The first step to getting the boss’s buy-in

They’re senior to you – but you want them to listen to you. To buy into your idea. Or at least give you the time of day.

So where do you begin?

Let’s start with a question. How quickly do you make up your mind about a person or a situation?

In the first five minutes? The first three minutes?

Probably not. In fact you’ll have made that decision within 90 seconds.

You can change that initial perception, obviously – but if you get the first 90 seconds right you’ll get a big payoff further down the line.

So here’s a simple model for any interaction – and it’s all about the way you design your approach. It could be a phone call. A meeting. Or even a corridor conversation. And we call this model:

“Why, What, How”

Why         The reason for meeting or talking.
What        The benefit to the other person of having the conversation.
How          How you’re going to use their time.

Most people will say why they want a meeting. Likely they’ll say what they themselves need, and not mention the benefit to the person they’re talking to. And how often do meetings you attend have an agenda? Yet the lack of an agenda is usually the reason for those endless talking shops we all hate.

So, you’re asking for buy-in from a busy person who really values their time. You need to start by answering a key question.

What kind of person are you approaching?

How do they think? What motivates them – and what doesn’t?

Myers-Briggs profiles are a superb tool for understanding other people better – so we’ll deal with that huge topic in other blogs. For the moment, just consider what you know about them, and tailor your why, what, how to match.

We’ll use an example suggested by a couple of recent workshop participants (watch the video below). They wanted to approach their boss with an idea for a new advert they weren’t 100% sure about.

A cool and logical boss (Myers-Briggs type “T”)

They’ll have to approve the advert anyway. So giving feedback on the concept right way will save him or her (and everyone else) a lot of time. Especially, of course, if they don’t like the idea. It will also reinforce their perception that they are in control of the process.

An empathetic and friendly boss (Myer-Briggs type “F”)

Stress how useful you would find their input, because of the value you place on their experience. That reinforces trust, and makes them feel good about helping you.

A reserved and reflective boss (Myers-Briggs type “I”)

Explain your three-point agenda (Why three? Because people like threes!). For example: (1) why you need their help, (2) what you want them to do – e.g. simply look at the advert – and (3) how it will help.

A highly organised boss (Myers-Briggs type “J”)

A similar approach is likely to appeal here – people who organise their own lives efficiently tend to dislike surprises, so a clear agenda is important to them.

An intuitive boss (Myers-Briggs type “N”)

People like this will respond to an appeal to their imagination – because they’ll like the idea of getting involved in something that will make a difference. Pitch something that will excite them.

In a nutshell…

It’s all about designing your approach with the person in mind – something most people surprisingly, never think to do. If in under a minute you can show them what’s in it for them – how it will benefit them – you’ll have their attention. Then they’ll probably give you a few more minutes, or a lengthier meeting.

And the rest is up to you!

Very best!

David Solomon
Managing Director, Sun and Moon Training

Here is a video of the Sun and Moon training session that inspired this post:

Photo copyright: Inspirestock / 123RF Stock Photo