I was recently working with a client who is a rather innovate COO. A fiercely bright and holistic thinker, he is constantly coming up with new proposals to propel his organization to the next level of growth. Time and time again, however, his seemingly “radical” ideas get shot down by his colleagues and the board.
We have all been in his shoes. At times we find ourselves fighting tooth and nail to advocate something we know is necessary, but others seem to reject off hand. Next time you are trying to introduce a new concept or idea that you fear may get tossed aside, try the following approach:
1. Start with data. Rather than jumping to your conclusion, start the conversation with something they can’t shoot down or argue against; the data. Start by simply sharing what you have seen, without placing a judgment on it. For example, rather than starting with “we have a problem with attendance”, start with “I noticed that in our last 4 meetings, we had 50% attendance, rather than our usual 85%”. This can be facts and figures, observations about behavior etc. The important thing is that you begin by being neutral and just stating what you are observing without suggesting consequences or proposals. Be as specific as you can and make sure you clearly present what you are seeing before moving on to step 2.
2. Explain what the data means to you. After explaining what data you have seen explain why it either worries you or excites you (if the issue is a problem vs. opportunity). Ex- “I am worried about these figures because I feel that low attendance may be harming our productivity.“ Be sure to frame this as an “I” statement (as in I feel, I am worried, I am excited etc.) rather than a statement of fact (as in it is bad, it is good etc.)
3. Introduce your idea and frame it as an option. After stating what you have seen (the data) and what it means to you, introduce your idea. In doing so, rather than saying “here’s what we should do”, try saying “here’s one thing we could do”. Being assertive but not certain about your idea will tend to be more persuasive as you leave the door open for discussion, or alternative suggestions. Ex- “One way of addressing this is by making attendance mandatory at these meetings. I think we should consider it.”
By presenting ideas in this way, it is hard for others to see them as “radical” and harder for them to reject them off hand. Furthermore, as you share your conclusion the same way you generated it (data + interpretation –> conclusion) you are more likely to convince others. This tends to be more effective than sharing your idea first (what we tend to do) and backing it up with supporting evidence, no matter how great that evidence may be.