Thursday, March 27, 2008

Take A Deep Breath Before Responding To Your Boss

By Matt:

Last week I thought I would be risky and do something "innovative". Generally companies love innovation - it's one of those business-ish words that sounds really good and implies we're making more money.

I was working on a presentation to deliver to accounts and was experimenting with a way new way to present it digitally. I emailed the concept around, and well, apparently my little idea was a little too risky to be considered innovation... probably too many bureaucratic rules broken or something like that. I got an email back with several reasons why it wouldn't work and why we couldn't do it this way, and so on and so on.

Of course my initial reaction is to get defensive and fire back some snotty unfounded response, but I restrained myself for once. I took a deep breath, spent three minutes reviewing Jon's post on "Pushing Decision Making Down", and drafted an email response that I didn't even send until the next morning.

It paid off and my idea was accepted. Here's how I convinced management that I was right:
  • Take A Deep Breath: Control the urge to fire back a quick response that isn't well thought out. Take a walk down the hall, go grab a Coke, play a game of Sudoku... whatever you need to do.

  • Review Management's Reasoning: Management's negative response will generally include 1-3 reasons why you can't move forward with your idea or proposal. Write down those reasons - you will need to speak directly to them in your response and this list will serve as your outline.

  • Back It Up: If you're going to convince management of anything it's going to be done with numbers and logic. Fill in the gaps around the outline you created and speak to the concerns by backing up your reasoning with valid statistics (money saved, dollars earned, etc.) and reasons based on productivity, efficiency, and valid comparisons to related examples.

  • Write A Polite Introduction: Once you've nailed the facts, go back to the top and kick off your response with a short but polite acknowledgment of the reasonings you were given for denial. Something to the effect of, "Thanks for your note regarding my idea, and I appreciate your concerns. I've been considering your thoughts and wanted to respond to them as still I feel this can be an effective solution...."

  • Proof And Send: Whenever you're having to fight for approval it's best to double-proof your words... make sure you haven't said anything antagonistic and that you've stuck to clear and concise facts. Once you're done, send away!
In my experience when you really back up a solid idea, and remove emotion from the equation, you can break through most resistance. It may not work every time, but that's ok... if you're not making progress after a couple attempts, it's probably not worth any more of your effort anyways. At the very least you'll be respected for your attempt and credited with thinking out of the box, and those are good qualities to have in the bank.


Words For Hire said...

Great advice and I would add it's a good idea to write that initial email offline in notepad or Word. This way you will not "accidentally" send an email that you may regret later. This has happened to people I know and the fallout was not pretty.

Matt @ Corporate Hack said...

A fine point... a very fine point. in fact, I would go so far to say that colleagues and I have co-written extremely sensitive documents together in Google Docs before presenting to superiors. Not only is it a good way to collaborate, it takes things completely out of the communication chain and avoids those types of accidents.