Pitching Your Ideas – 5 Tips to Get Everyone on Board
Last week we talked about the 10 steps it takes to do all the homework for pitching your ideas. All that work doesn’t matter unless we communicate our ideas effectively though.

Pitching Your Ideas – 5 Tips to Get Everyone on Board

It takes a lot of preparation to make a convincing pitch, but the presentation is just as important. Last week we talked about the 10 steps it takes to do all the homework for pitching your ideas. All that work doesn’t matter unless we communicate our ideas effectively though. If you missed last week’s post, you can jump to it here also get the pitch worksheet that will guide you through the steps. This week’s tips help you communicate all your hard work effectively to decision makers.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #1 – Know Your Audience

Right off the bat, you’ve got to understand who you are pitching to. What is their background? Are they an expert in this field? Will you have to do a lot of explaining of detailed technical pieces? What is their real interest in your idea? Have you pitched ideas to them before and what have you learned from it? Does the decision maker like a bottom line up front? Or maybe they like to be led through each piece of info and build to a conclusion? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, try doing a little research about your audience before presenting.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #2 – Be Clear About Your Purpose

I found this really effective when I was in the Air Force, especially when briefing senior leaders. I would usually open with, “Sir, I’m Lt Col Jason LeDuc. I’m here to brief you today on this topic. I’ll recommend courses of action and ask you to decide which one to pursue.” I saw many presentations where the decision maker wasn’t clear on the purpose. The speaker didn’t make it clear they needed a decision. Many times it turned out that the briefing was just informational. Leaders are usually pretty busy people and their time is valuable. We want to make pitches when we really need them to make a decision and should avoid basic information presentations unless we’re asked for it.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #3 – Start With the Problem

This is where all that prep work you did using the worksheet from last week pays off. Present your clearly defined problem, including the why, who, what, when, etc. Make sure that the decision maker understands the problem. Look for some recognition in their words and body language that they also believe it is a problem that needs to be solved.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #4 – Build Your Case

Now it’s time to build the case for your solution. This can be highly variable and depends on your audience. After you state the problem, you could present background information, move into the potential solutions and make a recommendation. Or you could talk about the people who this is a problem for and how they are impacted, views of what a successful solution would look like and make some recommendations. There’s a huge number of possibilities. You’ll have to decide for yourself which approach to take, but have a plan going in. One piece of practical advice I can give is to support your assertions with evidence. If you say that your solution is going to cost $1 million, you should have some reasonable, thorough estimates that you can show in your pitch that back up that number.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #5 – Make The Ask

All too often I’ve seen someone give a really great convincing presentation and then just kind of wrap up without really clearly asking for that decision they need. I’ve even done it myself. It’s so important to make that ask and get that decision before the decision maker leaves the room. You don’t want to put any undue pressure on them, but clearly make the ask. They may not be ready to make a decision at that point. If that’s the case you have a new ask to make. Find out what questions the decision maker needs to be answered and when they want to reschedule. Be prepared to make that secondary ask if you need to.

So there are 5 tips for making a really great pitch presentation. While these are general, they’ll help to get you in the right mindset for making a pitch. Iff you’ve done the prep work we talked about in last week’s post, you should have all the material you need to make your case. You just need to decide how to build the story that will get your message across most effectively. I know you can do it!

How you approach convincing others affects your success. These tips will show you how to write a convincing pitch no matter who you're pitching to.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch

As we grow as leaders we start to have bigger and better ideas that we want to get done. We can’t get these things done all by ourselves. We need build support for our ideas and that’s not always easy. How you approach convincing others to join you will affect your success. In the Air Force, I had to make a lot of pitches to leaders who weren’t always on board.  I learned the hard way how important it is to prepare for your pitch. These 10 tips will show you how to write a convincing pitch no matter who you’re pitching to. If you want to follow along with the tips in the video, you can get our Pitch Worksheet to help write your amazing pitch with us!

