HOW MANY OF YOU FEEL FRUSTRATED in your job because you cannot get your boss to see things your way? You rant and rave and tell your colleagues or spouse that your boss is an idiot.
But, think again. It may be you who is partly at fault. Maybe your ideas are just not presented in the right way. Maybe you have not communicated effectively enough to get results.
Bear in mind that your boss is a human being, and like any other human being, he can be influenced. He has his own share of concerns and difficulties in his duty as a boss. He has an ego like you have and wants to be made to feel good once in a while.
Your aim is to get the boss to give you what you want. Success in this area is a question of good communication skills. You also need to be armed with a lot of facts, a bit of strategy, a good deal of patience and confidence.
Getting the boss to agree with and act on your ideas will, in the long term, require both parties to win. You can’t always get agreement all the time, but here are ten points to help you load the odds in your favour.
1. Start Off On A Positive Note
Obviously, putting a person in a negative and defensive mood from the very onset is not going to get you anywhere. How would you like somebody coming up to you every now and then to tell you that he has a problem? The next time you see him, all you see is a “problem child”. You will not feel very inclined to listen to him, much less be enthusiastic about what is about to be discussed.
Start off with something casual, but appropriate, such as “How was your golf on Sunday?” Putting your boss at ease makes him feel relaxed and therefore more receptive to what is presented.
But if your boss is a no-nonsense type and is obviously thinking about work when you see him, “golf” is not such a good idea.
In this case, just avoid starting off with anything negative.
2. Know What Your Objectives Are
Many of us have gone through a lot of sessions with the boss, groping in the dark and ending up nowhere. Worse still, the boss may feel that you are wasting his time.
Most of the time, it is because the boss talks you out of what you want to say. Your mind goes blank and you forget the speech you have been memorizing so diligently for the last two days.
Focusing on your objectives and moving the discussion towards the bull’s eye is very important. Know what you want, beat around the bush a little if necessary, but don’t deviate from your purpose.
If you keep focused, it will not be easy for your boss to take the discussion to another place. Ask yourself, “What do you want out of the meeting?” or “What do I want him to do?” before going into the discussion.
3. Know When To Present Your Ideas
If you are going to ask your boss for a raise, do not go to him on the day his wife leaves him, his brand new BMW gets smashed or moments after he has finished giving a lecture to our errant colleague. Check the weather in his room and determine if the sun is shining or Typhoon Billy is raging, before you walk in.
Having a chat with his secretary will take you a long way. If there’s no secretary, ask the boss, “Can I take up some of your time?” and listen to (as well as watch) how he replies to you. If the signs are not good, make an excuse and get out.
4. Present Supporting Facts and Figures, Not Just Opinions
Opinions are just opinions and without supporting facts and figures, they hold very little water and can easily be challenged. Nobody can challenge valid facts and figures – not even the boss (unless he is totally unreasonable).
Even if your boss normally values your opinion, you will look much better in his eyes if you have facts and figures to back up your opinion. Do some research and homework if necessary, and put your presentation or proposal together in a logical and convincing way.
Telling the boss you feel that staff morale is low, for example, without any supporting facts is going to lead to questions which you might not be able to answer. Being unprepared will make you look incompetent and unprofessional.
5. Anticipate His Reactions & Questions
If you have worked for your boss long enough, and if you have paid enough attention, you will be able to see a pattern of behaviour, know how he will react and even anticipate questions he is likely to ask. People are predictable and behave in particular ways under certain circumstances.
Plan your strategy before you see him.
I am not saying that you should memorise a script word for word but do formulate an approach based on anticipated reactions. Anticipating his possible responses and questions helps you prepare yourself with suitable responses that will satisfy him. That way, you both win.
6. Empathize With Your Boss
The ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes helps you fit your approach to that person’s needs and concerns. One should not communicate from one’s own point of view only, but with the other person in mind. Try to see the situation from his side and structure your communication to fit into his frame of mind.
Imagine: your boss asked you last week to look into the cranky old photostat machine. You know that just this week, he received a memo from head office asking all branches to cut cost. How do you think you will fare if you go up to him and say, “Excuse me, boss. You know that old photostat machine you asked me to look into? Teruk-lah. Must buy a new one! That should cost about $6,500. Is that okay with you?”
I’m sure you agree that you will hardly stand a chance in getting your proposal approved.
What if you go this way? “Excuse me, boss. You know the photostat machine you asked me to look into? Well, I checked the maintenance record for the last six months and found that our average maintenance cost a month is $358. That is very high and it’s because we changed two drums in the last six months. The present drum is already beginning to wear off. I have also checked the cost per copy and I found that our average cost per copy is 7.2 cents. The normal should only be around four cents. I think we must do something about it. The instalment for a new machine is only $425 a month. What do you think, boss? Should we look into getting a new one?”
What do you think? Certainly this manner of empathizing, providing facts and figures will give you better results.
7. Don’t Bring Problems Without Possible Solutions
Back to the idea of not being a problem child. If you have to go to the boss with a problem, be sure to also have some possible solutions in mind. In this way, you show that you have given the matter some thought.
You can influence him into agreeing to a particular suggestion by showing him your reasons behind it and the likely outcome of that particular alternative. To top it off, you can even make him feel that it is his idea.
You can do this by asking him, “Do you think we should…?”. If he says yes, it becomes his idea. That way, you get a commitment. Never mind if it is actually you who put that idea in his head.
8. Provide Options, Alternatives & Compromises If Necessary
Be ready with alternatives and do not stand stubbornly to a particular option. If he accepts the idea, give him the leeway as to which particular choice he wants to make.
For instance, if you can get your boss to agree to buy a new Photostat machine, it may not be worthwhile insisting on a particular brand.
You should provide the pros and the cons, make your recommendations but leave it to him to decide.
9. Get Agreement By Asking Questions
This is a very powerful technique in getting what you want. The idea here is to ASK, don’t TELL. No boss likes to be told anything. They have their pride and ego and they agree to things more easily if they are asked – and not told.
For example, don’t tell the boss that it is his responsibility to help you, should you have any problems. How about asking, “Boss, I understand that you have been in the company for many years, and if I need any help, I would like to come to you for your advice. Is that all right?” Which boss will ever say no?
Ask, don’t tell, and get agreement as your discussion proceeds. You will find that by asking clever questions, you will be the one who is actually in control and will eventually get what you want.
10. Get Commitment By Fixing Specifics
The worst that can happen after doing all the above is to get an agreement but no commitment.
It will be a waste of effort to leave a meeting with nothing but more verbal agreement from your boss to look into a certain matter. To get results, get commitment. Anything will suffice as long as it is definite. For example, confirm exactly when you can go back to him, set a date for the next meeting or determine a deadline for the budget for the new Photostat machine he has agreed to purchase.
Incidentally, you do not get his commitment by telling him. Ask for it without appearing to do so.
If you keep in mind all these ten points, you should not have any difficulty in getting ideas to your boss successfully. The only factor is confidence. Having self-confidence will ultimately decide whether you will win. To get confidence, ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen to you if you don’t get what you want?
Why worry? After all, if you never try, you will never know.
Do you have another suggestion? Feel free to leave your comment below.