The secrets to managing up and securing executive support
One of the keys to a successful collaboration initiative is to secure strong executive support. “Strong” means walking the walk. “Strong” means your C-suite isn’t just endorsing your new solution, but they’re actively using it. If you’re one of the collaboration champions in your business – either in an official or unofficial capacity – and you’re dealing with reluctant management, what can you do to get them on board?
Don’t be shy
“Powerful people need powerful direct reports,” says David L. Bradford, co-author of Influence Without Authority and Influencing Up, a pair of books on the topic of “managing up” and influencing your bosses and others who’d traditionally be “above” you on an org chart. “They need direct reports who can take initiative in coming up with new ideas and getting them implemented.”
Build a coalition with other departments (including IT)
Part of the appeal of the cloud is that it’s enabled internal departments to go rogue and take action instead of having challenges like “how can we better collaborate on files?” turn into a year-long question that creates more meetings than solutions. A lot of IT departments, frankly, are burdened with a reputation of shooting everything down. Some bosses have a similar reputation. You’ll be harder to dismiss, though, when you come armed with the endorsements of colleagues outside your usual circle. By specifically involving your IT team, you’ll have an ally accustomed to vetting solutions and championing them at the executive level. For a deeper dive, read our post on how IT will maximize your cloud opportunities.
Emphasize mutual benefit
It’s great that you’ve found a solution to alleviate efficiency headaches for your project managers, but don’t forget to preemptively answer “What’s in it for me?” And also: “What will this require from me?” In the case of a collaboration solution, it’s great when you get that budgetary green light to sign a contract, but to maximize your returns, you want an executive sponsor who’s going to be an active champion and lead by example. The best way to do this is to be very clear about the reasons you’ve chosen to shake up the status quo – and the benefits you expect to gain. Follow the domino effects. Saving your team time by automating workflows can ultimately result in your team doing more work and better work for your customers and clients.
Don’t expect 50/50
With that said, don’t be unrealistic about commitment levels and time availability. If you’re the champion or point person, don’t expect your CEO to be your co-pilot on the project.
Document your process
Perhaps your processes seem universally understood, but it is worth it to put your processes in writing, along with a clearly articulated vision for the changes ahead. It’s unlikely that everyone truly understands every nuance in your day-to-day operations. This documentation will also be invaluable for future hires – not to mention the colleagues or partners guiding you through an implementation. Again, our own internal research finds that companies are more likely to see long-term user adoption when they’ve developed a clear vision upfront and involved all the key stakeholders affected by that vision.
Present options + present recommendations
You don’t want to overdo it with options and drop a case of option paralysis on your manager’s desk. But there will seldom be a single approach or a single solution for whatever you are trying to address, so do your due diligence upfront to cut down on the number of “OK, let’s reconvene in two weeks and get an update” type of meetings. If you prefer Skittles to Starburst in the office pantry, be ready to present your case.
“Some of the best decision making meetings I’ve been in with my bosses have been where we had meaningful dialogue around two or three viable options to resolving a tough problem,” Lonnie Pacelli wrote for the Financial Times. “My job in the process was to frame up the options, provide facts to support each option, and provide a recommendation. Sometimes the recommendation was taken, sometimes not; the most important thing was that a good decision was made because there was good informed discussion.”
Embrace constructive disagreement
“Constructive disagreements not only can cut down on mistakes, but [also they] can be a source of creativity and, therefore, increase the quality of the outcome,” says Bradford. It’s easy to not present a new idea because you feel like it’s going to be shot down, watered down or otherwise rendered insignificant. The bigger risk in the long-term, though, is for employees to muzzle themselves and not offer boat-rocking ideas or critical feedback due to fear or complacency.