When managed properly, introducing change into a company is a necessary and productive practice that has the potential for marked growth and development. Far too often, however, change is viewed as a risk. Management may respond with push back because they view the company as being able to function efficiently already.
If you or your team have an idea that you feel strongly about then bringing it to the attention of those with the power to implement it. Making a convincing proposal and then delivering it to stakeholders and management is tough but rewarding, thankfully there’s a number of things you can leverage to ensure buy in from senior members of staff.
With the help of two business experts, we’ll show how you can get the all-important buy-in from management to better realise your ideas and contribute to the growth and development of the company.
“All people are sensitive to favours owed”, says Richard Harris of Richard Harris Coaching. “If you give something to me, I have an urge to pay back that favour with something equal or greater”. Richard notes that reciprocity is one of the most powerful principles of persuasion out there, and highly recommends using it as a way to convince senior members of staff of your ideas.
“Use the principle of reciprocity to win over your decision makers by finding something you can do to make their life easier, then give it to them. By giving your target a meaningful gift beforehand, he will have an urge to repay your favour and with interest. When it comes to reviewing your proposal favourably, the opportunity to repay you suddenly presents itself. Reciprocity is most effective when the gift is given without conditions attached to it”.
In the case of getting stakeholders on side, Richard points to trying to find things that are of value to them which are then easy for you to deliver. Then, for a small cost you achieve a great emotional leverage.
Clarify the value
During your proposal, never keep the reason for your idea shrouded in mystery. The value must be articulated clearly to management using language that speaks to them. If it’s skill-based training you want to implement for example, then link it in with key performance indicators. If it’s compliance-related, then detail the potential business risk. The idea or strategy should be tailored in a way that fits in with the company’s vision and reality.
Be confident in your delivery
When you come to present your proposal, it’s important that your clear and confident in what you’re saying. Skilled presentation can help to amplify the content of what it is you’re saying. “Messages delivered with the charisma that comes from confidence have a way of being more persuasive” suggests Richard. “Go into your negotiations feeling as confident as you possibly can, and people will see things your way. The question is, how does one create confidence?”
Richard advises choosing difficult things to do every day and go and achieve them. “If you know that you are succeeding against challenges uniquely difficult to you, confidence is a natural result. Your body will then take care of the rest, your posture will stand taller, your voice will ring clearer, your eye contact will be more affirmative”.
Ground your proposal with facts and evidence
When I teach project managers on how to get proper buy-in, I tell them they must present solid, fact-based data to support their recommendations” says Joseph D. Launi, president of Project Management Experts. Without solid, concrete facts and evidence, your proposal is unlikely to be taken seriously; strengthening it with fact-based data is going to get the attention of senior management.
Joseph continues “you can’t expect any executive to shell out cash unless you present information to support your claim. For example, proper planning that includes activity level estimating and risk assessment that calculates contingency reserves will quantify the need for additional funding for a project that was underfunded from the start. A project manager that simply states “my gut tells me we need more money”, won’t get what they’re looking for”.
When you do so, reinforce the message with phrases such as “facts show that…” as opposed to “I think” or “I heard. Management don’t want anecdotes; using irrefutable facts and figures (that are consistent) means there will be little chance for others to contradict you when it’s time to present your proposal.
The ‘if you, then I’ phrase
Some judicious linguistic tactics can prove invaluable in your proposal. What you say and how you say it is incredibly important, and there are plenty of ways you can alter the approach you take with your words. Richard advises “a terrific negotiating strategy is to use the phrase ‘If you, then I’. For example, ‘If you give this responsibility to my department, then I will make sure we ask for no extra money this year’. This is a wonderful tool to break negotiation deadlock by summoning the spirit of compromise and mutualism”.
“Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to work so well the other way around. ‘I will, if you’ has a kind of stubborn, Machiavellian tone to it which impedes compromise” says Richard.
Always have an answer
Thorough preparation can ensure that you always have an answer ready. In fact, it’s not uncommon for some companies like McKinsey & Company to write up the conclusion of their analysis in advance before working to either prove or disprove their conclusion. It’s a powerful way of solving a problem, and one that ensures that you aren’t overly swayed by your own hypothesis.
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