No One Cares What You Want

“I am more than qualified to lead this new project and my VP knows it.” Harpreet is a director of product engineering at a mid-sized company headquartered in Silicon Valley. “I have the proven track record but my boss is talking about having Sam, the newest person on our team, lead this project. Why?”

Influence skills at work

You have a proposal for your boss. Maybe like Harpreet you want to lead a new project coming in. Or you want your boss to give you the green light for a couple of people on another team to work with you on your project. Or you want the go-ahead to participate in the company’s 6-month leadership program.

But the truth is, most bosses are not that concerned with what you want or hearing why it would benefit you.

It’s What Your Boss Wants That Counts

When it comes to getting what you want — when it comes to influencing others to give you what you want — the surprising truth is that focusing on yourself will kill the proposal every time.

A decision maker has the power to say yes or no to what you’re requesting or proposing. One of the most effective ways to influence a decision maker to give you what you want is to tailor your influence pitch to what the decision maker values and deems important.

This means having a solid understanding of their concerns, considerations, needs, and values and then linking your proposal to them.

What Makes a Good Pitch, Anyway?

The pitch you make to the decision maker is a value proposition with clearly defined benefits. Some decision makers will be swayed by the benefits to themselves alone. For others it will be the benefit to their team, group, project, or department that will win them over. And for many leaders, it’s the overall benefit that accrues to the organization that will be the determining factor.

Use This Checklist

Before you design your pitch, check off which of these situations applies to you. Then create your pitch with that in mind.

  • Does your proposal solve a problem or prevent one? What problem will it solve or prevent and for whom? Does the decision maker care about this problem?
  • Does your proposal improve a situation? What situation will be improved and how?  Does the decision maker care about this situation?
  • Does your proposal add value? If so, what value-and to whom? How much does the decision maker care about this value-add?

You Want To Lead That Project — How to Pitch It to Your Boss?

What do you know about your boss and what she values? What do you know about what her greatest concerns are, especially when it comes to this project?

In Harpreet’s case, he knows his VP is especially keen on developing leadership skills in all members of the team. This may be why she’s leaning toward the newest person. Harpreet also knows that she’s concerned about making sure all projects come in on time and meet specs.

With all this in mind, here’s a potential pitch that addresses these concerns.

“Project X is coming up and I’d like to take it on. Since I’ve successfully managed a recent project like this, I know the likely project issues and the difficult personalities of the people we’d be working with directly.  And since Sam is new and not yet familiar with our projects and the people he’d be working with, he could be the second on this. With us working together, I’d be able to get him up to speed quickly. And he’d then be ready to head up the next project that we’re given.”

This pitch both adds value and prevents a problem.

Successful Influence

Focusing on the decision maker’s needs and concerns is just one of the methods successful influencers use. Successful influencers are also clear about what they’re asking for before they make their pitch.

There are several other components to effective influence that I’ll be discussing in future posts, including how to make sure your pitch draws in the decision maker, how to plan for the decision maker’s potential objections, and how to anticipate and work around any colleagues who might try to block your proposal.

Question: What’s your opinion? Do you think it’s best to focus on the benefits to a decision maker when trying to influence them? Or do you have a tip to share? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Photo credit: Sam72/Shutterstock

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