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #1 – Recognize People Don’t Like Change

Human beings don’t like change. To accept change they need to be persuaded and reassured. Keep this thought in mind as you work through the rest of the steps. Understanding the resistance others may have to your idea will help you address their concerns and questions before they arise. You can make your pitch successful by addressing these concerns and questions in your pitch before they come up.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #2 – Identify the problem

To convince others that your idea is good, present the problem in really clear terms. Not everyone may think that this is a problem. You may have to start your pitch by convincing them that the problem even exists. Don’t think of the problem just in terms of what, talk about it in terms of who has the problem, where these people are, why it’s a problem for them and when this problem becomes big enough to demand a solution. In some cases, your boss may have handed you the problem, but it still helps to run it through these questions to clearly define it.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #3 – Brainstorm Potential Solutions

Chances are you already have a solution in mind but now that you have really clearly defined your problem, is that solution really the best option? Will others agree that it is the best option or will they have their own ideas? think about alternate solutions that also might solve the problem. Rank them objectively on how well they solve the problem. You may find that your initial idea is still the best or maybe not. Don’t be afraid to break down each idea and take the best elements of each to create new solutions.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #4 – Identify the Impacts

List the impacts of implementing your solution below. Make sure to include not just what the impact is, but who it will impact, when it will occur, etc. Include both positive and negative impacts. Show the payoff that these impacts will bring to solving the problem.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #5 – Identify Any Risks

List the risks that will come along with this solution along with what steps can be taken to mitigate the risks. Areas to consider are safety risks, security risks, financial risks, etc. Any area of significant uncertainty should be addressed as well as how it can be minimized along with the associated costs.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #6 – Address the Views of Others

Before you make your pitch, actively solicit the views of others that your proposal may affect. Find supporters of your idea and ask what they love about it. Also look for objectors and see if there are parts of your solution that can be modified to bring them on board. Decision makers often take these views into account as they consider your pitch.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #7 – Brainstorm Unintended Consequences

Make a list of all of the things that could go wrong that you haven’t anticipated. This can be difficult and requires some creativity so this is another step that it’s helpful to find a team to help you. Once you have your list, determine if there are steps you can take in your solution that would eliminate or reduce some of these unintended effects.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #8 – Identify Resources You Need

The cost associated with a new idea is often what makes or breaks it. Identify all of the resources you need to implement your solution including money, people and assets. This is a great opportunity to sharpen your pencil on the solution and find a way to do it at the minimum cost. Showing a lot of value for low cost will set your pitch apart!

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #9 – Show the Path to Implementation

Identify the action steps it will take to bring your solution to reality. Highlight important milestones that require extra attention as well as any decision points you will use to determine if you are on the right track. Show how simultaneous tasks will come together to achieve the overall solution along with how long each task will take.

How to Write a Convincing Pitch Tip #10 – Offer Options

The decision maker that you are pitching to may not be ready or able to buy off on your proposed solution right away. Having multiple options that still solve the problem is a good practice. Look at some of the other solutions you brainstormed earlier and apply the rest of the steps to determine if you have other viable options to consider.

So there are your 10 tips for writing a convincing pitch. This is really the preparation phase of creating a fully formed idea to pitch to others. Next week we’ll talk about how to build that presentation so that you can make all of this hard prep work pay off by convincing others that you have a great idea!

As we grow as leaders we start to set goals for ourselves and our team. These tips will get you smashing through goals so you can go on to bigger things.

Smashing Through Goals – 4 Tips to Achieve Yours

As we grow as leaders we start to set goals for ourselves and for our team. This can be a bit of a learning experience. Once we start setting the goals, we don’t have anyone checking up on us to follow through. After several years in the Air Force, I gained more responsibility and had more people working for me. I was the one setting the goals but no one was really chasing me to achieve them. When I was starting my own business, I had a goal to write a business plan. No one else was looking for it, was just something I thought was a good idea. I had to figure out a way to get that business plan done without anyone else following up with me. These tips will get you smashing through goals so you can go on to bigger things.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #1 – Well Written Goals

This is a bit of a review, but you need well-written goals. When I talk with people about setting their goals, I make sure they are clear, measurable and achievable. I won’t go into all the details of what that means. I’ve got another post on setting goals where you can more information on what clear, measurable and achievable are all about. There are other methods for writing goals like SMART, but I like the idea of clear, measurable and achievable. It’s simple and easy to remember. With this method, you’ll quickly build tools and systems to track your goals which are critical to achieving them.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #2 – Build Tools & Systems

Tools and systems are key to sticking to the actions you need to take to achieve your goal. When I was writing my business plan, it never would have gotten done without a system.  I made a contract with myself that each night after dinner I would work for an hour on it. Using that system, I actually knocked it out in just a couple of weeks just working an hour a night. There were a lot of nights that I would say “I’m really onto something here. I’m going to work for a little longer.” That was a system that worked great for me. You need to figure out what works for you. If you’ve tried a system for a couple of weeks and it’s not working, don’t be afraid to reevaluate. Maybe throw that system out and try something new to help you get to your goals.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #3 – Track Your Progress

