Do you have some great solutions to bring to your boss? Be sure to take these steps before unveiling your amazing ideas.
You’re a growth-oriented problem solver. You’ve discovered an issue and have a surefire way to fix it. The only thing standing in your way? Getting the nod of approval from your boss.
Even if you have a good relationship with your higher-ups, you might find it confusing or intimidating to bring an idea to a manager or director. After all, you want to look like a high performer who’s focused on the mission of the team and company. Consequently, you can’t just barge in with an off-the-cuff brainstorm. You need a plan to make sure that you and your proposal are taken seriously.
To help you make a positive impression when selling anything up the corporate ladder, apply the following tips when preparing your presentation. You’ll give yourself a better chance of being seen as an innovative go-getter with leadership potential.
1. Outline and define the problem you want to solve.
Going to your boss with an “Aha!” proposal? Make sure you’ve narrowed in on a single issue. Nothing muddies up the waters of a great solution than too many problems. Your job is to explain the problem in exact detail. Remember that your boss might not even be aware of the problem, so it’s up to you to be the educator.
Peter Mulford, chief innovation officer at management consultancy and professional services firm BTS, recommends positioning the problem in a way that will matter to your supervisor. “For example, if the problem you’re looking to solve relates to salespeople not being able to meet their goals on top of other responsibilities, then you can generally describe this as a workload issue, document its effects on team members that you’ve observed, and note any data points that validate your premise (e.g., time-tracking data that confirms some team members work more hours than the others),” he writes. “If you can tie the problem to any of the organization’s broader goals, such as increased revenue or employee retention, all the better.”
Make sure to use clear, objective language and any real data to support your belief that this is an actual problem. Otherwise, your boss might think it’s not important enough to do anything about. Try not to rely on emotions. Objectivity is the name of the game when it comes to getting a higher-up’s attention, particularly if you can connect the problem to something important to the company, such as revenue, productivity, or turnover.
2. Strive for a simple, doable solution.
In thinking about the problem that you see at your company, you might have come up with what you feel is a brilliant solution. That’s terrific but start thinking as a director would. Is your solution going to be costly? Will it involve many people? Does the solution have risks that could make other problems pop up? The more straightforward your solution — and the less friction it will cause your manager — the better.
Ethan Burris is the director of the Center for Leadership and Ethics at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business. In a recent article, he shared a story about a nurse who wanted to create a streamlined process for handling a specific patient population. Yet, she hadn’t considered all the stakeholders her solution would involve, which caused her boss to veto her idea. “If she had thought through how those relationships might be managed, her proposal would probably have gotten more traction,” Burris explains.
Remember that your manager answers to someone else. Even CEOs have to answer to their executive peers, their clients and customers, their boards, and the public at large. Unless your solution is airtight, well-considered, and doable, you’re unlikely to get the response you want.
3. Connect your solution to higher corporate profits.
As the old saying goes, money talks. That’s why it’s worth figuring out how you can prove that your “Eureka!” moment will appeal to your company’s bottom line.
Gallup figures show that stress and burnout among supervisors are trending upward. You can be sure that part of the anxiety facing leaders currently has to do with meeting profit margin expectations.
How can you make sure that you’re able to show the connection between your idea and profitability? It might be easy, or it might take a little extra thought. For instance, if you’re proposing a solution that will remove a major reason for customer returns, you can measure how much a reduction in returns will mean to your organization. On the other hand, if you’re proposing that you and your co-workers implement a different workflow, you might have to consider how benefits such as improved efficiency will affect corporate numbers.
Having solutions is good for you and good for your company. So, give your boss zero reasons to say no by confidently presenting your ideas.