Being Right Isn’t Enough

I used to think being right was the most important thing.

You know, that pleasure in the precision of resolving a complex problem into an elegant and correct answer  Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 18.29.51 (Maths was my favourite subject at school:-)

But I soon learned at work that being right is almost of no consequence – unless you can convince others to believe in your great idea, and then persuade them to help make it a reality. And that is much harder than you’d think.

A Business Development Director colleague of mine is currently trying to come to terms with the fact that, after a year of number crunching, market research and business planning, his great idea for a new, profitable, sports facility is not being taken up. Does this sound familiar?

“Why won’t they agree? it’s obvious! the proof is all there!”

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.43.52Well, there’s timing… and budget cycles… and vested interests… and personal preferences… and petty jealousies and disputes… and politics… and short-termism… and jumping to conclusions… and confirmation bias… and competition… and lethargy… and stupidity… and egos… and fear of the new… and… it’s a wonder any decisions get made at all!

So, if being right isn’t enough, what else can you do?

Find the decision-makers
Find out what their interests are, what is their angle, what aspects should you highlight to them, what information do they find persuasive? savings, or profits, or a deserving cause, or publicity? What other similar decisions have they taken, or turned down, recently?

Build support
Engage influential colleagues who can benefit from your proposal, or because they believe in similar principles. Talk through your proposal before decision-time, resolve any queries, get their input and their buy-in, and hopefully get them advocating for you.

Talk to the blockers
Sometimes the blockers are the best people to talk to early on, because they will be the first to find fault – thus giving you vital information about how to make your counter-arguments.

Sell it
What’s the best way of making the argument? Some people love weighty tomes packed with financial scenarios! others a punchy presentation; or a heart-tugging personal story from a potential beneficiary; or to be there and experience something for themselves. The big sell? or ‘drip-drip’ the idea until everyone believes in it.

Give it away
Maybe best person to make the case is not you! Who is well-connected, well-respected, and might win over the decision-makers more than you? Is your idea important enough to give to someone else to make a reality without you getting the credit?

Be patient.
And opportunistic. Wait for the right time to present your idea – when a business problem crops up that your idea can fix, or a new round of funding becomes available, or another initiative is on the skids and we need a quick win…

Be a bit wrong
Or at least allow others to be a bit right. Compromise. Incorporate other people’s ideas into your own. Aim for the win:win

Too cynical? How do you get your best ideas adopted at work?

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
Peter Drucker

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