February 15, 2024 andrew

Mastering the Skill of Convincing Stakeholders to Approve and Execute Ideas

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As leaders, we may believe our big concepts will be successful, but pushing those ideas across the finish line takes not just effort but a willingness to persevere through challenges and pushback. There’s an art to gaining stakeholder support before ideas can be executed, and once leaders learn the right mindset and techniques, they often get the resources and help they need. First things first, however — anyone with a big idea must overcome any anxieties around sharing it.

Why fear is the big idea killer

Every good idea in this world would die if leaders didn’t have the boldness to share them. However, no idea is perfect from the start — and confidence isn’t a cure-all. When people share concepts that go beyond what they already know or have experienced, some fear is normal. Others don’t want to share their ideas because they fear the humiliation and resource insecurity that can come from having those ideas fail. The easy route is to shut down instead of branching out. But a strong backbone of personal conviction must prevail.

The truth is perception is often reality, and few people persuade well when they are stifled by fear. Sometimes, it’s not the quality of the idea, or even the certainty behind it, that sees it passed over – only the circumstances. Often, there’s a time constraint involved. Instead of fearing disapproval, ask how many people can support your idea and think about how you would build it out if you were not constrained by contracts or approval requirements.

This approach helps remove some of the bias-based boundaries leaders can impose on themselves, freeing them to see the full potential of the idea. It also offers a boost in confidence that stakeholders will notice during a pitch — which they will then associate with the trustworthiness of the concept itself.

Related: From Customers to Investors to Employees, Here’s How to Connect With Every Company Stakeholder

Getting others on board

Once leaders have confronted any fears that hold them back from expressing their ideas, they have a few tangible ways to persuade stakeholders:

1. Take accountability using your own passion

The expectation around what others will do or provide blocks the power of persuasion. Some leaders expect someone else to develop an idea for them or look for a team to plan the execution of it, but this isn’t always viable when a budget is in place. It helps to look within first. It is also common for leaders to want to hire other companies or third parties to cover some of the work, which is a problem if the budget for a concept is limited.

People who are passionate about their ideas don’t wait for anyone else to give them direction. Instead, they pave their own way. They are driven enough by the concept that they take accountability for it and don’t allow others to determine whether it lives or dies.

That’s why I tell leaders to do their own due diligence. They need to create a plan using actual data that shows they know exactly how they will win. When stakeholders see someone who is self-accountable and has a clear, well-formulated path to profit, it’s much easier for them to sign on.

2. Be scrappy

If a leader has plenty of money, time and other resources — great. But that’s often not the case. I once worked with a woman in marketing who wanted to hire a company to do a training video for a new product feature. Our budget wouldn’t allow that. So, I encouraged her to create something on her own. The immediate result? She dropped the project.

To truly push an idea through, people must figure out how to execute it within limited resources. In the latter case, I pushed back and asked my colleague what she would do if I weren’t around, and she just needed to get something out the door. A week later, she had drawn out a full storyboard. I told her to film it. She made cutouts of popsicle sticks, cardboard, and paper and filmed the entire educational video with stick figures.

Now, of course, stick-figure videos won’t work for everything. However, leaders won’t always get the low-level direction they want; part of what stakeholders seek in any venture is resourcefulness. Stakeholders take this quality as a sign that the leader is a skilled troubleshooter — and over the long haul, the ability to problem-solve on the run reduces risk, which is appealing to those who could offer support.

3. Persist and seek new paths

Historically, every generation has pioneered new ways of working, but today’s younger cohort tends to look for approval. This group often relies on external validation to gauge their performance, decide their next steps, and choose their direction — small interactions with superiors carry heavy weight for them. Rather than laying out a clear plan and asking for feedback, they lean towards seeking permission to proceed.

In these scenarios, young innovators often see “no” as the end of the line for their concept. However, aspiring leaders are willing to persist. They will find a way to push the idea through, such as pitching it to a different director. When a leader perseveres through rejection, they demonstrate the necessary grit to ensure a long-term return on the investment.

Related: If You Want to Grow Your Startup and Value, Nurture These 3 Stakeholder Relationships

When you’re fully convinced, others can be, too

When presenting an idea to a stakeholder, attitude is crucial in gaining support. If an innovator can eliminate fear and show they are going to take accountability through their own passion and due diligence, solve problems, and keep going no matter what, then they have a solid recipe for buy-in. Believe in your idea full-heartedly, otherwise, someone else might share it with the confidence you lacked. The art of persuasion starts within, and the most important person you need to convince about your idea is you.

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