How to Influence Decision Making From the “D Suite” or VP Office
Runner’s Ruminations is my collection of thoughts and ideas that I’ve processed while running. Sometimes these things come to me out of nowhere once I hit the trail, other times I actively go running in an attempt to unravel some of the persistent thoughts rattling around in my head. More often than not, after a good run, I’m able to make sense of things, put them to “paper”, and move on to something new.
I recently found myself thinking about leadership teams and the sometimes challenging role of folks who wield a lot of influence but aren’t the ultimate decision-makers. If you find yourself in a role within an organization where you have some decision-making power but are not the ultimate decision-maker you may feel stymied or suppress by your CEO or company owner. Essentially, you’re not the head of the organization but managing from the shoulder. The view from the shoulder gives you great insight into how the company is run while still being connected to day to day operations.
In this position, it can become important to find strategies for selling your ideas to your CEO and getting buy-in when faced with resistance or lack of understanding. Oftentimes, the Director or VP has a detailed understanding of day to day operations and a more “boots on the ground” perspective that informs policy and process proposals. If that perspective isn’t shared by the CEO, it’s the burden of the Director or VP to make a compelling case and here are three tips for pulling that off:
Present the Data
Whether it’s a policy or a process proposal, a staffing situation, or a product-related idea you must present your case with supporting data. “Trust me, we should do this” won’t (and shouldn’t) fly with your CEO. Look for documented best practices. Find articles that support your proposal. Information and examples from your industry and your competitors can be especially compelling. If you’re unable to find specific data to support your idea, you may look for information that demonstrates that doing nothing or using the current approach has been detrimental to other organizations.
Anticipate the Objections
Put yourself in your CEO’s shoes and pitch the idea to yourself. Assuming you’ve worked with them for some time, you should be able to anticipate any concerns or objections they may have. Might they have cost objections? Is this good timing for the organization? Will your idea have an impact on other divisions or departments? Be sure to have a response to each objection you identify. If you don’t have a solution, you’re not ready to pitch yet.
Pitch a Pilot
Once you’ve made a compelling, data-supported pitch to your CEO you may still get some resistance. One option that has served me well is to pitch a pilot. Depending on the scale of the idea or proposal, there may be an opportunity to try it out for a short period of time. You will need to balance the timeline for an effective pilot against the risk to the organization, but if you’re confident in your idea, push for a demonstration period to prove it!
For more strategies and ideas, check out these great articles: