influential-women-globeDo you ever have someone approach you in the office with a long explanation of a problem or situation they want your help on – and it’s clear they haven’t thought it through?

And they attempt to add this to your “To-Do” list?

You might be thinking, “Yeah, this happens every day.”

Let’s imagine the tables are turned. When you approach your boss, a colleague or another senior leader, how prepared are you for the conversation?

Are you achieving the outcome you’d hoped for?

During my recent podcast interview with Frederik Rasmussen, CEO of innRoad, we discussed how to be successful working in a fast-paced startup environment. One of the top pieces of advice he shared was to come forward with a solution, not just the problem. Otherwise, you’re effectively trying to delegate up.

If you really want a seat at the table and have your voice heard, you need to come forward with a clear, concise recommendation. (To listen to my interview with Frederik, you can visit www.thesuccesstalkshow.com.)

Having the ability to approach someone to make a decision in a highly effective and efficient way will help you be seen as a more influential leader.

In my own career as a technology leader, I’ve had the opportunity to present my recommendations to senior executives in the C-Suite for many years. My goal has always been to synthesize the decision down to the most essential facts with a 15-minute meeting and only three Powerpoint slides. Yes, it can be done!

Here are a few tips to help you up level your conversations:

  1. Write down precisely what the decision is. By doing this, you’ll clarify the problem or situation using language you can use in your communication. Sorting it out on paper as a first step will help you articulate it more effectively in writing and in conversations.
  2. Identify the optimal decision maker. Consider who is the best person (or group of people) to make the decision based on authority and subject matter expertise.  If it’s a single person — don’t waste time with large group meetings trying to bring everyone to consensus when it’s not necessary. (Be sure to bring a group together only as a deliberate strategy and not because it’s unclear who really owns the decision.)
  3. Send an email to the decision maker with a clear, concise description of the decision that needs to be made along with any attachments that may be necessary. Ask for a short meeting (could even be for 15 minutes) to discuss further. By sending the email in advance, it gives the decision maker time to consider your request.
  4. Schedule the meeting early in the day. It’s ideal to meet with the decision maker when the day is young and their brain is well rested! The conversation will be much more productive in the early morning than at the end of the day when their battery power is running low.
  5. Allow time for the decision maker to sleep on it. Many people will want to read the message, discuss it with you further, and then think about it for a day or two. Their natural style of decision making may be quite methodical, deliberative and analytical. If that’s the case, you want to approach them with ample time for them to reach a conclusion. Take this into consideration when you’re planning your next steps.
  6. Provide information needed to support the decision. There are two categories of information that will help you achieve the desired outcome: (1) facts, data & evidence for the decision maker to draw a logical conclusion, and (2) an understanding of how the decision will align with the values of the team or organization. When in doubt, provide both sets of information to the decision maker.
  7. Be prepared to make your recommendation. If you’re presenting alternatives and asking the decision maker to pick one, select the one you’d recommend and craft your argument ahead of time. Explain your rationale. What are you basing it on? Are you weighing client satisfaction more heavily than the time & costs? Or, in fact, are the underlying costs the sole driver for your recommendation? By being transparent on your thought process, you’ll help the decision maker come to a conclusion more efficiently.

If you want your voice to be heard, you’ll be setting yourself up for success when you take these extra steps!