5 Tips to Get your Boss to Listen to You

Have you been trying over and over again to explain to your boss that it’s time to solve a particular problem? Here are five tips that may help get your message across.

1. Don’t bring problems, bring solutions.

Business leaders at any level have problems. The last thing that a leader wants is another problem brought to them with the expectation that it requires their immediate attention.

I was given this advice early in my career and yet admittedly still struggle with it. We always want to believe that our problems need immediate resolutions. The first step in achieving your desired outcome is to remember not to bring problems; bring solutions. We’ll address how to do that in the next few tips.

2. Do the research.

So you see some potential to improve a system and are now ready to storm the bastille. With the excitement of a bearded hipster at a craft beer market, you burst through your boss’s door in your superhero cape expecting a raise and a promotion for bringing the problem to her attention. You’re shocked when she hardly looks up from her desk before asking you to come back another time.

Step back, breathe and rather than slink back to your desk in defeat see this as your opportunity to make an improvement in the business. You first need to answer a few simple questions.

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the business cost (financial, time, morale) of continuing with what we’re currently doing?
  • What data do you have available that will show that this is a problem?How can it provide a measure of success if we undertake this process of improvement?
  • What are the possible solutions?
  • What are the next steps?

(protip: Call it potential instead of a problem. This reframes your approach as a positive one and it’s naturally easier to support positivity.)

3. Be passionate and positive.

You’re about to sign your name to solving a problem that may take some time away from your daily job requirements.

You may need to put in extra work at night or on weekends. You’d better be prepared to be given the green light and spend the next year neck deep in solution implementation. If that’s what kind of time it takes to solve this problem, are you still willing?

The most important thing about passion is that it won’t allow you to give up if you’re told no, or not right now. Believe me; you’ll hear both.

4. Timing is everything

‘I have been saying that for years’ is another thing you’re going to hear. It’s not always that you’re the first person in company history to have identified this particular missing system. No, more than likely your colleagues have at one point or another also proposed solutions and have been shot down. Timing isn’t a one size fits all this piece, it’s very much intuition, but here are at least a few things to consider.

Are you performing well at the moment?

Bringing solutions to missing systems outside of your core function while you’ve just been given a performance improvement plan probably isn’t going to get your project approved.

Has your boss been MIA for the past four days?

Whether she is returning from vacation, has been locked in her office for the past few days, or whatever the reason…this is clearly not the time. I’d suggest utilizing your 1–1 session to bring up your opportunity (unless you’ve just been chastised for poor performance).

5. Don’t give up

If you really believe in something you never give up. If you’re told no, ask why? This isn’t an objection to overcome immediately but it’s the information you will need to to reframe the opportunity next time. It’s just like sales. Understand the objection and see if you can overcome it. Perhaps it’s more data to prove the ROI or maybe you got the timing wrong. Ask your boss the why? Don’t take it personally. Reframe the opportunity and repeat.

Remember this isn’t an instruction manual, these are tips. Every situation is different, but the key to remember is to be a problem solver, not a problem finder.

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