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Four Steps to Influence Your Boss’s Decisions

By Lisa Woods (1047 words)
Posted in Communication Skills on June 20, 2012

There are (9) comments permalink

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Do you work for someone that does not like change, they don’t want to improve things, or they prefer the status quo to avoid putting themselves at risk of making mistakes?  What if you have ideas to improve your business but you can’t get them past your boss?  What if your boss’s practices are preventing growth and inadvertently hurting the company…do you say something to them?  Do you go above them to be heard?  This is a common dilemma that many of us will face at some point in our career.  It is a difficult position to be in, but you can learn ways to communicate your message and maintain your relationship with your boss. 


Keep in mind that your boss has a reason for not wanting to change.  Some people are risk adverse because they are scared of making mistakes, or they don’t have enough confidence to make a decision.   Sometimes they are just stubborn and don’t want to listen to anyone who works for them, or they don’t have time to weed through all the information presented.  Take these things into consideration and focus on eliminating these reasons from your boss’s mind.  Once you do, you can get your ideas listened to and acted upon.  Here are four steps you can take to influence your boss’s decisions:


Step One: Plant the seed of your idea in every discussion you can with everyone you can.

Bring your idea up in passing with people in your organization, those on your team, working for you and working above your boss.  If you plant the idea and get others talking about it, by the time it gets to your boss, it will be something known.  This reduces the fear of standing up for something that is new.  Make sure that when you talk to others, especially those above you boss, you explain that you are trying to prepare a presentation for your boss.  Don’t come across as going around them, make sure everyone knows you are working on something that will ultimately be for them.


Step Two: Incorporate the comments and ideas of others into your concept and discussions.

As you speak to others about your concept, listen to their feedback.  Let the topic evolve as you incorporate their comments so that the concept develops into collaboration.  Everyone gets credit, everyone has ownership.  Do this as you continue to plant the seed.  Name dropping and idea morphing helps your seed resonate. 


Step Three: Ask for your boss’s opinion after you spread the seed throughout your organization.

Go to your boss and explain that you have an idea you would like to present.  Explain that you have been working with others…name them…to get feedback on the idea and it is now at the point where it is ready to discuss.  Ask for their opinion, use the feedback you already received to dispel any fear your boss may have.  Be very positive and eager for their input.  At this point your boss can’t dismiss you because it is already beyond their control.  Set it up so that if action is to be taken, your boss is the one to take it…even if that means telling you to do something.


Step Four: Let your boss be the hero.

Give your boss credit for making the change and leading the idea.  The more often you can set your boss up for success, the more open he or she will be to your ideas in the future.


The reality is that your boss may be upset with you for going around them before talking with him or her first, so keep the following tips in mind:

  • Only use these steps if your boss has a history of shooting down every idea you present.  In an ideal world you should be able to have constructive dialog with your boss before taking your idea around them.
  • Always stay positive about the benefits of your idea and keep the dialog strictly about the idea, not your frustrations.
  • Never speak negatively about any individuals.
  • Always speak positively about your boss. 
  • You may be pulling your boss along kicking and screaming, but if your ideas are good ones, the should not hurt your career…by getting feedback you can help the likelihood of your ideas being good ones. 
  • If you don’t get positive feedback from others on your ideas, don’t present them to your boss.
  • Your boss may see you as a troublemaker in the short term,  but as an individual that influences positive change your efforts should help your career growth over time.


I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!


Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.


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Comments (9)

Matthew Guilfoyle - LinkedIn posted on: June 29, 2012

Wise advice, a person who is able to persuade may have to drop any thoughts of personal recognition for initiating change, this can be a troubling decision for those whose core line of work is not directly linked to the bottom line such as HSE or QA professionals, as they are not as easily able to demonstrate their worth. Following on from this action plan, in order to maintain your ability to invoke change, it must be noted that retrospectively attempting to claim an idea can do more harm than good, especially after empowering those around you with the change and its development.

John Warrick - LinkedIn posted on: June 29, 2012

Great information. Many of these principles can be confirmed in the book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. Here is just a taste:
1.) Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."
2.) If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
3.) Begin in a friendly way.
4.) Get the other person saying, "Yes, yes" immediately.
5.) Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
6.) Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
7.) Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
8.) Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
9.) Appeal to the nobler motives.
10.) Dramatize your ideas.

Stephen Dlugos posted on: June 29, 2012

Good, viable options for getting good ideas moving beyond managers who are adverse to risk, worry about failing, avoid change at all cost, and sometimes, just refuse to listen to those who work for them regardless of how good an idea might be.

KS Neoh posted on: June 29, 2012

Just fire that boss! Many dudes occupy the position of a boss, but totally unfit to be one.

Carlo Privitera posted on: June 29, 2012

Lobbying, as you suggest, may work but sometimes you need to show real results to have people attention and commitment.
I like what I call the "safe zone" approach.
Identify a safe area where you can apply your idea, an area where is meaningful and low risk for the company.
Deliver the expected results and you'll have your boss' attention quite quickly ... And to do not upset him/her, I agree, tell to everybody that it was him/her idea!

David Forbes, MBA posted on: June 29, 2012

After all other alternatives are exhausted, become your own boss. Life is too short to spend your workdays frustrated by your supervisor.

VijayAnand Senga Jeevanandam posted on: June 29, 2012

Risk is associated in all parts of our life, on who doesn't take risk will never come up in his life, eg. Risk taken by a chick to crack the hard outer layer of the egg for it' survival. Change is the only thing in this world that never changes..

Kenneth L Napier posted on: July 25, 2012

Doing your job and not thinking your entitled to the job would be the best move.

Caroline posted on: August 17, 2012

Sure as VijayArnand Senga Jeevanandam - and then look to high five the boss and the team - amplified - hobbies
Kind regards

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