June 16, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

5 ways to get people to buy into your idea at work

6 min read
5 ways to get people to buy into your idea at work

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Senior executives like to say their business fosters a collaborative culture, but many professionals don’t feel confident to voice an opinion. So, when you’ve got what you think is a great idea, how can you get the ears of your senior colleagues (without ruffling feathers)? Five business leaders give us their top tips.

1. Demonstrate the benefits

Thierry Martin, senior manager for data and analytics strategy at Toyota Motors Europe, says the best way to get people to buy into your idea without upsetting people is to show them the potential benefits.

“Demonstrate it yourself and maybe even make prototypes,” he says. “Show people how easy it is. For example, if people can see an app or they have access to data, then they’re more likely to say, ‘Oh, I understand that.'”

Martin gives a recent example, where he explained to Toyota Europe’s VP of logistics how his team could use the Snowflake Marketplace to get hold of insights.

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“I asked him, ‘What’s your number one question your need to answer?’ I told him I was sure we could find the answer to that question in the data,” he says, speaking to ZDNET on a video interview.

Martin took the senior executive to his PC and searched the Marketplace for logistics data.

“And one minute later he was saying, ‘That’s exactly what I need,'” he says. “So, then he saw how easy it was to find the information and he was really convinced by the technology.”

Martin’s team now has a workshop set up with the whole logistics team in a few weeks — and he encourages other professionals to adopt a similar show-and-tell approach.

“Just coming with a generic presentation won’t cut it. People will hear that kind of thing from a consulting company. Show them what your idea means.”

2. Draw on your fresh perspective

Andy Moore, chief data officer at Bentley Motors, says professionals must have a clear message — and their senior managers should be receptive, too.

“Any leader I know is more than happy to engage in an intelligent conversation,” he says.

Moore says younger professionals should never feel their viewpoint isn’t as valid as someone senior who has 10 or 20 years of experience.

“That’s the thing I love about having a young team – they’ve grown up with a phone in their hands, and, therefore, they’re digitally native with a different perspective,” he says, speaking with ZDNET at the London leg of Snowflake’s Data Cloud World Tour.

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Moore says smart companies have recognized that great ideas can bubble up from any level of the organization and professionals should grab the opportunity to engage.

“I think the culture change we have seen is that, rather than a senior executive having the only opinion that counts, the more modern leadership style is about being open to different viewpoints,” he says.

“When we talk about inclusion in the workplace and feeling like you belong, a key element is being open to ideas from anywhere in the business. A different perspective is so important.”

3. Listen to what the business wants

Sue Walker, cybersecurity manager at energy giant RWE, says her organization has a range of techniques to help professionals share their ideas.

“We have program boards, and we work together with the rest of the business,” she says. “I can’t stress enough how much working as a team helps. We also have a high-level business strategy. And in our team, the security strategy will drive some of our initiatives, too.”

Yet Walker also recognizes it can be tough for IT professionals to turn bits and bytes into a language that line-of-business professionals understand.

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“Don’t leave techies and the business in a room together for too long because one confuses the other. You need that gap between them.”

Walker’s solution to this challenge at RWE is to draw on experienced engagement professionals who ensure business and IT are aligned.

“Having a business engagement manager, who looks up to stakeholders, brings in new business, and builds awareness, is crucial,” she says, speaking with ZDNET at SailPoint Navigate in London.

Walker says the key to turning a nice idea into a working solution is listening to what the business wants.

“They’re the people who are going to be using it, from the front-end perspective at least,” she says.

“The functionalities behind it, we have to administer, but it has to be working and useful for the business itself.”

4. Be prepared to reframe your question

Bev White, CEO at recruitment specialist Nash Squared, says getting people to listen to your opinion is about taking the higher ground.

“What you don’t want to do is push people into a corner — because if you’re in a corner, you come out fighting and defending your patch saying things like, ‘This is my view and this is what I believe.’ You’re not listening at that point. And no one’s hearing you,” she says.

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“So, to take the higher ground, what you need to do is reframe the point that you’re looking at and say, ‘What problem are we trying to solve here? What are the many ways that we can solve it?'”

White says reframing your question in that way makes people curious.

“At that point, it’s a bit like loosening a table. A table is quite rigid often, isn’t it? But if you can get it moving a bit more, you’ll get people to step away from their corner and start seeing things another way,” she says to ZDNET in a video interview.

“And you’re not threatening them, and you’re not challenging them. But what you’re doing is saying, ‘Let’s encourage each other. Let’s understand that there’s another side to this debate and another way of being collaborative.'”

5. Work for someone who’ll listen

Lisa Diehl, director of consumer care at Freshpet, says her organization has an inherently collaborative environment, which makes speaking out easier.

“Our CEO has an open ear,” she says. “He’ll come by my area and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ There’s a lot of communication that happens.”

Diehl says this collaborative culture means leaders are visible and professionals aren’t afraid to speak up.

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“In the 18 months that I’ve been here, I haven’t seen any issues where somebody might be afraid to say something,” she says in a one-to-one video chat with ZDNET.

“If I walk into a Petco or PetSmart and I see one of our refrigerators is empty, I’m sending that right over to our retail team to say, ‘Look, we’ve got an empty fridge here.'”

Diehl says working for a company where you know your opinions are going to be listened to makes it much easier to speak out.

“We’re a growing company, but we’re really trying to stay with that small family culture, where we’re all really working together,” she says. 

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