Everyone talks about this, everyone hears about it, we all know we need to do it. It’s one of the things that often doesn’t get done. Tracking your goals doesn’t need to be elaborate. It just needs to be appropriate for what you’re trying to do. In the video, I show you how I’m tracking my social media audience goals this year. You want to make tracking easy. If you can find there’s a data out there already, like social media platform analytics, use it. I’m just bringing that data together to create a snapshot to see how I’m doing. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if someone’s already collecting the data. When using other people’s data, it probably will not answer your questions directly. You may have to pull in different sources of data and make some assumptions to apply it to your goals.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #4 – Assess and Adjust

Tracking your progress is useless unless you use the data and conclusions to assess your progress and adjust. Each month I assess if I achieved my social media goals. If I didn’t, I’ll decide what changes to make to meet those goals next month. When it comes to adjusting, you may decide you need to adjust your goal because it was too lofty. That’s a reasonable approach, but consider adjusting your actions in the future to reach that goal. That can be a little bit of an iterative process. As you continue to assess, take some different actions or increase the intensity on your actions.

So there are your four tips for smashing through goals. Remember it’s important to make sure that your goals are well written, that clear, measurable and achievable. Build tools and systems that help you follow through on those goals. Track your progress to see if the tools and systems you’ve built are working. Look for trends the data, assess and adjust. Instead of changing or throwing out your goal, adjust where you’re putting your effort instead of making radical changes to your goals or your life plan.

So many of us are hoping for that opportunity that will supercharge our lives and careers, but business opportunities aren’t usually just handed to us.

Business Opportunities – 4 Tips to Make Them Happen for You

So many of us are hoping for that opportunity that will supercharge our lives and careers. If we can just get one shot, we’ll be able to achieve our goals. That’s not how opportunities really work though. Business opportunities or opportunities in other aspects of our lives aren’t usually just handed to us. We often have to recognize opportunities in their infancy and grow them before we can take advantage of them. Taking small steps to pursue an opportunity gives far better results than waiting for something to fall into our lap.

Business Opportunities Tip #1 – Keep Your Eyes Open

Maybe the biggest challenge with taking advantage of opportunities is recognizing that they’re out there. Opportunities are happening every day but they might be passing right by us because we’re not looking. Most really great opportunities start out as a tiny observation of something that could be done a little better. They start to grow inside us until we recognize that there’s something great there. One of the big challenges with opportunities is that they don’t always look like a benefit at first. That new job in a new city or 6-month overseas trip can be a little intimidating. That nervousness is a good sign that seizing the day can bring fulfillment and satisfaction.

Business Opportunities Tip #2 – Do the Homework

Before jumping in, do some research. Find out about the fundamentals of the industry if you don’t already know them. Identify who this opportunity benefits and who you might be in competition with. Who are the decision makers and influencers? Who might be willing to help you because they think you have a great idea, but they just don’t have the time to do it themselves? If you’re going to a new place, research the layout, history, and culture. If you’re taking a job in a new field, brush up on the basics that go along with it.

Business Opportunities Tip #3 – Follow Through

This is probably where most of us will miss out on an opportunity. We don’t always follow through on the actions we need to take. We might not call that person or submit the application for the program that would improve our skills. There have been times where I didn’t do the follow through and missed an opportunity. Most of the time, this is because we are afraid. The future that may come from the new opportunity might be scary. It might force us to step outside of our comfort zone. While these are very real feelings, we need to recognize that fear is what keeps us in the status quo. If we give into this fear, we can miss out on those opportunities that we worked so hard to create. Taking small steps to follow through is critical once we see a new opportunity.

Business Opportunities Tip #4 – Enjoy the Ride

By now we all know that nothing ever goes exactly how we plan. It’s frustrating, but it also lets the world surprise us in ways we never thought possible. Opportunities morph and change and almost never turn out to be what we thought they would be in the beginning. Trying to control an opportunity and force it into what we think it should be leads to limited results. We get better results by flowing with the opportunity and appreciating the new ideas and skills we are learning. Appreciating the journey that comes from a new opportunity will be far more satisfying and fulfilling than the outcome itself.

