professional style and are able to explain and defend it, listen to concerns and revise as needed, then your idea (and others to come) will have an excellent chance of being implemented. It may not be a trophy you can hang on the wall, but darn close!
Getting your ideas accepted and supported by others – one basic but essential management skill for all successful office professionals!
Susan Fenner, Ph.D. is the Chief Learning Architect for Speakers you Need (SyN). She tracks workplace and workforce trends and has developed programs for office professionals for more than 25 years. Her passion is maximizing the potential of individuals and organizations. Getting Support For Your Ideas [email protected] Need.com