Do you ever struggle to get your ideas heard at work? One of our readers did. She shared:
“I have great ideas, and I run them by my business leader. He says they’re great, too, but first, we have to do this thing or that. Then nothing happens. I feel like I’m being limited in reaching my potential because I can’t get my ideas heard. So Darcy, what should I do?”
If that’s ever happened to you, join the club.
Many times, we have these brainstorms and we want to share them and apply them to our workplace. But all we hear is . . .
How can you get your ideas heard at work? 3 strategies (and scripts)
In my coaching work with up-and-coming leaders, I’ve tested three strategies that significantly increase your opportunity to not only to be heard, but to get your ideas put into action.
I’ve included scripts you can adapt to your specific situation, too.
Strategy 1: Be Clear at the Start on What You Want to Happen Next
Why don’t people act on your great ideas?
Often, it’s one of two extremes:
- They don’t know what you want from them. You’ve presented your idea but you haven’t shared a clear next step to move it forward. It’s easy to say no when we don’t know what to do next.
- They believe you want too much from them. You’ve painted a picture that feels overwhelming or that just looks like more work. It’s easy to say no when the steps look too big .
You’ve got to be clear at the very beginning about what you want to happen at the end.
To combat these two extremes, consider sharing the idea first with absolutely no expectations of the other person.
That may seem a little shocking –after all, you likely don’t just want to get your ideas heard, but put into action!
But in our complex, collaborative workplaces, giving someone the permission to just listen allows you to put them at ease.
It significantly increases your chances of them contributing and encouraging the next step.
What to Say
The conversation may sound like this:
- Right now, I’m not looking for you to take any action. I just want to plant the seed and get your initial input, and then we can decide together what might be worth digging into further.
- There’s nothing to do immediately–I just want to bring you in the loop on what I’m seeing and thinking about this topic.
- I’m not looking for any answers today–I’d just like you to listen for now, okay?
Remember, say this early in your conversation, not afterward. And be comfortable walking away from the first conversation without resolution. You’re simply planting a seed.
Strategy 2: Connect the Idea to a Bigger Problem or Pain
You might think it’s obvious how this idea helps your company make money, save money, save time, or save energy.
But your listener–the person you want to hear and get onboard with your idea–might not connect the dots.
That doesn’t mean they’re dumb or unaware. It may simply be that you’ve been inside your brain thinking about this idea for a while–and they can’t see exactly what you see.
So if you want to get your idea heard, you have to connect the dots to a bigger problem–something the organization is already investing resources to solve.
This takes challenging yourself to think more strategically and to look outside your role and department.
It might involve digging into the numbers of your business–dollars, hours, percentages. After all, numbers are the language of business, and they get people’s attention.
It may mean knowing how your listener is measured and rewarded. What does she care about most? Where’s her pain?
What to Say
Once you’re clear on how your idea connects to a bigger problem–a problem your listener cares about, too–the conversation might sound like this:
- As you know, we’ve been focusing as a department on customer retention. In fact, last year, we lost 20% of our long-term customers. I know you’re working on several initiatives to understand why, but I had an idea I wanted to propose to connect more closely to our existing customers right now.”
- When I heard our CEO explain why we need to cut costs right now, I started thinking about the project you’re leading to cut costs in our department by 10%. I think I can help and had an idea to share with you.
If your good idea isn’t connected to relieving some pain, something that important to whoever you’re pitching it to – then even the best ideas are just going to fall flat.
Strategy 3: Engage in Fierce Follow-Up
Now you’ve planted seeds. And like any seed, it may take time to grow.
But it won’t grow if you don’t tend to it.
Follow-up is the secret to getting your ideas heard and making things happen at work.
Your idea needs a champion. A leader. If you care enough about the idea, you have to keep shepherding it along.
(Also, if you used the strategy described above where you took your listener off the hook for immediate action, congrats! You’ve already set yourself up to follow up–and it’ll be expected.)
What to Say
- I’m just checking in on the conversation we had about my idea to do X. I’d like to suggest a couple of specific next steps.
- It’s been a few [days/weeks] since we talked about my idea of X, and now that you’ve had a chance to mull it around, I’d like to get your perspective about what I can do next.
- I know we’re all busy, but I want to keep the ball moving forward to explore my idea of X. Can we schedule 30 minutes this week to dive into it deeper?
If nothing happens immediately, resist the urge to make up dangerous, progress-stopping stories in your head.
You know the ones. They sound like this:
- If this was a good idea, they would have agreed to do this already, so I guess I was wrong.
- Since I haven’t heard anything, I guess this is proof no one cares about what I think.
- I must not have been very effective at proposing my idea. I should just shut up and do my work.
No! This isn’t about you or your lack of effective persuasion. In fact, in today’s collaborative workplaces, it’s rare that any action gets taken without several conversations.
But what if it’s not working?
If you’ve followed up over and over and you’re still not getting any traction, ask this:
- Could you help me understand something? I know that you care about [problem or pain], and we talked a while ago about how my idea of X could result in Y. But we don’t seem to be making progress. What do you need me to do differently so that we can move ahead?
Once you put the question out there, then be quiet and listen.
That silence–even if it feels uncomfortable–is to create that space for them to think.
It’s also a chance for you to learn what barriers might exist–real or imagined.
And, it’s an opportunity for you to decide whether you want to continue pushing through those barriers, or move on to a new idea.
(For strategies & scripts on how to have a tough conversation, read my article here.)
Hey—want more help?
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What’s Next for You?
Is it time to get your ideas heard at work? Put these strategies and scripts to work today, and you’ll propose the ideas that make a difference in your company and career going forward.
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“My Skills Are Not Being Utilized” (& What to Do If That’s You)