How to Influence Your Manager

We often tend to think that because someone is our Manager we shouldn't do anything to sway their decision making process.  We might know some better ways of doing things, but hierarchy gets in the way. Leaders today should welcome suggestions and ideas of how to do things better, and also should be open to receiving feedback […]
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We often tend to think that because someone is our Manager we shouldn't do anything to sway their decision making process.  We might know some better ways of doing things, but hierarchy gets in the way.

Leaders today should welcome suggestions and ideas of how to do things better, and also should be open to receiving feedback from the team on decisions that they make and they way forward. However, some leaders may see this as the team member being negative and disruptive and because the team member knows this are less reluctant to make their approach.

If you feel as though you ever need to influence your boss, here are some quick tips to help make your approach to them more effective.

The first step to influencing your manager is preparation.  Barging straight in with a list of problems or concerns may very well be seen as moaning, so you should pre-plan what you are going to say.  Think about the following:

See it from their point of view.  Try to consider why they make the decisions that they do.  What is driving it?  Is it profit? Is it people?  Is it for self gain (they want to be recognised)?  By understanding what drives them to make their decisions you can structure your approach to hit on those things that are important to them.

You need to make it seem important to them.  Ask yourself what is important to them.  A great question I always ask myself is 'what keeps them awake at night?'.  If you can understand what they worry about, you can influence them to think a different way by aligning your concerns or ideas to the things they stay awake thinking about at night.  You need to help them to see that it will keep them awake longer if it continues, or better still help them to sleep more.

Don't just go with problems, go with solutions.  If you know a problem exists, don't dump it on their doorstep to fix.  Take some time to think about the solutions to the problems.  Think how feasible each is and pick a few that you think will work, then align the benefits to the things that are important to them.

Define the objective of your discussion.  State what you want to achieve at the end of your discussion.  So, instead of 'Boss, we have a problem' try 'Boss, we have a problem and I need to talk to you to decide if we do suggestion 1 or suggestion 2'.

Pick the best method of communication based on their style.  Try to think, do they like detail, to they just want to get things done, are they slow at making decisions?  Consider sending all of your thoughts to them first by email if they are slower at making decisions.  Then, plan a meeting with them.  If they are faster, keep it short and focus on results and action rather than research and background.

Ask about what they won't move on.  Ask them what is non-negotiable, but push fro things that are business related and more importantly linked to law and legislation.  Once these things are agreed, start on the things that can be changed.

Highlight the consequences of not changing.  Again, link this to the things that are important to them.  Help them to see how continuing or not changing could have severe consequences.

Using the above techniques should help you to influence your manager more effectively.  If you would like more help, take a look at our Influencing Skills Training Course


David Lumley15th February 2012

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