How do I influence my boss?
by Bryan Chuang
As I engage professionals from various industries in my field of work, I began to realise that all of them have asked this question at some point in their career: "How do I influence my boss?"
“The ‘chain of command’ in my organisation takes away any influencing power that I have.”
“Is there a more effective way of getting my superior to ‘buy’ my idea?”
“I feel that I am just taking orders; my boss does not want to listen to me!”
The fact is, they’re not alone. As an employee myself, I also struggle to find a breakthrough in this area. Therefore, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on possible ways we could go about influencing our bosses.
Let our boss know that he or she can trust us.
We know that trust is the foundation to every healthy relationship. The same goes for the boss-employee relationship. No matter how great our idea may be, if trust is lacking, we’ll not be able to exert effective influence over anyone. Showing competence in our job responsibilities, which in turn contributes to the attainment of our team or departmental objectives, is one way to build real trust. But competence alone isn’t sufficient. The trust-building process has to be nurtured by exhibiting a genuine concern for our boss’ wellbeing, so that personal trust is also built.
- See from our boss’ perspective.
What are the concerns that keep our bosses awake at night? What are his or her goals and priorities? It could be in the areas of cost-cutting, customer relationship management, team morale, innovation of products and services, and etc. With this perspective, we can better help our bosses to see how our ideas and proposals can solve their pain points too, and that we’re on the same side.
- Possess strong conviction.
I believe the primary reason why we fail to influence our bosses is due to the lack of our personal conviction. We may be too quick to raise the white flag when our ideas or opinions are challenged. How strongly do we believe in our ideas? How strongly do we feel that our opinions need to be taken into account for the benefit of the team, department, or even the entire organisation? By developing strong convictions and standing by them, you’re opening up opportunities for dialogue and creative tension, which often lead to a deeper exploration of how idea might or might not work - which is an influencing process itself.
By leveraging on success stories of how our ideas have worked before or how others have obtained breakthrough by adopting similar ideas, we can build conviction bit by bit and strengthen our influence day by day.
The ability to influence is not based on organisational hierarchy. Yes, we do need to respect the authority who is above us, but let us also remember that we possess the power to influence if we start building trustworthy relationships with our bosses that create a safe space for us to voice our convictions.
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