MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you get buy in for a new idea? is written by Joni Klippert, vice president of products at VictorOps.
At any company, developing and implementing new ideas typically takes a lot of two very important business assets: time and resources. But at a startup, these two things are arguably your most important commodities.
On a quarterly basis, I have to propose ideas for our product roadmap that we will build out over the subsequent six months. In the startup world, six-months may as well be an eternity. Companies can change drastically in that time, so when I bring a new idea to the table I need to be confident in its likelihood for success and clearly map out my plan of action.
My own personal conviction in these new ideas is the key to successful adoption. My team looks to me to provide guidance and support, and if I waver they will likely adopt the same mindset. Not because I’m the best leader in the world, but because that’s a natural reaction. I need to consistently stand by and re-validate my ideas on a regular basis to ensure everyone understands the value of them. However, sometimes confidence is not enough to convert my co-workers on a hard sell, despite by best efforts. This is especially true when working with engineers. To crack their tough exterior, I often need to provide hard numbers and data to really move the needle in my favor. From market analysis to customer calls, each one of my ideas needs to be based on strong qualitative and quantitative data.
I used to read every single customer support email that came into our business, even after we hired an entire team to do this. Why? Because the data in those communications is critical to receiving buy in. Staying on top of customer requests — both qualitatively and quantitatively — enables me to develop very impassioned opinions, backed by data that can help build our roadmap. Additionally, the content of these emails gives me a better feel for the needs of the business as a whole and how we can better support market demand. After all, you need to be able to demonstrate how your proposed initiative will move the business forward.
I also rely extensively on shared judgment. When I look around the table at our management team, I can honestly say I have trust in every person in the room. We typically have a shared understanding around the types of decisions that are good for the business. This isn’t groupthink, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t disagree — but there’s comfort in knowing that each person is an expert in his or her domain, and their feedback is invaluable when it comes to both developing an idea and encouraging others to get on board.
When bringing your ideas to the table, even when backed with strong data, don’t immediately expect buy in. Instead, bring a plan for action and anticipated results; be confident in your thoughts and suggestions. I once had a very bright employee who would suggest ideas about “better” ways to do things already in process. While many were valid, they were only ideas. Ideas that represented a tremendous amount of work for well, me! These ideas were great in theory, but I was never told why they were right for our business or what gains we could expect if they were to be implemented.
The best employees bring more than ideas; they bring supporting evidence. They focus on one or two aspects and prove how they can be altered in the company’s best interest. Essentially, they take charge and they make the change happen. There is a lot that goes into a fully baked idea — far more than some would expect. But if you prepare, do your research and prove to your coworkers the value your idea can bring to the table it becomes much less of an uphill battle, allowing for faster implementation and the best use of resources.
Read all responses to the MPW Insider question: How do you get buy in for a new idea?
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