|Kendell Brown, Associate Director of Graduate Career Services|
The ability to influence is essential to leadership. If you can get people to buy into an idea that you set forth, you’re golden. But how can you get people to listen and take you seriously when you are the most junior person on the team? I’m going to guide you through a step-by-step plan you can use to get the buy-in you want.
Developing a thorough plan shows the upfront effort you have already made, in addition to highlighting your commitment to the idea. This course of action should include key steps, decision points and goals. With a clearly articulated action it is easier for people to understand your ideas, rationale and goals and thus put forth the effort necessary to achieve your vision.
In business, facts trump theory, so find what you can to support your idea and bolster your plan. Do an analysis, “run the numbers”, create a case study – the idea is to accumulate evidence to show that you’ve done your homework and that your suggestion isn’t a fly by night proposal. Another form of evidence gathering is to become a subject matter expert. Take the time to learn the ins and outs of a process, a client, a tool, etc. – know the good and bad points, become the “go-to” person in the office on that topic. When it’s common knowledge that you know more than anyone on a particular subject, your opinions and plans on that subject will carry significant weight.
Let’s say you’ve got a plan to grow the margin on the team’s 3rd largest product line. If you’ve been exclusively managing the product line and you’ve done a thorough analysis of the biggest factors affecting the line’s margin – your idea will get heard because you know the business better than anyone else.
Now that you’ve got a plan in place and evidence to support that plan, you have to be reasonable and understand that not everyone is going to get on board quickly. Some people will have questions and some people will flat out disagree. You will likely need some degree of consensus before moving forward and as they say “the best defense is a good offense”. Therefore, it’s best to have thought through what the concerns will be and develop arguments to address them. A really effective way to address concerns upfront is to answer the question before it even arises.
You can say something like, “You’re probably wondering about my plan’s reduction in approvals. So let me answer that question now before I go on further.” Answering questions before they have a chance to come up shows that you have thoroughly considered all perspectives.
Creating key performance indicators, aka KPI’s, to assess whether a project is successful is critical for getting others to buy-in. KPI’s are necessary for determining whether a project is on track, performing better or worse than expected and whether resources are being used as prescribed. A willingness to track your plan’s performance shows that you can and are willing to objectively evaluate the project.
For your idea to get a solid vetting, you need to delineate what you consider success. So your plan should include a statement like, “I suggest we utilize my plan to collect all overdue receivables under $5000 for the next quarter. If my estimated 23% improvement is achieved, let’s move forward with converting 100% of our receivables to my proposed collection plan.
When trying to get buy-in ensure that key stakeholders and collaborators are present. Describing your vision, sharing your due diligence, highlighting measurement metrics is all for nothing if you are not talking to the people that can give you a “yes”. Often that decision is from a senior member of the organization. Getting that individual or individuals as a project sponsor is critical for getting the resources needed and a team in place.
Consequently, a key logistical element is ensuring that you’ve included the right people. Check vacation schedules, meeting calendars, etc., so that decision makers actually hear what you have to say.
Influencing is a smart and strategic way to get work done. It’s a critical element of getting things done and making change occur. The ability to consistently and successfully get buy-in from others is a marker for work and career success.