If you’re waiting for that great opportunity to come your way, try these four tips to see if you can make your own. Keep your eyes open for those tiny little chances to solve a problem or take on a new role. Once you see that tiny spark, fan it into a flame by doing some research and following up. Most importantly, enjoy the experience as you try something new. Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as you hoped, chances are this one opportunity will open several other doors for you to take a chance on too!

We all like to feel safe. Sometimes that desire keeps us where we’re comfortable. Often, we need to get out of our comfort zone to achieve our goals.

Comfort Zone – 4 Tips to Step Out of Yours

We all like to feel safe. Sometimes that desire to feel safe keeps us where we’re comfortable. Often, we need to get out of our comfort zone to achieve our goals. Sometimes I take a long time to get push past what is comfortable for me. Whenever I start a new job or activity I spend much more time watching and listening than participating. It really frustrates me sometimes.

When I was in my early twenties, I read some of the Clive Cussler books and wanted to scuba dive. I wanted to explore shipwrecks, take pictures and see the world in a new way, but was cautious moving forward. I realize now that scuba diving was out of my comfort zone. The good news is, I found ways to get past it. Now I love diving, even though I don’t do it as much as I would like to.

Comfort Zone Tip #1 – Ask Yourself “Why?”

If you find yourself not doing something you know you want to do, ask yourself why? Some of it is just basic human nature, whether it’s part of our natural personality or learned behavior. In ancient times, taking risks could result in injury or death. Even in the modern world, proposing a new idea could subject us to criticism or other social consequences.

So ask yourself, is there real life-and-limb danger and are there ways I can mitigate it? There are many exciting pastimes like skydiving, rock climbing, scuba diving that people do every day successfully. They find ways to manage the risk in those activities. So what are the real risks and how can you reduce them to make it safe and fun?

What about social consequences.? You may not think that there would be social consequences to scuba diving, but what if your family doesn’t approve? Someone you care about might feel it’s too dangerous. Even if you’ve done your homework, you may have to alleviate their fears. Share with them the research you’ve done to mitigate the risk.

If a new idea or activity excites you, but you’re holding back, ask yourself why? Address those reasons rationally and objectively. Not convinced to step out of your comfort zone yet? That’s what our other tips are for.

Comfort Zone Tip #2 – Take Just One Step

Next, take just one step forward, even if it’s a small one. I’ll stick with my scuba diving example. At this time in my life, my family came to California to visit me. One day we went to Catalina Island. For some reason, while they were looking in a shop I stepped into the dive shop next door. I started looking at some of the equipment and got to chat with one of the guys in the shop. He shared a lot of information and told me about the material in scuba certification courses. The internet was still pretty new back in these days so there wasn’t a lot you could search for then. I took a couple more trips to dive shops before I signed up, but that step helped me out of my comfort zone.

Comfort Zone Tip #3 – Build a Team

Don’t try to get out of your comfort zone alone. Find friends interested in the same activities. Build a team to help encourage each other to step out of your comfort zones. You can support each other, learn from each other and talk about what makes you nervous. Working as a team and supporting each other’s goals is one of the best ways to get over that fear that keeps you from getting out of your comfort zone.

Comfort Zone Tip #4 – Try It Someone Else’s Way

The last tip is to just try things someone else’s way, just once, and see how it goes. The people who really care about us are always giving us advice because to help us succeed. We may not want that advice. We may not think it’s the right thing to do, but sometimes it’s best to just give it a try. This is helpful if we’re not making progress on a goal and don’t realize we’re stuck in our comfort zone. I know how hard it is to follow through on this one. I catch myself all the time not taking other people’s advice so don’t feel bad if you experience some resistance to this one. Testing out the advice that other people give us, just once, can help us realize we have been holding back and can open new doors that we didn’t even know were there.

So now you’ve got 4 new tools to use when you feel like you’re not moving forward on something and not sure why. Whether you’re looking into scuba diving, or not making progress on your career like you envisioned, it could be because you’re stuck in your comfort zone and don’t even know it. Give these tips a try this week when you’re making decisions and see if they help you step out of your comfort zone!

