(This is the concluding part of last article titled Understanding Management Buy-in in the Workplace.)
In the previous article on Understanding Management Buy-In in the Workplace that we discussed extensively last Sunday, we have identified why getting management buy-in is important to employees’ personal happiness, leads to job satisfaction and eliminates workplace stress. We have also examined the wrong ways employees engage management and do not get their buy-in. Going about getting management buy-in the wrong way shows that there is a right way to do it. There are certain principles that guide engaging management in order to get their buy-in.
Management wants value. They want people that can support them. They want people that can enrich their process of decision making. They want people that understand their jobs, challenges and proffer workable solutions to these challenges. They want people that can walk up to them and convince them that there are better ways: smarter, cost-effective and ingenious ways to get results in the organization.
They are not looking for parasites. The challenge to employees is to examine themselves to see if they are parasites and people that contribute value when they engage management. Parasites come to take away without giving anything in return. Parasites drain resources from management and leave them empty. But employees who contribute values come to get whilst leaving management with equal value that make what they are getting out of management look insignificant relative to what they give to management. This is the type of scenario that management appreciates.
In order to get management buy-in, employees need to understand management. One bitter reality in the workplace is the lack of clear understanding of what management represents and their roles in the organization. Management is the decision making component of the organization comprising the CEO and his supporting teams that work the CEO to ensure that the organization runs smoothly.
In the classical organizational structure, there are four levels of functions in the effective management and administration of the organization. We have the operatives, who are otherwise known as rank-and-file in the manufacturing industry. Their appropriate description in the services sector is non-managerial employees. These categories are at the entry point or bottom of the organizational structure pyramid. We have the supervisory level, followed by the Middle Managers and the Executives.
Generally speaking, decision making stems from the supervisory level depending on the class of empowerment right up to the Executives who have the ultimate powers (granted by the Board of Directors) to make far reaching decisions that affect the organization. It is important that employees understand this structure and why management exists, what they do, who they are and what they care about.
In the workplace, your management is the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HIPPO) around in the workplace when you need to make a case for request. Like the real-life HIPPO, your workplace HIPPO cares about the interests and survival of their organizations first because they consider your interests. You have to realize that your HIPPOs have their opinions of how they want to run their organization and approaching them for a change require you to know how to pass your request upward to get a good response.
You must know your environment. Every workplace is unique. There are no two workplaces that look alike. You have to know the characteristics of your work environment in terms of decision making, value for employees’ development, attitude to profitability. You have to know the strategic direction of your organization. If your organization’s strategy is built around finance, that is an indication that every decision will be based on the ability to generate more income, reduce costs and yield more revenue for the organization. If your organization’s strategy is built around efficiency, you have to make sure that whatever you are bringing to the table must contribute to efficiency without which you are sure that management will not consider your request. If your organization’s strategy is built around customer service, you already have an idea the direction you should be channeling your proposition when you are approaching management for their buy-in of your proposals.
You must know the power bases in your organization. You cannot fail to realize that your organizational structure exists for a purpose. There are different levels of HIPPOs in the organizations and you must know their power bases. In the workplace, HIPPOs usually five types of powers namely legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, referent power and expert power. You must know the type of power your HIPPO has and how to approach them for your requests in order to get management buy-in. A supervisor who does not have reward power cannot give grant an employee’s request for promotion, so it is impossible to achieve management buy-in if such employee is talking to such supervisor about promotion. Therefore, it is smart move for employees who want to get management buy-in to know where the power bases of their organization lies and how to use them.
You must understand organizational politics. Employees’ knowledge and correct use of organizational politics would enable them to understand how to get management buy-in. The mind of the employees have been wired to believe that organizational politics is dirty and reserved for aggressive people who want to push their careers at all cost. That is not correct. Organizational politics involves essentially the actions of individuals, teams or leaders to acquire, develop and use power and other resources in order to obtain preferred outcomes. It is the end result of organizational politics that makes it sacrosanct to getting management buy-in. Organizational politics is real. People use it all the time. Employees have to remove their negative attitudes towards organizational politics and begin to get involved in order to promote effectiveness. A correct use of organizational politics enables employees to get management buy-in in the workplace.
