From what sucked me in to my local favorites… to the steps I used to get teams to “buy” from me… to this segment: managing up. Many times we can’t just rely on the team around us, we need extra help from above. When I needed help from my leader, I could use the same recipe… just with some slight adjustments.

I was fortunate to work with many senior leaders in my Enterprise and Boeing worlds. Vice presidents, VP / General Managers, and especially C-suite leaders spin many plates and have many asks coming their way every day. Finding a way to make my priority or project on their radar… and… be something they wanted to champion or endorse, could be challenging. The #3nomorethan5 steps I would take…

Getting the boss to buy what your selling

  1. The broad benefit of your project – Knowing what needs to be done is one thing. Being able to extend the value beyond your team… that’s what gets the attention of a senior leader. Showing my boss that my idea or project can be applied beyond my team and can improve efficiency / lower costs / or benefit the entire enterprise is what can open the door to higher level support and resources. 
  2. Clues from the business landscape – What’s important to the boss? How can my project help drive those priorities forward? Aligning my activities toward things that benefit my boss and / or contributes a key component to a larger initiative allows him / her to get invested in what I’m doing. Now we’re working together on something. 
  3. Strategic partnerships – Just like I use projects to spotlight a teammate’s skills or to teach new skills to others, I explore ways my project can open doors for my leader to engage and partner with other executives that they may not normally cross paths or work with. With cross-functional leaders working toward a similar goal, there is now a larger coalition of partners / resources / support that fuels momentum of a project forward.
  4. Don’t be afraid do shift or adjust – Going back to #2, priorities can change. Being aware of how the landscape is shifting for your leader allows you to offer solutions/alternatives and quickly establish steps needed to adjust the direction of a project. I’ve also found: if I go to my leader with small wins and possible stumbles consistently, when shifts come all parties are less likely to freak out and better able to take the change in stride.
  5. Be thankful – Expressing thanks – up and down the ladder – is critical. Teammates develop and grow when I specifically acknowledge their individual contributions. Remember: your boss is a person too… and everyone appreciates being appreciated. I push myself to make sure my leader knows that I am aware of the time/resources they invested in the success of the project. With a sense of joint ownership, the output quality is higher and the foundation is in place for future project success.

When working on higher-level or enterprise-wide initiatives it’s tougher to draw a straight line from inception to execution. The scale and interconnectivity needed can take more time as my leaders do their versions of “managing up” to drive an initiative forward. Sometimes the end result isn’t what you anticipated – that can be frustrating… disappointing… and exhausting. But don’t discount all the good (the discoveries, relationships, and refinement opportunities) that can happen in the process.

One building block at at time

I have to remind myself: just because a project doesn’t end the way you want to result in what you hoped, doesn’t mean there was nothing gained. Thinking about the broad benefit of my project forces me to consider organizations beyond my team. Considering the landscape through my boss’ lens and working to align my priorities with theirs is great exercise in focus and prioritization. Creating new partnerships by introducing my leader to others or setting up an opportunity for leaders from various spaces to work together on a shared priority helps all parties grow. And if I am consistent about how I operate, am honest about how things are progressing, and shine a light on the contributions of others… I know that these are people (teammates and leaders alike) who will be open to collaborating with me again in the future.

This three-part series allowed me to share what draws me as a buyer… and… the similar techniques and tips I’ve used to sell ideas/projects to my teams and bosses. None of these are silver bullets. All of them can be adjusted and adapted for your personal leadership styles and situational needs.  

People buy from who they like. And by investing in relationships and building trust, they’ll not just buy… they’ll become great partners for the long haul.

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