“What’s your biggest obstacle when you try to introduce new ideas or improve things at work?”
That’s one of our favorite questions to ask people who come to our Rebels at Work talks and workshops.
The number one obstacle: My Boss. (The second is fear.)
So what do you do if you’re championing a new idea? Learn how to manage your boss, particularly in these two ways:
- Understand what most worries your boss and find ways to ease those worries.
- Build credibility and trust with your boss.
- Don’t mock your boss: Whatever you do, don’t criticize your boss for being cowardly or too concerned about her own job security, because after all, that’s only human. The fact that you both want job security may even be a good way to develop a common understanding. Neither of you want to hurt your careers. If you can establish that as a given, perhaps your boss can begin evaluating your ideas on their merit.
- Don’t go over your boss’ head: This can seem like the only option if your boss is recalcitrant, particularly if he forbids you to discuss your ideas any further. Going over your boss’s head is like trying to draw to an inside straight in poker: the chances that it will turn out well are very slim and, when it doesn’t work, you end up with the worst cards at the table. Once a rebel shows one member of a management team that he can’t be trusted, he has almost certainly tarnished his reputation with every other boss in the organization. If you decide to do this anyway and it turns out badly, apologize sincerely and profusely. It’s your only hope.
- Don’t worry about your boss stealing your idea: We often hear rebels complain that management took their ideas and didn’t give them enough credit. Our take? When a manager likes a rebel’s idea enough to steal it, that’s a rebel win. As rebels, we often have to swallow our pride and savor the internal satisfaction that comes from knowing that we planted the seed. If it’s any consolation, know that as a rebel you are likely to have new ideas, spot emerging trends, or figure out problems unimaginable today. Our creativity and vision form the pattern of our lives. They are a renewable resource we can depend on. Our creativity is our safety net.