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Status-Quo – How to Keep it from Holding You Back

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I’ve fought against those words for most of my career.  As leaders we often want to improve our teams and keep them from being held back by outdated practices. I know how it feels to come up against the resistance from others when we see better ways of accomplishing our mission. When we challenge the status-quo, it’s usually because we want to make things better for our team, not worse. If this is really our primary interest in making a change, then it’s helpful for us to understand what causes this resistance and makes the status-quo so powerful.

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately  lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Questions for Challenging the Status-Quo

  • “What if?” helps us to think about outcomes that might be better than the current outcomes
  • “Why?” helps us to identify challenges we may face as we try to bring about change 
  • “Who? Where? When? How?” help us put together details that will make the change a reality

It’s possible to answer these questions and decide that no changes to the status-quo are necessary at this time. Also, we could decide that the solution will create so much dissatisfaction that an alternate solution might be better. Change for the sake of change has destroyed many teams even though the intentions behind it were initially very good.

The take-home lesson today is that even though change is difficult for many people, as leaders, we can’t be afraid to challenge long-held ideas or practices that no longer serve our mission. We must approach change in a thoughtful and empathetic way to get the improvement we are looking for.

Just like our homes can get cluttered as the year goes on, our teams can get cluttered with misplaced priorities, ineffective procedures and tasks that no longer serve a valuable purpose. While we should always be on the lookout for waste and activities that are no longer serving our purpose or helping us achieve our mission, planning a spring cleaning activity can help us get focused on making improvements without getting caught up in our normal day-to-day activities.

Spring Cleaning – Video Guide

Just like our homes can get cluttered as the year goes on, our teams can get cluttered with misplaced priorities, ineffective procedures and tasks that no longer serve a valuable purpose. While we should always be on the lookout for waste and activities that are no longer serving our purpose or helping us achieve our mission, planning a spring cleaning activity can help us get focused on making improvements without getting caught up in our normal day-to-day activities.

Depending on how long it has been since you last did a thorough assessment of the activities that your team does on a daily basis, you may find out that there are so many things to review that it makes sense to tackle the most important ones first and come back at a later time to address the others. If you’re wondering where to get started on reviewing a task, procedure or activity, here are a few questions you can ask yourself and your team to determine how to proceed:

Spring Cleaning Questions

  • Does anyone use the results of this task?
  • Does this activity take a large proportion of work time, but is used infrequently?
  • Does the information produced by this process give us insight about our mission or our team, or is it outdated?
  • Is there someone on another team or elsewhere in the organization that uses the outputs?

One of the most challenging parts of a spring cleaning activity is to determine what course of action to follow after we’ve done our assessment. In the video Jason talks about how to determine which tasks to keep, which ones to get rid of and some ways to approach improving on a process that you need to keep, but is inefficient or wasteful.

Photo Credit: By Papypierre1 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the reasons we become leaders is to influence others in a positive direction to make the world a better place, but we often underestimate our ability and feel that we are not important enough or experienced enough to have much sway over what others think. The reality is that we have an influence over those around us every day but just don't consciously think about it. Most people care about their organizations and are open about discussion and debate about how to best achieve the results we want. If each of us really thought about it we all have at least one or two areas where we have some extensive knowledge or perspective that we can use to help shape others opinions about how to move forward successfully. Being conscious of the influence we have on others and using it wisely to promote positive change is one of our most important responsibilities as leaders.

Influence – Video Guide

One of the reasons we become leaders is to influence others in a positive direction to make the world a better place, but we often underestimate our ability and feel that we are not important enough or experienced enough to have much sway over what others think. The reality is that we have an influence over those around us every day but just don’t consciously think about it. Most people care about their organizations and are open about discussion and debate about how to best achieve the results we want. If each of us really thought about it we all have at least one or two areas where we have some extensive knowledge or perspective that we can use to help shape others opinions about how to move forward successfully. Being conscious of the influence we have on others and using it wisely to promote positive change is one of our most important responsibilities as leaders.

Positive Ways to Influence Others

  1. Find the knowledge and expertise that you have that no one else has
  2. Figure out who the audience is or the group of people who this topic is important to and share your thoughts and ideas with them
  3. Tell your story – use real examples and experiences from your own life to emphasize the points you’re trying to make
  4. Pick your moments wisely – sharing  your thoughts and experiences at the appropriate moment is often more important than what you share

Setting ourselves up with a positive mindset about influence before we share is critical to getting our message across. Approaching conversations from the perspective of sharing and being open-minded is often received better than if we are seeking to portray ourselves as an expert or persuading others to get our own way.

