They bring a great idea forward. Crickets. They highlight a business risk. They’re made to feel they’re a ‘complainer’.
And yet when their male counterparts do the same, it seems that leadership is all ears. What gives?
Well, this situation is exactly what I want to break down in today’s newsletter. Spoiler alert – some of this is based in bias and some you can actually impact.
The truth is there are a couple of factors at play here. One of those may be subconscious bias on the part of leadership. And that sucks, but it doesn’t have to end there. So instead of going deep on why bias exists and why it’s not fair (which it totally does and it totally isn’t), I’d like to instead offer some solutions to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success.
Let’s dive in.
First, you’re not alone here. As I mentioned, this is one of the top complaints I hear from my clients, and I’ve experienced it personally.
What many don’t realize is you CAN impact the way you’re perceived to reduce the chances you’ll face this.
Here are 3 key elements to successfully getting your ideas heard.
Socialize your idea to get support
Let’s face it, having someone echo your concerns or support your idea enthusiastically is going to increase the probability people will listen!
I used to think of this as ‘playing politics’ and resented the idea of having to even think about it. Now I just think it’s smart. Here’s what I would do:
If I had a new idea or strategy I wanted to raise to my leadership team, I would first start to socialize it in my 1:1s with my exec counterparts. I’d get their thoughts and feedback and even ask them whether they’d be willing to support my idea when I raised it at the leadership meeting.
As you can imagine, once I actually brought this to the table, I had a couple of respected execs ready to jump in and echo my thoughts or concerns. Pretty powerful.
I was an executive when I did this, but you can do it at any level. And if you don’t already have 1:1s set up with your counterparts, you’re going to want to do that. This is just a good idea in general as you’re building relationships and ensuring you have a broader view of what’s happening at the company.
Spending time framing your message
Framing is SO important when it comes to being heard. I often say that the way you present an idea is almost more important than the idea itself.
If you haven’t already read it, this would be a good time to go check out my November newsletter that was all about framing. You can find it here.
In short though, the 3 elements of good framing are ensuring you are:
- Clear – Use the Minto Pyramid method – start with high level facts and work your way down to the details.
- Concise – Short and sweet. Use numbered lists when making an argument.
- Compelling – Use data to quantify your argument, tie things back to business risk or growth
Depending on how important your idea is, you’ll want to spend a fair bit of time on this part.
How do you know you’ve framed something well? You’ll know because instead of resistance, you’ll get head nods and agreement.
Using the ‘so what’ factor
This could be filed under framing but I think it’s worth calling out separately because I see a lot of people struggle here. I call it the ‘so what’ factor.
What I mean is, many people make their case, but forget to tie it to the overall company goals, strategy, growth etc..
Here’s an example:
I had a client who wanted to get approval for a new headcount on her team. She went to her boss and explained that she needed to hire someone because everyone on the team was already overloaded and overworked. She needed more manpower because she couldn’t give more to the existing team.
Her request was denied.
When she brought this to me, I can’t say I was surprised. My response to her was this:
Okay, so everyone on your team is overloaded. They’re feeling too busy. So what?
My point was, she needed a more compelling argument to spend money on headcount. What were the repercussions of having a team that was overworked and overloaded? What was the risk to the overall business?
This is what she had failed to articulate to her boss.
Some examples of the ‘so what’ would be, “My team is overworked and overloaded…
- This means we’re at high risk of turnover which is going to be expensive for the business. My team members are fully ramped up and producing high quality work – if I have to bring in a new hire they’ll take 3-6 months to start producing.”
- Which means project ABC is at risk for missing the deadline by a significant margin. And this matters because project ABC is crucial if we’re going to meet company objectives XYZ.”
You get the picture… The key is not to stop at your first line of reasoning but to go a level deeper and explain how this will impact the company as a whole or the broader strategic objectives.
When it comes to being heard the best thing I ever did was to get so damn good at making my points that people had no choice but to listen to me.
And I have no doubt that you can do the same.
If you struggle with this, check out some ways to work together below.
Until next time friends… ✌️💜