28 Feb

5 Tips for Managing Your Boss and Selling Your Ideas Upward

Managing Upward

There is one problem we’ve all encountered that can be simultaneously frustrating and disappointing. As an innovative leader and team player you present a great idea to your boss. But the boss doesn’t accept the idea or promote it upward through the organizational chain of command. Instead he or she is just indifferent, believes it isn’t doable or realistic, and says “No.”
To help you succeed at overcoming this kind of resistance here are five helpful tips and guidelines. They are based on my own experience as both the person offering ideas and the boss across the table responsible for evaluating ideas with the best interest of the entire organization in mind.

  1. Alignment is the key

    No idea will fly unless it fully aligns with your organization’s brand and plan. But even if your idea doesn’t appear at first glance to fit within the framework of those goals, if it is a good enough idea you can still sell it. You just have to present it in such a way that it conforms to and resonates with the objectives of your company – and your superiors.

  2. Perform due diligent research

    To make a compelling presentation, you have to be committed enough to your idea to give it the attention it deserves. Do your homework. Crunch the numbers. If the budget is an obstacle, look for other ways to save or calculate specific value-adding benefits such as increased sales or higher productivity. Think of your audience – which means the key decision makers. Survey them. Get to know what they want. Then target them with pinpoint focus and show how your idea solves their problems and gets them where they want to be.

  3. Write up a solid business plan

    For your ideas to be taken seriously, you have to take the presentation just as seriously. Don’t just toss an idea on the table. You need to get people really invested in it, and that means you need to create a comprehensive business plan that you can present to your investors. In this case the “investors” are your teammates and your boss. To see your ideas implemented at work you have to be persuasive and convincing. That also means you cannot slack off on other duties to devote yourself to promoting your idea. If anything, you need to distinguish yourself by superior performance, teamwork, and productivity – because that will give you the credibility needed to get people to listen to and support you.

  4. Cultivate strength through consensus

    To get a big idea accepted you have to campaign and try to get support from a broader coalition of strategic allies. Maybe your idea will also help other teams, departments, or divisions. If that’s true then dialog with them and use their input to help hone your idea while also articulating how it is valuable in a scalable way that can benefit others. But be careful. You do not want to risk being seen as someone who is going over your boss’s head. That can be a big mistake, so you have to exercise diplomacy and not turn a fact-finding mission into a power play that could backfire.

  5. Feed the fragile ego

    If you are too attached to taking credit for your ideas, you’ll never succeed at selling them – and you’ll never be a really outstanding leader. The most successful leaders know how to let other people take credit for their own ideas, when necessary. That’s how you get other people to become personally motivated about your idea and passionate to support it. We all want to know “What’s in it for me?” and that is especially true for egotistical bosses who have a fragile lack of self confidence. Make your boss think the idea is their own and it will sail through every time. So solicit their help and feedback and try to get them involved in the process so they can also feel fully involved in taking some of the credit for a great idea.

Following these guidelines will dramatically improve your chances of success. But obviously if you are going to follow these steps you need to avoid jumping the gun. A million dollar idea is not worth a dime if it gets squashed and never sees the light of day. You will likely need to lay the groundwork for really innovative ideas. Sell them first in concept and theory. After people embrace an idea on that level you can illustrate it in a practical nuts-and-bolts way that correlates with dollars and cents and the company agenda.


As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.

Illustra Consulting
Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

1-800-267-3245, [email protected]
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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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800-267-3245, [email protected]

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