The most important ingredient for good ideas is people

Good ideas do not just happen by themselves. Good ideas become real when people get together and make them happen. You might have all the budget you need, the best processes, robust frameworks and the latest technology, but if you do not have people inspired and motivated about the impact of the idea, quite simply, nothing happens.

Whether you are persuading your manager to test your ideas or motivating team to get on board to with your project or inspiring your peers to get involved the skill of inspiring and influencing others is crucial for your career development.

Persuading your manager

In your career you will have to influence your manager, perhaps to endorse your new idea, or to expand your experience through signing off a budget for a training course, or give you time to develop new projects. The day I shifted my mindset and acknowledged that part of my role was to help make my manager look good, my influencing abilities improved significantly. In my experience, people can be reluctant to take risks or try something new for fear of failure. So one of your influencing techniques with your manager is to give them confidence that the risk of failure is minimized and they will not lose face. You can do this by showing them what another manager, who is like them, that they respect, is doing that is working. Make it easy for them to say yes by suggesting a small test. For example I wanted to work with a new event supplier (when we had used the same one for many years), we tested the new supplier at one small event before making any big decisions, and it helped that another manager had worked with this supplier previously and recommended them.

Motivating your colleagues

People prefer to say yes to people they like. We also like people who are similar to us. You rely on your colleagues every single day. Yet how much do you know about them? Early in my career I had to work with the very overstretched database team on multiple projects. It was an understandably fractious relationship; we were all under a lot of pressure to deliver on many projects with conflicting deadlines. In the hope of building relationships I started going upstairs to their office to see them rather than emailing. One day I arrived at my colleagues’ desk at the same time as a delivery of shoes for a wedding they were going to. We spent 10 minutes trying on shoes discussing which would be most suitable with her dress. Others might have seen us and thought it was a frivolous waste of time, but after that the work got done more quickly, we had two-way dialogue about why I needed the data and we worked together to find the best way to get it.

The more you know about the people you want to inspire and influence, the more equipped you will be to think about the best way to approach them. You may not get it right first time, be resilient work out why it didn’t work and try again and keep trying because the only way you make your ideas happen is to work with and inspire others.

4 quick influencing tips

  • Work out how to make your manager look good
  • Minimize risk by trying something on a small scale to test if it works.
  • Work out the win for you and the person you are trying to influence
  • Spend time getting to know people.

For more on influencing and making your ideas happen check out The Innovation Workout.

A version of this blog was first published on the Guardian Voluntary Network. 

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