Author: Adriana Beal
In my previous article for Bridging the Gap, I wrote about the importance of right-sizing your initiatives to get beyond a career plateau as a business analyst. A reader left a comment saying, “if your management listens, you can think about taking initiative, else, its just a waste of time and energy”.
That comment made me realize that we should be discussing also how business analysts can significantly improve their chances of being heard as they try to create new opportunities, from getting help with eliminating skill gaps, to participating on more high-visibility projects. The formula for successfully selling your initiatives to your boss is actually simple, if frequently overlooked by brain-powered workers:
- understand your management’s framework;
- persuade your audience not just to accept your point of view, but to take concrete action as a result of it.
In order to sell your ideas effectively, first you must have a clear understanding of what your organization is trying to achieve, and why. This will help you establish a clear “line of sight” between your initiative-taking goals and your team’s and organization’s goals. But you can’t stop there; you also need to present your ideas in a convincing way. If you typically find it difficult to create buy-in for your ideas, read (or reread) Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and start learning the mechanics of persuasion, and practicing the ability to deliver your message to your target audience.
Remember, your ability to “get management to listen to you” is directly dependent on your ability to take information, select key points, and deliver them in a manner that convinces the listeners to accept your message. The way you present your initiatives to your boss (or the people you need approval from) can have a dramatic influence in how your ideas are received.
The steps below, adapted from an article published at The Cranky Product Manager, provides a good framework to help you to achieve this goal:
- Create a short, easy to read handout for your boss, making the case for what you want, and including if possible several options for him to consider (see an example in the article mentioned above).
- Make an appointment with your boss to review your handout.
- Go over your points one by one, finishing with a persuasive review of the benefits for your boss and the company.
- If your boss doesn’t immediately choose one of your recommendations, negotiate a time frame for a decision, and immediately set a meeting for follow-up.
- If you get a “no,” don’t get overly frustrated. Try to understand the rationale behind your manager’s decision, focusing on any bottom-line implications, and see if you can come up with a different strategy to get what you want.
Remember the lessons from Made to Stick: a good story engages the listener with something worth listening to. Make your message relevant and interesting to your management, and the probability of your ideas being heard will rise dramatically.