Make Your Opinion Count
In your workplace, how you pitch ideas is just as important as the quality of your suggestions
By Amanda VanRookhuyzen
Have you ever started a new job and quickly noticed inefficiencies that were obvious to you but seemed just fine to everybody else?
Have you ever felt discouraged in your attempts to raise ideas that could help things run more smoothly? Or have you ever thought an idea was simple, only to find yourself exasperated by unforeseen obstacles, whether at work or in other areas of life?
Lately, I’ve been finding myself more aware of the value of focusing on problems that I can actually solve. There are so many complex problems in the world, and I have found solace in being selective about the problems I invest energy in. There is something to be said about solving a problem that helps make the world a better place—even if it’s in an area as small as your workplace.
If you are preparing to approach your coworkers or leadership team with an idea that you believe will improve the workplace, consider these tried-and-true ways to help boost your chance of success.
4 Things You Should Do to Make Your Opinion Count
1. Understand the culture. Not every work community embraces operational improvement ideas, but many thrive on them. There are always cultural nuances to consider, particularly around the stability of workplace relationships and the safety to freely express ideas.
Remember, a work’s culture is made up of individuals, and your suggestion may ask some of those individuals to change. Respecting the culture respects the people, and people respond best to respect.
2. Be curious about opposition. It is important to be thoughtful about how you approach an idea if you sense any resistance to change. Try to be gentle when exploring what is underneath that resistance and temper your own frustration as much as possible. Resistance can come from one or more people who feel they are already stretched to capacity. They may have low tolerance for any additional time or energy it will take to handle your suggested change—even if the end result aims to alleviate some pressure from their shoulders.
3. Respect the current state. Try to avoid a mindset that looks down on how things are currently done. Even if you feel there are inefficiencies, it is unlikely that someone intentionally tried to make it that way.
Remind yourself that most decisions trace back to well-intentioned ideas based on the best information available at the time. This will strengthen your respect of those who went before you. See what you can learn from any previous attempts to address similar pain points.
4. Convert your pain points into a proposal. Complaining is a normal part of how we process problems. On the flip side, taking the time to unpack a complaint into a set of logical actions may not be difficult, but it does take effort.
When we expect our leaders to spend time converting our complaints into action plans, we put ourselves and our ideas at risk of falling flat. But if we approach them with a thoughtful proposal, it will be easier for them to support or reject the next steps.
Try the following complaint conversion exercise. This quick analysis not only helps you kick-start a proposal but can also help you overcome your emotions and unconscious biases by enabling you to see your ideas from a rationale point of view.
Follow these steps to get started:
A. Create a short list of pain points that you would like to see resolved.
B. Create a list that identifies any facts related to those pain points. If needed, ask questions to those who are also working in the same environment and with the same processes.
C. Create a list of ideas that you think may resolve each pain point in the future.
D. Create a rationale list to support your ideas. These four lists should help you see and communicate the problems and solutions more clearly.
Remember, any operational change affecting more than one person is rarely as simple as it seems. Complex problems can be satisfying to solve. But you are also allowed to abandon an idea if the effort to overcome its obstacles costs you your mental health and wellness.
The goal is to pick your problems wisely. There are endless issues you could entertain, but some are more worthwhile than others.
Source: Harvard Business Review