When your ideas get shot down
The nature of your work requires from you constant non-structured decisions and solutions. You feel comfortable in this setting. In fact, you believe that the solutions you offer are unique and insightful. Except for one thing – your boss doesn’t always share your vision and enthusiasm. Sounds familiar?
This article will help you to go step-by-step through the factors that may cause this lack of agreement.
Lost in translation
Your solution may not necessarily be bad and, at the same time, your superior may not be close-minded. Chances are that the message you deliver is not the same as what your boss receives. Ever heard of the phrase “The map is not a territory” created by Alfred Korzybski? It’s one of the founding principles of NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming). This principle highlights the difference between how we imagine something, based on a “map”, and how this actually looks.
If you think of your thoughts as a territory, then the words that you use to communicate them form a map. The map can be understood differently by those who are presented with it. To get the most exact representation into your interlocutors’ head, you should understand how they work. You should use precisely the words and expressions that won’t allow for double-interpretation. As a result, you will highlight better the ideas you want to stress.
Reverse engineering of the solution
Your boss has assigned to you an issue to resolve and you came up with an excellent solution. Or so do you think. First of all, test it by asking yourself the following questions:
•How will this solution align with my company’s goals and objectives?
•What pain points of the company am I addressing?
•How does it fit in my boss’ goals and objectives?
•What is expected of me?
Simple as it may sound, most of the times we get lost in our perception of the topic. Since we are confident that the solution we came up with is the best, we believe it provides a resolution to the problem. We just don’t get it.
However, when we start to chunk the questions listed above, we will discover that our view needs realignment.
When your boss assigns a task to you, he or she will have specific expectations. Some of these are communicated, some of these are not. What you have to do is to seek as much clarity as possible by directing questions to your boss. In doing so you will receive the additional guidance you need.
Creating the solution primarily based on a guesswork and personal perception won’t get you far. Clarifying the expectations by the means of the questions is usually very welcomed and not seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence. Therefore, before you start working on the solution, get all the information in terms of the output structure and specific deliverables. Put yourself in the shoes of your boss and reverse engineer the final solution.
Pitfalls of communication
Effective communicators don’t rely on only one way of conveying a story. Instead, they craft each message to target audience. In other words, you need to speak the same language as your recipient. The problem with people who repeat “This is the way I am” is that they are not making an effort to show respect to the listener. In doing so, they harm themselves without realising this. This happens because they are perceived as arrogant.
Each of us has different communication style. We are all unique individuals, which links communication to psychology and people reading. You can learn it, but it does require effort.
There are various profiling tools helping to identify personality type. This gives you the possibility to craft the most suitable message to your interlocutor. The key is to start paying more attention to voice intonation, body language and facial expressions of people we engage with. By observing this we will learn more on shaping the message to achieve the best outcome. With time this will become natural and intuitional for us. Check the frameworks for personality types available online. Once you master one, your communication will become much more effective.
Improving the ways to present your ideas effectively
We’ve covered the link between expected outcome and our perception of it, ways of the presenting the idea and reading your audience to adjust the message. Now its the time to learn how to structure the work so that it becomes a step-by-step execution and not simply a chaotic submergence into the work flow.
• Timeline: start with identifying major stages of work and assigning the dates of completion for each. This way you can reduce both, procrastination and burn out. If your colleagues distract you and this makes it hard to stick to the timeline – estimate the time you need to devote every day on work on the task and block your calendar, so that people will not disturb you;
• Do your homework: research the solutions already implemented for similar problems and existing possibilities with their evaluation. If you are working on a project – post completion audits for similar projects in the past are a very beneficial source of information, especially for problems which appeared unexpectedly;
• Scenario planning: try to think of different externalities which may arise along the way. Creating a plan to follow in each of the situation will help to hedge against uncertainty;
• Present possible problems: if the solution you are working on has potential to fail, do not try to sugarcoat this. List all the identifiable risks, estimate their impact, propose the ways to manage them and present this with your solution. Remember – we can’t eliminate all the risk. Organisations need to accept the risks within their risk appetite;
• Resources: financial, human and equipment;
• Business plan: presenting your solution in the form of a business plan will impose a predetermined structure on your work and help to think of the solution holistically;
• Visuals & data: data is an important part of any proposal, but not everyone needs the same level of details. Try to present your findings in a nice and eye-catching form. Dashboards are a good example of this visual representation. If your skills allow you to make it interactive it’s even better.
I am sure this piece has shown nothing new to you. We all know how to structure our work and what are the obstacles that may arise on the way. But we forget. Forget to think of everything not immediately apparent. Fail to remember that we need to deliver solution expected of us and not a visionary revolution. Cease to consider that people react differently to communication styles and that people are still people and sometimes act irrationally.
The art is in remembering all of these any time you want your boss to get it.