Monday 19 April 2010

What kind of idiots are in charge here anyway?

When I coach people about being effective in organizations something that regularly comes up is their ability to influence decisions made at the senior level. Because (with very few exceptions) most people in most organizations are rational and competent professionals with the organizations best interests at heart, any time they feel like their proposals or suggestions aren't being adopted, it can be easy for them to lose a little faith in senior ranks.

I never like hearing that because the truth is (again with very few exceptions) that most executives in most organizations are also rational and competent professionals with the organizations best interests at heart. So why don't your ideas stack up for them?

My advice is usually to look into these two things:

1 - What don't you know that they do - executives will usually have a much broader view of things and can therefore be privy to other information, plans or constraints elsewhere in the organization, that you may not be. Taking into account the things that might be invisible to you, not adopting your recommendations might well be the most beneficial course of action. In my experience, most executives are more than happy to share this information with reports who show an interest in the wider business, so just ask.

2 - What data aren't you being effective at conveying - sometimes the message just isn't getting through and therefore your decision makers don't fully understand what you're proposing and why. It happens to me; I see a lot of proposals for a lot of things (very few ill-conceived) and if the key facts aren't well summarised and the options clear, I am not able to make an effective decision. Again, the solution starts with communication. Ask why, use questioning techniques to check for understanding, find out how your audience wants things presented. I am yet to meet an executive who won't be willing to give that feedback - after all, it helps you both.

Answering these two questions usually gives people the insight they're missing to clear things up and, if it doesn't, then I guess it's always possible that you might be one of those few exceptions...

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