You must have a strong value proposition. When you approach management for their approval on any issues that affect you or the organization, you should bring to the table a very strong value proposition. What you are telling management must be novel, creative and compelling enough to engender their action. If you are telling your bosses what they already know, you are not saying something new: you are not adding value. In fact, you are wasting their time. For management, time is money, and they cannot afford to waste it on inconsequential issues. So, when next you have a request to make from management, sit down first and ask yourself what benefits will accrue to the organization if you propose your idea.
You must take care of your presentation. A lot of employees are too casual. They are too ordinary in their approach to providing information to management. Management advises employees to generate a report on a trip and the employee turns in the usual memo replete with too unnecessary details that waste management time. You have to learn how to make effective presentation to your boss. This includes memos, reports and every other information you push upward to the boss. No effort should be spared in making sure your boss clearly understand what you are presenting. Your presentation must be succinct, concise and compelling enough to elicit desired response from management. If your boss is always turning you back to redo your reports or represent your information, you need to get training on presentation skills so that you achieve get management buy-in without stress.
You must show results and be ready to exceed the expectations of your bosses. Management is mindful of results. In the capitalist economy, management wants to see results. Efforts are good, but efforts without results are sheer waste of resources. When you approach management for their buy-in, you must demonstrate capability to show results. Your ideas must show that the figures make sense. You must put plans in place to exceed management’s expectations if you want a guaranteed buy-in. Resources are lean in the organization and only gravitate towards employees who are able to prove that they can generate results, and even exceed expectations.
You should project customer’s perspective. More often than not, management cares about their customers and would do everything to ensure that nothing threatens their customers. Organizations invest millions of money to cater for their customers. They spend on research. They spend on recruiting the best people. They spend on promoting their brands. The reason is because they want to keep their customers in a keen competitive market environment. Armed with this background, if you make your propositions customer-centric, you are sure to get management buy-in. You should let your requests focus on the benefits that customers would take away from such requests. Management are delighted when their employees show that they are equally mindful of their customers.
You should learn to negotiate. Employees who cannot negotiate cannot get management buy-in. Resources allocation in the organization thrives on negotiation. There is no organization that has all the resources it needs. Management has the responsibility to fairly distribute resources where they will get the right values for their organizations. In the process, you have to learn to be flexible. You cannot be rigid and insist that your requests must be granted the way you presented them. You must be open to modifications, new thoughts and input from your managers. At the end of the day what matters is the organization, not your ego or pride.
You should sharpen your communication skills. Communicate for results. Employees have to realize that communication in the organization is designed for results. You do not communicate because you feel like doing so. Every form of communication you engage in (written or unwritten, formal or informal) must be geared towards getting results for the organization. Consequently, planning is important. The problem with people is that they do not plan or think before they communicate. Such people fail to get management buy-in. So, if you must get management buy-in, you must plan your communicate, and communicate with the intent of getting results. There is no place for frivolities in the workplace. Every communication counts.
You should learn assertiveness skills. Management may not grant your request upon first presentation. Therefore, you need assertiveness skills to get their buy-in. You would have to learn how to influence and persuade management without sounding brash or aggressive. Passiveness has no place in the workplace. Passive employees do not grow their careers. Things do not happen on their own. You have to make things happen. You have to be careful though because pushy and aggressive employees are endangered species in the workplace. It is crucial that employees have assertiveness skills in order to get management to give their concurrence to employees’ requests all of the time.
You should not give up but always try again. Employees must persevere, and be consistent about presenting their requests. If their value propositions are valid, they must not give up. You should keep on making your case until management sees your perspective. It may not happen at the first instance. But that should not discourage you. Innovative change is disruptive and management might be complacent. They do not want to change because they want status quo. If you believe in your change, deploy all your skills at convincing management that change will result to organizational transformation and growth.
You should bring in a consultant. If resistant persists, you may have to consider bringing in a consultant. If your management is finding it difficult to see your perspective, a consultant whose expertise in the subject of consideration may assist to lead change that can result in employees getting management buy-in. Consultants are professionals and they will give management their expertise advice without fear or favour. They present facts and likely resultant scenarios that the organizations may be confronted with if they ignore their recommendations. The introduction of consultant may strengthen employees’ consideration for getting management buy-in, and the cost of using such consultant’s services does not cost an arm and a leg.
Author: Babatunde Fajimi
This article was first published in The Union Newspaper under Management Tips with Babatunde Fajimi on November 16, 2015