Article from Álvaro Cárcel, Executive Search director.
Recently David Robinson has written an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review. It's not always easy when you're new in a company to influence top management. In some of our videos of New Leaderships this matter has been discussed, but that article by Robinson gave some practical keys that I think are easy to execute.
What stands between a manager and his ability to solve problems or create change within his organization? Many times it is not a lack of knowledge, resources, or time, but rather an inability to gain buy-in from a senior executive. Robinson gives five tricks to influence and advance:
First: focus on objectives that support the company's goals. It's hard to say "no" to someone who ties their goals directly to yours. Before submitting proposals, it is good to take the time to study how they align with what the company wants to achieve. Then, when presenting the proposal, these points must be explicitly highlighted.
Second: emphasize how the benefits outweigh the costs and risks. We are all risk averse and even if the proposal is aligned with the objectives of senior management or the company, the risk can overshadow any benefit. The cost/risk-benefit ratio must be thoroughly analyzed from the beginning and explained clearly, and simply. When explaining the benefits, it is necessary to present the points of view in the most objective way possible: it will not only guarantee a balanced vision, but it will also improve trust with the organization.
Third: leave room for dialogue with those who make the decisions. The proposals must be defended with evidence and research, but it is good that there are gray points that are being worked on. In fact, it's good to admit it. Solving problems together, involving from the beginning, makes it more likely to obtain the acceptance of those who make the last decision. Most of the time, top management appreciates the opportunity to weigh in. Once you do, you're more likely to support the idea because you had a hand in shaping it.
Fourth: Be proactive with the tagline “unless otherwise stated”. Sometimes those who have the final decision do not have time to solve the problems with the person who proposes them. Taking an "unless otherwise noted" approach is a clever way to ask permission indirectly without actually asking for it. It is good to share a message with the background on the problem and comment that "unless otherwise stated" [insert solution] is intended. Now the ball is in someone else's court. Assuming you had a reasonable time to respond, silence implies consent The opposite of influencing would have been to ask, "What do you think I should do about this problem?"
Fifth: As a last resort, probe. Sometimes the above four points do not work. In that case, you have to find the right questions that "sting" the one who makes the final decision. It is said that Steve Jobs had long insisted that he would never develop a smartphone, but he changed his mind when his team asked him if he thought his rival Microsoft would ever develop one. By asking questions that tapped into his competitive nature rather than inserting his opinions, his team was able to influence and ultimately position Apple to become the most valuable company in the world.