photo by tec_estromberg via flickr

photo by tec_estromberg via flickr

“If only someone would listen to me!” is something I hear a lot. We all know you don’t have to be the CEO to have brilliant ideas and a passion for what’s possible for your organization. In fact, it’s often those closer to the day-to-day action who can best identify improvements to business operations and new opportunities.

If you’re not at the senior leadership table, you likely don’t have the authority or the resources to create big-scale change with a declaration of “here’s the plan folks…..”  Rather, influencing those with the power to say “sounds great – let’s do it!” (or at least “Very interesting. What do you need to explore this direction further?”) is the key to advancing toward your vision.

It goes without saying that you’ll have to get yourself some face time with a more senior leader as a baseline requirement. When you do this – even if it’s just a one-on-one meeting with your Manager – you’ll want to use your time wisely. So here are the top 10 ways to make the most of the short time you have their ear:

1) Define a shared objective for the meeting. (What’s the point of this meeting? What is everyone hoping to walk away with?)

2) Describe the bigger purpose of what you’re bringing to their attention (This isn’t about you and your idea. It’s about what this idea makes possible.) 

3) Show what’s in it for them, specifically. (Why should the person / people in front of you care about this bigger purpose?)

4) Tell a well-rehearsed story, and back up your idea with whatever evidence you’ve got. (Make clear connections at every step.)

5) Make direct links to the organization’s overall mission. (This isn’t about your ideas, but rather supporting a shared vision. Refer to something a senior leader has said, if you can.)

6) Be completely open about the short-term impact of actioning your idea, even if it’s undesirable.  (If you say what they’re thinking, you earn credibility.)  

7) Keep the discussion alive and productive by asking open-ended questions – those that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”.

8) Don’t be defensive. Instead, be curious. Generously acknowledge good insights and ask thoughtful questions about where others are coming from.

9) SLOW DOWN. You’re excited. But they’re trying to absorb.

10) And importantly…..Don’t oversell if they’re buying it!! If you sense they’re on board, shift the conversation to next steps.

Good luck! And please don’t make the mistake of linking the value of your idea to the way it is received. There are so many factors at play, including your relationship with the influencers and the appetite for innovation within your corporate culture, for example. Instead, use the checklist above to assess whether you gave it a great shot.