How can I get my boss to ________ ?

by Sam on February 15, 2011

If you report to someone, you are in sales just as sure as the dealer who convinced you to buy your last car. You are forever, it seems, trying to convince that person to take an action or let you take an action. Whatever your selling goal, here’s how to achieve it more often.

The first step is to acknowledge who you work for. Bosses differ on two important dimensions. Analyze your boss so as to present your requests in the context of these two dimensions.

Dimension 1: Failure-Preventers vs. Success-Insurers

You’ll find some bosses predominantly in a failure-prevention or “pain avoidance” mode. Other bosses are mostly success-insurers or “pleasure acquirers”. Their contrasting goals are revealed below.

Failure-Preventers mostly want to…

Success-Insurers mostly want to…

Save money; reduce spending

Make money; invest in the future

Minimize disruptions

Hear new ideas

Keep bad stuff from happening

Achieve great things

Be sure not to get worse

Commit to getting better

Fly under the radar

Be known and visible

Stay out of trouble; minimize risk

Ask for forgiveness rather than permission

Keep the competition from winning

Beat the competition


Dimension 2: What vs. How

Does your boss tend to harp on the financial targets (profit, sales, market share, etc.) that need to be hit, believing that those numbers will be made if people would keep their focus on them? If so, you work for a “what” boss.

Or does your boss assert that profit and the rest are not really goals, but rather outcomes of doing the right things in the right ways? A “how” boss cares very much about making the numbers, but keeps your eyes on the process that must happen for financial targets to be hit, more so than on the targets themselves.

Breakthrough! All bosses have some of both failure-prevention and success-insurance in them. And few good bosses totally ignore either the “what” or the “how”. That said, you most likely find your boss right now more fixated in one of these contrasting camps than the other. So, when you seek to influence don’t make the classic selling mistake. You’ll not want to sell pain-avoidance to a success-insurer, or vice versa. Neither is a “what” boss likely to support a team-building retreat. You get the idea. Don’t put forth your wonderful proposal based on the merits primarily as you see them. Focus more on the benefits of your request that will to appeal to the priorities currently held by your failure-preventing/success-insuring/what/how boss.

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