You’re here because you have an idea. All you need is the courage and confidence in yourself and your idea to share it! Too often this is easier said than done. In fact, a landmark study found that 85% of employees withheld their ideas because they were too afraid to speak up. Imagine if all of those bright ideas had the chance to be shared and considered?! Entire companies would be overflowing with creativity and opportunity! The world itself would be a very different place if people didn’t fear being rejected or having their ideas lost in a black hole of company suggestion boxes.
Have faith in your idea—and read on to find out the best way to pitch your idea and raise it up the chain of command.
Thinking Critically About Your Great Idea
No idea is silly or too small to be considered. Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best. Nails, for instance, were first found to fasten materials together in Ancient Egypt around 3,400 B.C. and the original design has barely changed since. This idea started out as a simple, yet brilliant solution to a widespread (and timeless!) problem.
Understanding where your idea lives on the chain of command will help you understand how best to pitch and raise your idea. Here are some simple questions to ask yourself:
- Is your idea a solution to a problem?
- Is your idea an innovative opportunity?
- How important and pressing is the problem or opportunity?
- Does it impact just you or also your team?
- Could your idea impact or change your department or company?
Pretend that you’re a content creator on the marketing team at a fast-paced tech company. Since the pandemic, your organization has shifted to a hybrid office model with most employees working remotely. This is awesome for flexibility but has wreaked havoc on your team’s remote and online communication and project management workflows. Tasks are slipping through the cracks, deadlines are being pushed, and productivity is falling fast. You’re lost in email threads and jumping into too many Zoom meetings to get anything done. Talk about frustrating!
You realize that your team needs a tool that helps bring clarity to tasks, projects, and remote team communication. It needs to be simple to onboard and easy to use—this problem needs a solution fast! Your idea is to pitch a digital tool like Trello to your manager and hope that it lands. It could be the ideal solution for you and your remote team. What’s next?
Consider Your Company Mission, Vision, And Values
Take a look at your company vision, mission, and value statements. The direction that your company is—or wants to be—heading in will play a significant role in moving your idea up the chain of command.
Put on your detective hat and think back to your all-hands company meetings. What did the C-Suite and upper management celebrate? What did they want to see more of from you and the company? Where are they trying to steer the company? All of this is connected and aligned—and your idea should fit right into it somehow.
Do A Quick SWOT Analysis On Your Company And Your Idea
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s a handy analysis method that helps shape companies and their goals. It can also be a helpful tool for you while you consider the best way to raise your idea up the chain of command. Doing a SWOT analysis shows that you understand the company goals and that you’ve thought your idea through from ideation to implementation, just as they would. (But also, don’t overthink it or spend too much time on this!)
Back to your idea for your team. Here’s what your SWOT analysis could look like:
Write down the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your team. Take note of where you see your idea fit best:
- Does your idea tap into an opportunity? If so, which?
- Does your idea play on your strengths? If so, which?
- Does your idea help solve a weakness? If so, which?
- Does your idea help avoid a threat? If so, which?
Promoting Your Idea To Your Manager
How do you bring up your idea to your manager? Will they listen? The best course of action is to pitch your idea to your manager, rather than going above or around them. But before you do, consider how you pitch your idea.
Motivation Moves The Needle On Good Ideas
To decide how to pitch your idea to your manager, think about what motivates them. What do they like or dislike? What do they want? What will they avoid at all costs? Part of what your manager cares about can be a helpful indicator of what their manager—and the rest of the company—cares about too. Understanding this will help you frame your idea as a solution or opportunity.
The Most Powerful Motivators Are Often Emotional
Emotions are powerful motivators and could be useful in having your idea listened to and championed. Most often, people talk about fear being the most powerful motivator, as well as pride, success, desire, and power. If your manager often shares projections that show your team heading toward disaster, it’s fair to assume that they’re motivated by fear. In that case, they will do anything in their power to avoid disaster.
However(!), emotions on the positive spectrum, such as love, joy, creativity, interest, awe, and happiness, are equally—if not more—powerful. Plus, they’re better for everyone’s health, wellbeing, and happiness to focus on. After all, it’s better to inspire people to act, rather than to fear-monger them into it! For example, if your manager shares articles about innovative companies doing cool stuff that they want to replicate, they’re likely motivated by a love of creativity or inspiration.
Think about what your manager likes or loves and see if you can use it to motivate them to listen to and champion your idea.
Talk About What Interests You To Inspire Others
Or, consider tapping into your own source of likes and interests. Oftentimes, when someone is talking about a project, topic, or idea that they are truly passionate about, their interest is very apparent. It can be infectious and inspiring to listen to—and easier to get behind!
5 Ideas On How To Frame And Pitch Your Idea
Pitching your idea is the easy part, but it is the part that people fear the most. Have courage and be kind to yourself. Here are five simple tips for pitching your idea:
1. Tailor Your Message To Your Manager
Research shows that tailoring your message to your manager’s personality increases the likelihood that the idea will be endorsed by 15-18%. Help your manager help you by speaking to what they care about in your pitch. After all, they will champion and raise your idea up the chain of command for you in order to get the go-ahead and budget to implement it.
2. Pitch Your Idea One-On-One
Rather than sharing your idea in front of your whole team, consider pitching your manager in person or via video during a one-on-one. Let them know ahead of time that you have an idea that you want to pitch to them and schedule a meeting. This will set the right tone and show that you’ve taken some time to think your idea through—both of which work in your favor.
3. Establish A Good Rapport
Although your manager should always be receptive to hearing ideas from you, it helps to have a good rapport with them. Take the time and care to build trust and establish a positive working relationship.
4. Quote Your Manager
During your idea pitch, reference what your manager has said in the past. It shows that you’ve been listening and understand what they value. For example, if they’re motivated by the desire to be agile and innovate quickly, quote them saying that in your pitch. “In your last presentation, you mentioned the importance of improving communication and task management during sprints and I’ve come across a potential solution for our team.”
5. Show Them What’s Next
Show your manager that you’ve done your homework. Talk about your SWOT analysis and how you think it helps your team and the company. Think about how your idea could be put into action. That’s what will be going through your manager’s mind as they consider your idea, so having a base understanding of how to implement your idea and the resources it would require will work in your favor during the pitch.
Have Confidence In Yourself And Your Idea
Regardless of what happens, you’ve had a bright idea and decided to share it. Good for you! It shows that you’re engaged in your work and that you care about your team and the company. It shows initiative. Give yourself a pat on the back for being a problem solver and seeing opportunities! The rest is out of your hands, so don’t overthink it.