Photo Credit: By West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It's still pretty early in the year and while everyone on the team is focused on upcoming goals and improvements, it's a good time to consider starting new initiatives that improve out team's ability to complete their mission or make their lives easier. As we all know, change is hard for most human beings to embrace so it's important that we are clear with ourselves about the purpose for the change as well as what any of the benefits and impacts may be before we implement.

Starting New Initiatives – Video Guide

It’s still pretty early in the year and while everyone on the team is focused on upcoming goals and improvements, it’s a good time to consider starting new initiatives that improve our team’s ability to complete their mission or make their lives easier. As we all know, change is hard for most human beings to embrace so it’s important that we are clear with ourselves about the purpose for the change as well as what any of the benefits and impacts may be before we implement.

Tips for Starting New Initiatives

As stated above, it’s critical that we have a very clear picture in our own mind of why we want to bring about change and what the potential benefits are. Before starting new initiatives we should also do some research to see who might be impacted by the change and how, whether they are members of our own team or someone else in our organization. Clarity in these areas helps us minimize impacts and maximize benefits, which will help others embrace the change more easily.

Once we have an initial plan, it’s helpful to “shop it around” to key stakeholders and other people we trust and respect to get their feedback on it before we try to implement change. Getting some fresh eyes on the plan can show us how we might be affecting others in a way that we didn’t originally intend. Many initiatives are started with good intentions,  but the get derailed because the unintended consequences to others create resistance. Some careful forethought and prior coordination can go a long way towards getting others on board with the new initiative.

When starting new initiatives there are some key ideas to keep in mind as we enter the execution phase. Clearly communicating the new expectations to the team and other key stakeholders is a good place to start. Holding everyone accountable for the new role is critical to the success of any new initiative. Giving credit and recognition to the team for making a difficult change let’s the team know they’re appreciated and helps them share in the newly acquired benefits.

Innovate in a Stagnant Environment

Innovate in a Stagnant Environment – Here’s How!

Every boss claims they want innovation, but many don’t live up to the words they preach. For some it may be an aversion to risk, for others it may be out of their comfort zone to make improvements when the status quo is already working. How can we continue to innovate and improve our products and team members’ professional lives when faced with stagnation or resistance? How do we help improve the organization while still being good followers to senior leadership that is reluctant to innovate?

Small Changes/Small Victories

The most effective thing we can do is make small improvements that are within our own authority. Listen to your own team and see what suggestions they have that sound like they will make even minor improvements to effectiveness, productivity or communication. If it’s within your own purview to make the change on your team, go ahead and do it. Set a short fixed timeframe (a week, a month, 3 months) to evaluate it and the next leader in your chain know that you’re doing a trial evaluation of the initiative and you’ll let them know the results when it’s over. If it turns out to be unsuccessful, return to the old way of doing things and call it a learning experience. If it does work, share your results with your peers and other team leads.

Choose your opportunities wisely

There may be times when very senior leaders put out a call for innovative ideas or ask informally how you think the organization should be improved. These can be great opportunities if handled properly, but dangerous traps if they aren’t. Don’t leave your boss out in the cold when these situations arise. By pulling your boss in you can show that you have fresh ideas for the company but also show him and his superiors that you are looking out for all of them and trying to find ways to solve their problems. It can be as simple as telling that senior leader, “I have this great idea about X and my boss and I will get on your calendar to come fill you in on the details when you are available.”

Show the impact!

Showing tangible improvements is the best way to make sure your innovative ideas get adopted across the organization. If you can show a reduced cost, shorter time, or higher performance as a result of your initiative you’ll have strong evidence that you and your team have the organization’s best interest in mind. Being able to use metrics and data helps make your case, but be sure that you’re using the right metrics to show cause and effect. Many people lose credibility by trying to force data to fit their conclusions or apply metrics they don’t really understand to the situation. One of the best questions you can ask yourself before adopting an innovative idea is “How will I know this is successful and how can I measure it?”

These are ways I’ve seen innovation be successfully implemented from the bottom up, but the results may vary in your organization. If you think that these steps might work for you, but you want to talk through your strategy and the personalities involved with someone before taking the big step, feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to discuss and see if we can set you and your boss up for success!

 

Photo Credit: Alexander Blum (www.alexanderblum.de) [Attribution], <a href=”http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AStau.jpg”>via Wikimedia Commons</a>

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