4 ways to get your boss to back your next big idea

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One of the trickiest things in management is getting your boss to buy into an idea you think has potential to make a positive difference.

Getting colleagues to go along with an idea is a challenge, but persuading those in authority over you is both a discipline and an art. The discipline comes in defining the business case; the art comes in persuading others to your point of view.

The discipline involves two key concepts that can be summed up with two questions:

Does it complement the mission? Everything a company does should complement its strategic intention. Of course this does not always occur; it is why companies get off track. But when you are selling an idea upward, your strongest case is how your idea complements what your company does. For example, if you are pushing for a process improvement, you focus on how it will enable employees to do their job easier and deliver better service to customers.

Do we have the resources to execute? Very simple. Can you do what you propose in terms of funding and manpower, as well as time? If you are proposing a new product, not only must it complement your portfolio, you have to find resources to fund development and market it appropriately.

Now comes the art. This is one part psychology and many parts patience. Again, two questions:

Does it reinforce our values? Whatever your idea, it must reinforce your corporate values. Values are what hold an organization together. For example, your idea may foster collaboration, or it may demonstrate a commitment to excellence to customers. Leverage these ideas when you frame your argument to support your business case.

Does it make your boss look good? Let's be honest. You want people in high places to benefit from your idea. Looking good is not simply a beauty contest; it is a matter of position your management team as being astute, capable of executing, and even forward thinking. If you can find a way to make your boss and your team look good, you will have a better chance of getting your idea off the ground.

These questions are starting points. You will come up with your own questions that reflect your organizational culture. Consider for example questions such as this:

Is your idea innovative?

Does it enhance our quality?

Can we afford to do it?

Does your idea make our company stronger and more competitive?

Answers to these questions will enable you to flesh out your business case as well as position your ideas as complementary to your culture.

There is one more aspect and that is timing. I have often seen good ideas shot down because the individual framing the case ignored the situation. That is, he or she was blind to the circumstances. The idea may have been solid but the company was faced with others challenges and other priorities. Therefore presenting a new idea didn't fall on deaf ears but ears too busy to focus on anything else but the task at hand.

Persuading others of the virtues of your next idea is never easy but if you focus on developing a strong case, are willing to listen to others, and strike at the right time, your chances of success will increase.