Mindful communication

Gaining support for your ideas in the workplace

Change isn’t easy for many people, which is why it’s often difficult to embrace new ideas in the workplace. But, as we all know, adapting to change and implementing new approaches can drive innovation and help your organization succeed.

So when you have a great idea at work, how do you get the support you need to push it forward? Sharing your ideas and seeing them implemented at your company can be hard. Bureaucracy and emotions can get in the way of finding support for your idea. But if you can effectively build momentum around the idea and empower the right people to promote it, your idea will be more likely to be acted upon.

Here are some strategies I’ve found effective for gaining support for your ideas at work. Try these steps when presenting your new ideas at work to get them approved and supported by your team members and leadership. This isn’t a primer on how to come up with good ideas, but a lesson in how to showcase your best ideas to overcome criticism and roadblocks and to better position them for adoption.

Define your pitch

To best set up your idea for success from the very beginning, develop a quick pitch for the idea to succinctly describe what you’re trying to accomplish and why. This should be easily explained in about 15 to 30 seconds. The idea itself will likely be far more complicated, but your pitch is meant to spark the interest of others and if they are interested in learning more. You can go into more detail later.

A pitch of your idea should:

  • Be to the point. Less is always more.
  • Keep assumptions to a minimum and present facts.
  • Identify the problem you’re solving or process you’re improving.
  • Outline the approximate costs of investing in your idea (budget, talent & resources).
  • Explain what will result from moving forward with your idea or what will happen if you don’t.

Get early feedback

You’re trying to ensure that the correct decision makers and influencers genuinely buy in to your idea because no great concept will come to fruition within a silo.

This isn’t a process to trick or deceive anyone into supporting you, but rather positioning a great idea to have the highest potential impact at your organization and stand up effectively against other colleagues that might disagree with it.

With your pitch in hand, approach trusted colleagues first that’ll give you honest feedback about your idea to ensure it’s worth shopping around to decision makers at the company. You’ve got limited time and chances to win over the decision makers, so get some feedback first.

This is the part of the process where many people stop pursuing their idea, since the input they get often discourages them from moving forward. But this first round of feedback should mostly give you advice on how to better position your idea. In some cases, this feedback may alert you that the idea is just too far away from being viable. But don’t forget that it’s important to ignore certain kinds of feedback to ensure it doesn’t send you off in the wrong direction.

Be sure to get feedback from a few different people so you can identify any trends or patterns in their suggestions, which can help you hone your idea.

Sell the idea to your superior

Once you’ve shopped your idea around with your inner circle at work and potentially tweaked it a bit to better resonate with others, it’s now time to speak with your manager or team lead.

In many cases, it’s important to go through your supervisor first to ensure you’re not disrupting the chain of command at your company. It’s great that you’re thinking big and challenging yourself by sharing your ideas with others, but be certain you’re following the proper procedures to do so.

This discussion can happen in three ways:

  • You can casually or informally bring this up with your manager over lunch or in your regular 1:1 meeting. This would be the appropriate time to share the concise pitch you’ve constructed and see if your boss is interested in learning more.
  • The second way of selling your idea, depending on the seriousness of the concept, would be to do a formal presentation for your superior and potentially other staff about the merits of what you’re trying to accomplish. With this approach, you should schedule a dedicated meeting to give you presentation and take questions.
  • The third way is to do a combination of the above approaches by first discussing the concept casually, then asking for an opportunity to formally present the idea to your boss later.

Presenting the idea to your superior is often the most difficult part of the process. Your supervisor is likely often presented with worthwhile ideas on a regular basis and has to decide what’s worth investing in and passing up to higher management. To get their approval of your idea, you’ve got to not only align with the goals of the company, but your supervisor’s personal motivations, responsibilities, and benchmarks to ensure it is in their best interest to support your idea.

Have a clear action plan

The most important thing you can do to sell your idea is to make it clear how you’d like your supervisor and coworkers to take action and help you execute against the idea. Everyone has ideas, but most won’t do anything with their ideas and have no plan of action to move them forward.

It’s possible that once you’ve gotten approval from your direct boss, you’re good to go and can start implementing the idea, but in other cases, the concept may be too complex to remain a sole priority of your team alone. In that case, you’ll want to present a clear plan for running the idea up the ladder for approval from higher-ups.

According to an Arizona State University study, when asking someone to take action, it’s helpful to offer them a minimum way of participating in order to increase the likelihood of them saying yes. Identify the easiest way for your boss and team to accept your idea. Help them break through their own action paralysis as they try to make a decision. The easier you make it for them to make a choice, the more likely they’ll answer favorably, and even if they don’t, they’ll likely still be receptive to your ideas in the future if you’re using this approach correctly.

About the Author

Brian Honigman is a content marketing consultant and CEO of Honigman Media. He’s a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and others. Follow him for more hype-free business tips @BrianHonigman.

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