Why is "no" so often the default in corporate life? That's because it's a lot less risky to maintain the status quo. You can make it easy for people to say "yes" to you, however, by focusing on obtaining social proof that demonstrates your credibility and authority in advance.
- Why is no so often the default in corporate life? You want to launch a pilot? No. You want to revamp the intake procedure? No. You want to explore the Chinese market? No. That's because it's a lot less risky to maintain the status quo. We all know that from reading our Dilbert cartoons. Of course, the people who say no aren't wrong. There are risks involved in any decision and if they're big ones, the person who said yes is on the hook for their job and their professional reputation.
So if you want to get people to say yes to you, there's a simple formula. You have to reduce their perceived risk. In fact, ideally, you want to convince them it's riskier to say no and leave things as they are than it would be for them to try something new. Here's how to do it. First, you need to frame the existing situation. Let's say you want to simplify a process in your organization, they may be thinking, well, it's worked fine for the past 10 years, why change it? You need to ramp up the urgency and show them the costs, gather data about the inefficiencies in the process.
How long does it take to fill out the forms? How many times a day or a week are they filled out? How many man hours is that per year? Based on an average salary, how much is that costing your company? If you can make the case that eliminating two questions from the form, which saves five minutes each time, could result in a multimillion dollar annual savings, your boss is probably going to start listening. Next, you need to demonstrate your credibility. Remember, you don't just have to persuade them, you also need to give them ammunition to defend you when they present the idea to their superiors.
So think about your points of credibility and try to assemble at least two or three. For instance, one point of credibility is the amount of research you've done. You didn't just come up with this idea one morning in the shower and then told your boss. Instead, you've spent weeks researching the best practices of more than 25 competitors to see what they're doing and how you can apply that knowledge to your firm. Another point of credibility is your own background. If you have a credential, like an MBA, or a professional certification, this is a good time to make sure your boss remembers that.
For instance, you could casually throw in something like this situation reminded me of a case study we tackled in my MBA program so I started researching it further. You're showcasing your expertise and using it to benefit your company. Finally, another possible point of credibility is having actual data. So if the change would feel big and risky to your boss, if it were implemented on a wide scale, propose a small pilot, something time-limited and reversible. If it fails, no big deal, no one will notice, but if it's successful, you have proof and you can leverage that to roll it our more broadly.
Change is risky, let's face it, but with these steps, you can make it much safer and easier for your boss to say yes.
- Getting someone to like you right away
- How to be viewed as immediately credible
- Overcoming a bad first impression
- Persuading the people you already know
- Sharing your ideas and getting noticed
- Communicating with authority
- Overcoming naysayers