Remember the pain of drafting a plan better than the one your boss brought to the table, only to have it shot down? How can you forget? You pitch your idea, and without mercy or reservation, your boss says “No.” This situation is frustrating. The simple truth is that getting a supervisor to agree with your plan is just plain tricky and requires finesse.
Fortunately, there are outstanding leadership experts who have absorbed the techniques required to lead up; Jason Hitchcock is a shining example to model. You may be unfamiliar with his name, and for a good reason, he is a combat-decorated Navy SEAL and remains a humble servant-leader to this day. Jason is the epitome of silent professional, a code the Navy SEALs are sworn to uphold.
After honorably retiring from military service as a Command Master Chief, Jason has evolved into a corporate leader, executive mentor, veteran advocate, leadership consultant, and managing partner at Rmada United, LLC. He relies on his diverse employment history to build a leadership toolbox unlike any other. Jason Hitchcock is the trusted expert to seek when times get challenging.
One of Jason’s most noteworthy attributes is his ability to lead up. From complex combat operations in remote parts of the world to the dynamic business operations in Corporate America, Jason has had countless high-pressure circumstances where he needed the boss’s approval. For years, he has assimilated lessons learned and codified principles that effectively get the boss to “yes.”
The following are Jason’s three principles:
- The word “No” does not exist.
In the context of your boss denying your initiatives and plans, no is not an option. When asked to expound, Jason eloquently explains, “First of all, I am not going to ask a question I know is going to be a ‘no.’ Don’t waste your or the boss’s time. But if there is any possible chance to get a yes and I get a ‘no,’ it’s because I didn’t collect enough data.” The whole premise of his first step is to do the research and put in the behind-the-scenes work before presenting the plan to shape the boss’s decision-making process. If your preparation is spotless, the boss is more likely to approve your project.
Another reason why no does not exist is that it destroys self-confidence. When leading up, people fear having their plan denied. Many employees lack the self-confidence to ask for project approval. Lacking confidence is an internal problem that you must overcome because if you do not have confidence in your plan, how can your leaders? Here’s a tip from Jason to help build your confidence: After you do the research, assume your leader’s mind, examine your plan, and ask the questions she will ask. You are more likely to get approval for your project when you present well-thought-out answers than if you stagger and stumble without confidence.
- Leading up is modeling behavior that makes it easy to say “yes.”
Trust is the currency in the realm of business. To gain trust, it takes time and modeling the behaviors that build a reputation of success. Whether it is as small as arriving on time to a meeting or as large as completing a major project to perfection, your behaviors define how your leaders perceive you. Jason illuminates, “When I have a conversation with a leader, it is intentional; there is an effort behind what I am going to ask. I make sure it is easy to get approval. Once you start stringing together a couple of yes-answers, it becomes easier to get the same reaction.” Jason’s idea is simple but effective. Each time you have a request from your boss, use it wisely. Do not squander the opportunity by being reactionary; instead, be intentional. Ultimately, when you model trustworthy behaviors appropriately, you build respect and have a better chance of getting approval for your plans.
- If you get a “no,” own it because you failed, correct yourself, persevere, and try again.
Jason told me a story about a prior leader who shot down a plan he put a massive effort into developing. Jason knew his method was more effective and efficient than the boss’s, but on that day, it did not matter because the plan would not see the light of day without approval. After Jason assessed the situation, he did not let the boss’s initial response prevent progress. Jason remained stubborn and identified why the boss said no; he acknowledged why the plan was rejected and waited for the right moment to readdress it. Later that month, Jason presented the refined product and received approval. There are times when your boss will deny your plan. Like Jason, assess the factors that made you miss the mark and fix them. Maintain your composure because another opportunity to present your plan will arise. Just hold until that time.
As you can see, it doesn’t take combat experience, a special forces operator, or a corporate professional to lead up. Anyone can use these simple but effective ideas when faced with the challenge of confronting your boss with a proposal. The fact remains, you increase the probability of approval because Jason’s principles are pragmatic, logical, and effective. When you fold these principles into your thinking and make habits of action out of them, you not only get your boss to agree but also become a more well-rounded leader—a leader who shapes your organization for the better.