January 28, 2011
Get buy-in on your good ideas: tips to overcome objections
The Associated Press
If you’ve ever had an idea shot down at work, you know it’s not a great feeling.
You may feel frustrated or angry. You think about how short-sighted the people in charge must be and think maybe you’ll just quit your job and take your creative genius to a company that appreciates good ideas.
But here’s the problem: If you don’t learn to do a better job of presenting your ideas, chances are good the same thing will happen over and over, no matter where you work.
If you can’t learn to deal with all those people whose aim it is to squelch your ideas, then you’re going nowhere in your career, says John P. Kotter, a Harvard University professor and leadership expert.
“We don’t even know how many people decide to give up on offering ideas because they figure it’s never going to fly after they’ve had so many ideas shot down,” Kotter says. “They may decide they’re willing to take one more [negative comment] -- but then they’re going to shut up.”
In their book “Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down,” Kotter and co-author Lorne A. Whitehead explain the kinds of attacks that dismantle good ideas -- and how to deal with those issues so that your idea can move forward.
The authors outline 24 common objections and how you can deal with them. Among them:
Why change? When someone questions why there is a need to alter a course that has worked in the past, then you should respond with, “True, but surely we have all seen that those who fail to adapt eventually become extinct.”
Money rules. When your idea is dismissed because money is the real issue -- and your idea isn’t about money -- you can say, “Extra money is rarely what builds truly great ventures or organizations.”
It’s a trivial pursuit. If your idea is attacked for not being important, don’t give up. Respond with, “To the good people who suffer because of this problem, it certainly doesn’t look small.”
It’s too limited. If you’re told your proposal doesn’t go far enough, you can answer, “Maybe, but our idea will get us started moving in the right direction and will do so without further delay.”
No one else is doing it. If you’re questioned as to why someone else hasn’t already implemented your good idea somewhere else, point out that “there really is a first time for everything, and we do have a unique opportunity.”
It didn’t work before. Shooting down your idea by saying it’s been done before is a common tactic. Just say, “That was then. Conditions inevitably change -- and what we propose probably isn’t exactly what was tried before.”
Delay, delay, delay. You may be told that now isn’t the right time for your idea, and it should be put off until something else changes. Say something like, “The best time is almost always when you have people excited and committed to make something happen. And that’s now.”
It’s too much work. That’s a genuine concern, because most people today really are overworked and underpaid. To battle that argument, respond with “Hard can be good. A genuinely good new idea, facing time-consuming obstacles, can both raise our energy level and motivate us to eliminate wasted time.”
“These kinds of arguments are targeted at everyone from 23-year-old entry-level workers to the executive vice president,” Kotter says. “Even CEOs go through this. But if you understand the arguments that will be made, then you can gain the self-confidence you need, because you’re using common sense to fight them.”
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