By Mindy Wolfle
February 11, 2016
I recently had a conversation with a key staff member of a not-for-profit who has begun a new initiative to grow membership. Her concept, within the purview of the work she is charged with accomplishing, is innovative and the early results are promising. She contacted me to explore doing a write up about this new endeavor, with the hope of using it as a mechanism for publicity, social media sharing and other means of broadcasting news. It sounded like a no-brainer, if one failed to look any further.
My first question seemed obvious, at least to me. “Do you have buy-in from your executive director and/or president of the board of directors?”
She wasn’t quite sure what I meant. I rephrased my question.
“Is the executive director aware of your new initiative and does he feel it’s a good one?”
It was at this point I learned that this new way of growing and enhancing membership was a secret. Now I was getting frustrated.
“How could it be a secret? Why haven’t you shared it?”
Her reply made me realize that she thought she could simply proceed on her own…and she was afraid of approaching the boss. As I think it is generally known, no one operates in a vacuum.
I’m sharing this story for the simple reason that even well-educated, accomplished professionals get stuck in mud when it comes to pitching their ideas to senior management. They can lack confidence in themselves and what they’re proposing, or in this case, actually already doing. Believe me when I tell you, it is a clever, nonthreatening win-win program, perhaps new for this organization, but not at all off the beaten path.
So, how does this relate to the rest of us? Here are a few tips on getting what you want in the workplace:
- First and foremost, you need to have open communications with your superiors. This needn’t be something that instills dread. Yes, some bosses breathe fire. But that fire can be tamed with straightforward communication. Fire breathers don’t expect people to approach them with confidence; it shakes up their equilibrium. You have the ability to shift those dynamics. You are offering a service within the parameters of your position that benefits your organization as a whole and each stakeholder. Good news travels fast.
- The best way to approach a plan is to write a proposal. Give the ultimate decision-maker all the information he or she might need to get the buy-in you’re seeking. Take time to think it out with all the implications: costs, investment of time, desired outcome, use of resources, how you’ll track success and anything else that could come up in a discussion. Write a draft; hone it until you’re satisfied that you’ve covered all your bases and anticipated questions.
- Set up an in-person meeting to discuss the proposal. Be affirmative. Be poised. Know what you’re talking about. Only you need to know that you are nervous. No one has ever succeeded in a discussion that began with, “I’m not sure if you’re going to like this.”
- Don’t give up. An excellent initiative should be pursued zealously. It would a real shame to drop an idea because you are hesitant to engage others in the process.
Here’s a motto to live by, courtesy of Maya Angelou: “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!”
Mindy Wolfle, a member of Women Economic Developers of Long Island, Direct Marketing Association of Long Island and the Social Media Association, is president of Neptune Marketing LLC, chief marketing officer of Vishnick McGovern Milizio, LLP, and an instructor of business writing and not-for-profit marketing in Hofstra University’s continuing education program.