Get the Green Light on That Great Idea

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For any professional or middle manager, getting a decision-maker in your company to approve your project proposal can be a tall order. That goes double if the idea is a risky one, market conditions are unfriendly, or you're dealing with a slow, reluctant decision-maker.

But it's not impossible. Utilizing forethought and a dose of pop psychology can dramatically raise your odds, says leadership and communications coach Mike Figliuolo, in a post on his blog.

The first step is to figure out the decision-maker's primary motivation, or "button," says Figliuolo, founder and managing director of ThoughtLeaders LLC. "If you push it, things happen," he writes. But if you push it the wrong way, the results might not be what you had in mind.

To devise and implement a strategy for helping the decision-maker see things your way, you'll first need to see things her way. Although Figliuolo frames his point in terms of a manager-team member scenario, the advice is also useful for persuading anyone in your circle, from a co-worker or administrative assistant to a client.

Two Further Tactics

If your initial efforts fall flat, the next tactic Figliulo recommends is, "Articulate the cost of waiting. It might help them to get off the dime and take action to capture the value sooner."

If that too fails, then suggest a scaled-down pilot or test run. "If your decision maker doesn't want to make the call to drop a new mail offer to your 50,000 clients because he's not sure what the results will be, see if he's open to sending out 5,000 as a test," Figliuolo says. "It's easy to argue not to implement huge projects. It's much harder to argue against running a test or a pilot."

The three tactics spring from one underlying principle: Breaking through the barriers is as much about the approach as the merit of your idea. By understanding your key decision maker's real concerns and articulating how your idea helps them achieve their goals, you can build a solid base of support, Figliuolo observes.

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