6 keys to pitching your boss a new idea

Using crisis intervention techniques can be a good model for dealing with reactions to your bright idea

Victor Hugo famously said, “No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” He apparently never worked for some of my bosses. Those of us who believe that people respond rationally to rationality are probably thinking irrationally. 

Is it possible to present a new idea without suffering consequences? Yes, if we remember that we are in love with our idea and that our superiors are in love with the status quo. A new idea, by definition, is a threat to “normal.” Our little lizard brains are wired to keep our lives in a steady state. Something out of the ordinary will bring out the crisis mode in us to some degree — even a good thing like your 10- year plan to reduce fleet maintenance costs.

Using crisis intervention techniques can be a good model for dealing with reactions to your bright idea. Based on the six-step model of crisis intervention developed by Dr. Burl Gilliland and offered by Richard K. James in his text “Crisis Intervention Strategies” (6th edition Cengage publishing, pages 39-40), these steps can help you guide your supervisor through the ‘crisis’ of your bright idea.

1. Defining the Problem
In this case, the problem is not what your idea proposes to solve. The problem is the crisis of change — going against the status quo — that you've created in the mind of your boss. 

Listening is a skill critical at this stage and continues to be important throughout all the steps. Your supervisor will be thinking that they are examining your idea rationally. 

Their problem is not that they don't understand your plan. Their problem is all of the yellow flashing lights, white flags, and warning buzzers going off in their head when you hand them your file folder full of brilliance. 

2. Ensuring Client Safety
You must make your boss feel safe while considering your idea. Keep everything calm and non-threatening. Consider your past relationship and what ulterior motives he or she might be wondering about. 

Focus on the person, not your proposal. If the response to an idea falls flat but you just have to push it on up the chain of command anyway, be prepared to be at your current rank until you or your supervisor retires. 

3. Providing Support
Your boss won't take your idea and run with it no matter how good it is. A good supervisor is already doing what a good cop does on the street - considering all possible outcomes with priority given to thoughts of catastrophic failure. Be ready to assure that your idea can exist within the organization's people and structure. It is important that the risks of implementing your idea will be diffused and not rest on your supervisor's shoulders. 

4. Examining Alternatives
You will often get counter offers on your idea. These may seem to gut the essence of your original idea or send it in a different direction. Objections are opportunities. Don't let your pride destroy the dialog that questions bring. Help your supervisor accept your proposal by listening, not bristling. 

5. Making Plans
An idea is just some brain cells rubbing together. A plan is a step toward reality. Help your supervisor plan your next contact or next step to implementation. This is the scariest part of the process and the best place for an idea to die. 

6. Obtaining Commitment
Your supervisor won't follow through unless he or she takes an action step with your proposal. This is the time for your subtle salesmanship to shine. 

“Would next week be a good time to check back to see if you have any thoughts on this?” or “Do you think it has merit enough to kick it upstairs?” will let you know if your idea is headed to the shredder.

If power came from bright ideas I'd be Earth's Emperor, but there's nothing quite like the career-stifling effect of a good idea. The next time you have a proposal, remember that you pose some degree of threat to your boss. Treat them carefully.

Recommended for you

Copyright © 2023 Police1. All rights reserved.