Inspiration is sparked in many ways. Maybe you’re out for a run, reading a book, or talking with friends when that new, innovative idea on how to solve a work problem comes to you. It leaves your brain spinning with energy and hope for resolving something that’s been eating at you (and maybe the team) for some time.
You’re not sure your boss will buy into this new idea and there are a few people on the team who will for sure resist it. But it’s a no-brainer and as you think through a few details, your confidence grows.
The next day, you pitch the idea with enthusiasm and confidence. When you’re finished, you’re met with silence, a couple blank stares, and others avoiding eye-contact.
Your boss stays quiet, but a couple people start asking questions like “Who will pay for this?” or “How much time will it take?” or “Don’t we all have enough to do?”
You start to get frustrated and feel like all the air is being sucked out of your proverbial idea balloon. You thought they would be more supportive. Then, the two old-timers on the team give their standard response to any idea “We tried something like that 10 years ago.” And “It didn’t work then either.”
You leave the meeting deflated. You know this idea is a good one, but it seems no one listened, and your boss said nothing.
How do you get more support?
Many of us have experienced this kind of scenario. It can leave us unmotivated and defeated. Some of us may give in, thinking “Maybe it really is a bad idea, and I just don’t see it.”
Before giving up, take these five steps first. It’s likely you’ll have more success getting your idea off the ground. Even if you don’t, you’ll still be better for it.
1. Get Clear on Your Idea
Sometimes, we share too much too soon. A new idea hits and we’re intoxicated by it. We share it without fully thinking it through.
Give it 24 hours, maybe longer, and get clear on exactly what you want to accomplish with this idea and what results you want to achieve. Consider timing like why now and what will happen (or not happen) if your idea doesn’t take hold. This will help you articulate a burning platform or urgency. People are more likely to support an idea that has a clear goal and a sense of urgency to it.
The bottom-line is to not communicate your idea too soon. Give it time, clarify it, and make a case for it.
2. Consider Impact: Up, Down, and Across
Now that you know what you want to propose, spend time thinking it through from a variety of perspectives. Think up, down, and across the organization. What impact will the idea have on your boss and their boss? What concerns will your colleagues have? Who below you in the organization may be affected by your idea?
You may not have all the answers to these questions. In fact, it’s fine to not know and say that. What this exercise does is begin to prepare you for the questions you will inevitably receive.
3. Socialize the Idea
Identify a handful of people who may be impacted by your idea and socialize it with them. This means to informally talk about it with them. Get the idea out there, get feedback, and other perspectives. No one likes surprises so this approach warms people up to the idea without any commitment to it. It also removes blind spots in your thinking. Your idea gets better. Finally, the biggest benefit is that you will begin to build support that will be needed down the road.
New ideas always need tweaks and it’s impossible to catch all the implications on your own. Socialize it with a few to get perspective and build buy-in.
4. Be Open to Refinements, Give Credit
At this point you may have received a lot of new ideas, critiques, and considerations. It is natural to be a little resistant to feedback because it feels like your original idea becomes diluted and it’s no longer your own. In some ways, this is true.
But in organizations today, the only way to get anything done is with and through others. Lone wolfs, or individuals working independently and separately from others, will struggle to gain support and resources, like funding. Bosses and decision-makers want to see collaboration and teamwork. Yes, this is harder and more time-consuming, but it makes your idea more likely to move forward. Everyone buys in to an idea they think is, at least a little bit, theirs too.
Be open to the refinements offered and give credit to those who offered it. Doing so will help you build a coalition of support.
5. Practice and Prepare for Objections
It’s time to formally pitch your idea to receive support, resources, or a general green light to keep working on it. Depending on how big the idea is, you might have a small team with you, or you may still be solo. Either way, you are now clear on exactly what your idea is and the implications of it.
But just because you know your stuff and have some supporters doesn’t mean you don’t need to practice and prepare for objections. Being caught off guard or letting nerves take over during your pitch meeting could compromise success. The last thing you want is for the work you spent socializing the idea and refining it to be time wasted.
Practice exactly what you want to say and say it out loud a few times. This will build confidence. Better yet, practice in front of a few trusted colleagues, ask them to object to your idea and ask tough questions. This will give you the practice you need, in a realistic setting, to overcome objections and demonstrate competence. This means, don’t prepare what you will say by yourself, sitting at your desk, rehearsing in your head.
Getting new ideas off the ground can feel daunting and overwhelming, especially when you don’t have a specific method. By following these 5 steps, it not only streamlines your approach, but it builds your confidence and expertise along the way. Even if your idea doesn’t get the support you hoped or the result is different than you expected, you took on a challenge. From every challenge, we learn and improve. That alone is worth celebrating.
If you haven’t already, subscribe to the blog at the bottom of this page to be notified when each post is published.
Until next time!
Amy Drader is a management consultant and credentialed coach with over 20 years’ experience in HR and operations. She knows first-hand the joys and challenges of leading people and is dedicated to helping managers and teams advance their performance. She is the owner of Growth Partners Consulting, a boutique leadership and team development consulting firm that provides customized training and coaching.
Start learning online now with GPC Academy.