Often, bosses have gotten to where they are by being conservative. Even if that’s not the case, the older we get the more conservative we become. That’s really not that strange, after all for most of their lives people managed without those technologies, so why should they go and change things now?
The thing is, as technology is changing at a quite phenomenal rate and some of the new options out there are entirely changing the field, this kind of conservative mindset can be a real problem for many companies. After all, if everybody else is implementing these options and using them to leave your company in the dust, then it can become utterly essential that you change the boss’ mind or you might soon have to start looking for a new job. And if you’re going to do that, you’d like to do so on your own terms, thank you very much.
So how do you convince them? Here are some tricks to consider.
Though we should not confuse the message and the messenger, the truth is that’s exactly what we do. It makes sense, in a way. After all, we can’t consider the merits and flaws of every single thing that crosses our desk. That would just take too long. For that reason, we rely on rules of thumb. One of these is if I trust the messenger then I’m going to pay more attention to their message.
For that reason, you want to make sure that you have reputation as somebody who isn’t constantly kicking the wheels of the bus, as then they’ll just think you’re a rebel and a trouble maker. Much better to pick your battles. And if there is no chance of an idea you have being implemented, be ready to let it go. After all, a company isn’t just about you as an individual being right but also about compromising as a team member.
Also, make sure that you only get behind projects that really have an opportunity to succeed and that will really benefit your company. If you manage to get it right a few times, then your boss is far more likely to listen to you the next time around.
Make sure that what you’re suggesting has personal relevance
Your boss will have a certain viewpoint. Make sure you know what it is, so that you can frame the new technology in terms of their wants and needs. For example, if they care only about productivity, then framing something as making employees happier or making them like the boss more won’t work. Instead, you have to talk up the productivity enhancements the company will experience as a result of a happier workforce.
Similarly, if your boss is one of those people who believes that if something isn’t broken then it doesn’t need to be fixed, then the most important thing you’re going to have to do is find a way to show that what you currently have is, in fact, broken.
Another thing to consider when you want to sell your boss on a new technology is to avoid focusing on features and instead focus on benefits. For example, you won’t sell an air conditioner with ‘it can go 30 degrees!’ instead you sell it as, ‘you’ll never be hot, uncomfortable and sweaty in your house again’.
The reason that your boss is probably conservative and risk averse is that they’ve seen a huge number of technologies come and go, without many of them actually making a big difference. So why should this new technology you’re suggesting be any different?
Be objective. Don’t just admit to the upsides, but acknowledge the downsides as well. You might even make a split column where you list both the arguments for and against, much like they do at best website ratings, so that you can explore the ideas as honestly as possible.
This has the extra benefit, if it turns out that this new technology doesn’t actually end up being as groundbreaking as you initially thought, your back is at least partially covered. You didn’t sell it hard. Instead, you were objective and fair. In fact, you considered the very problems that you’re now seeing emerge.
Offer them a number of ways to implement the technology
If you frame anything as a yes we do adopt it or no we do not, you’re making it easy for them to choose the ‘no’ response. A much better strategy is to offer them different ways to implement the technology. So you can have a wild and crazy plan and a far more demure plan where you trail it in one or two departments. You can even have several different plans.
The great advantage of this kind of a strategy is that as they’re busy considering the different options, the idea that they can say ‘no’ might not even occur to them (though it probably will).
Another big advantage of this technique is that you can make the option that you think is best look far more appealing by putting it next to something else that is more expensive and less effective. This is a strategy used in sales all the time. So why not use this strategy to convince your boss?
And if all that doesn’t work? Then you let it go, at least for the moment. You should never push too hard as this can actually create resentment and make your boss instinctively refuse whatever it is your pushing – not because he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but because you’re getting on his nerves and now it’s become a point of pride.
Don’t let it get that far. Better to keep your reputation intact and try again another day. Ultimately that will make things easier down the road. And besides, there is almost always another opportunity somewhere down the road where you can try again.