Want to get your idea noticed and advance your career? Read on...
Career development can be hard, as can getting the attention of bosses higher up the chain of command in order to have your ideas seen and heard.
However, it seems that it’s all about the delivery of the idea, with a well-thought-out and strategic approach helping to get the best response.
How to approach managers higher up the chain
According to Ethan Burris, writing for Harvard Business Review, despite abundant research on the value of bottom-up innovation and problem-solving, many workers still feel stifled in giving their bosses feedback or making suggestions.
“One survey of U.S. employees found that a full 70% weren’t comfortable raising an issue with their boss even when it was important, and a landmark 2003 study found that 85% of employees withheld their ideas because they were afraid to speak up,” he says.
Consider a manager's ego
When deciding how to approach a boss about a problem or idea, Ethan advises against thinking about your own standing, but more about your manager’s ego.
“Being the boss comes with heavy expectations. Leaders are supposed to be well-informed and know what to do all or most of the time. That can make them feel insecure and leave them less open to subordinates’ ideas,” he says.
Ethan suggests that, when you propose an idea to higher-ups, you’ll have already laid the groundwork by building trust and goodwill.
“Giving your manager positive feedback and expressing gratitude can help in this regard, provided the sentiments are genuine and delivered long before your pitch. It can be something as simple as, “I really enjoyed that presentation” or “Thanks for your support in the meeting today.’”
Showing your support
Managers are also reportedly more receptive to those that routinely support their peers. “By routinely supporting your peers, you send signals that your suggestions are designed to improve the organization as a whole—and your manager’s standing,” explains Ethan.
Another top tip is talking to a manager in private rather than publicly, which is said to make them 30% less threatened.
Avoiding mixed messages is another benefit.
“Across five studies with executives from dozens of industries, my colleagues and I learned that managers are more likely to endorse messages that focus on either an opportunity or a threat; a combination of the two garners the least support,” says Ethans.
Easy idea implementation
Making implementation easy is also a key strategy: “Even when managers see the merit in an idea, there’s no guarantee they’ll back it amid myriad challenges and competing priorities. So it’s helpful to anticipate potential obstacles and explain how they might be overcome.”
Likewise, leveraging colleague support can be a helpful tact, with Ethan stating, “Many voices are obviously more persuasive than just one, and allies give you credibility.
“Before approaching your boss, share your thoughts with your coworkers, take counsel on how to improve your pitch, and ask if you can mention their support or if they’d be willing to join you in presenting the idea.”
Pitching to the right person
And finally, make sure you pitch to the right person, because, as advised by Ethan, “It is pointless to continually raise issues with a boss who lacks the power or authority to address them.”
He ends on this great piece of advice, “In spreading the word, try to find opportunities for informal conversations with higher-ups. As in-office activity resumes, seek them out in the cafeteria, on the elevator, at the holiday party.
“Bosses who might balk at an employee’s scheduling a meeting to discuss an issue are likely to find impromptu chats less intimidating or even noteworthy.”
Read the article in full.
PARTNER CONTENT: Developed in collaboration to support IWD's Women and Work Mission.