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How to effectively influence decision makers – 2

No employer pays you to win an argument. So, do not be fixated on having your way. The corporate destination is more important than an individual conviction. The implication of this in influencing decision-makers is that instead of insisting on having your way while thinking everyone who doesn’t see things your way is stupid, put forward a realistic and implementable proposal that shows that you have taken time to do a cost benefit analysis of your idea.

There is no organization that has unlimited resources in terms of time, purse, processes or personnel. One of the greatest responsibilities of effective leaders is the effective allocation of available resources. When a proposal or idea therefore places an extra demand on resource status quo, the decision-maker is forced to be very calculating in his priorities to ensure the judicious use of available resources for the overall vision. Furthermore, in accepting the proposals you are making, one or more existing ideas may have to be sacrificed. These existing ideas may also be good ideas. It is wrong to think that everything about status quo is evil or unproductive as proponents of new ideas often assume. Many status quo ideas are responsible for the stability of the organization and the predictability of its outcomes.

Consequently, if a new idea is going to involve a major shift in thinking, process and other areas of operation, decision-makers usually tread softly. Not because they are anti-progress or archaic but because, as the ones on whose desk the buck stops, they must be cautious and think through how the implementation of the new will affect everyone in the system. In getting a buy-in from decision makers on your idea therefore, you must be able to give good reasons why the organization should sacrifice the present for your proposed future. Rather than it being just a good idea that you probably copied from somewhere or dreamed up out of your own fancy, your proposal must address issues of relevance to corporate vision. What major changes would be required? At what cost to the organization? What are the short and long term benefits to the collective outcomes? Very often, when we have what we consider to be the “silver bullet” idea, we tend to see all objection to it as myopic and a rejection of the better for the good. It is not always so. You cannot force another to see what was revealed only to you. It is your responsibility to pay the price of making them see it. Sometimes, an objection may simply mean, ‘I am scared and need to be reassured that I will not get my fingers and those of others burnt if I accept and implement this new proposal’. Consequently, you must also be prepared to address objections and reservations about your ideas in a way that assuages the mind of the decision-maker that his leadership will not be left holding the short end of the stick as a result of your idea.

A strong value system is the forte of effective organizations. Sometime ago on this page, I did a series on Ethical Leadership. When an organization begins to function in breach of its own core values, it begins a downward spiral. The Nigerian banking system at a time witnessed the ascendancy of some “wonder, fertilizer-grown new generation” banks. In the drive for jumbo profits and higher market equity, they practically broke every rule in the books to attract customers and deposits. A couple of years ago, I wanted to begin a project aimed at profiling successful people in Nigeria, especially those with a touted belief in God. I had mapped out the various areas of our social, economic and political dialectics. I was to begin with the Banking sector where I had identified a few “shining star” CEOs who had taken their banks to the dizzying heights of “success” and consequent visibility. I picked on the defunct Oceanic Bank and frantically began to look for ways of connecting with its Chairman/CEO who at that time was literally a poster-face of a fledgling industry. I visited a Christian brother who I knew had worked there in its early years. I wanted him to connect me to the Chairman/CEO. When I told him why, he took a long look at me like one who pitied me and said, “Bro, I have known you for many years. And if there is one thing that I have respected and honoured you for in those years, it is your commitment to integrity and strong values. Please don’t mess that up by doing what you are planning to do. Everything happening in that place is fuelled by a somersault of values”. With some prodding from me, he explained that he quit that bank as its pioneer Managing Director because of the sheer enormity of underhand deals and immoral ways of attracting deposits which the Management was insistent on doing.  Every counsel to the contrary was seen as dissent and rebellion. Torn between the demands of his employers and the dictates of a thoroughbred Christian conscience, He chose the ethical way out. He resigned. Today, that bank is history.  But for the intervention of its parent company in the UK, Cadbury Nigeria would probably have become history. A few years ago, it was discovered that the company had consistently doctored its accounts to reflect an exaggerated picture of prosperity. When the bubble burst, the Executive staff got the sack and the value of its shares plummeted!  Your idea should never indicate a breach of the organization’s core values. As a matter of fact, if you are being prevailed upon to do things under the table, stand your ground and refuse. Where possible, find a means to report to top Management. And if those suggestions are coming from there, put up a written objection based on the expressed ethics of the organization and detail how the breach of these can affect the fortunes of the organization on the long run, even if it confers temporary benefits. In many cases, such instructions may not necessarily be because the Management wants to be devious. It may be that nobody has taken the pains to point out the pitfalls or maybe there is a communication gap somewhere. If the pressure continues after you have pointed out the underlying issues, consider looking for another job.

I am sure you have heard the statement “How can Management say they don’t know what is going on? Maybe they don’t qualify for that position” Or, “How can someone who is looked upon as a leader make that kind of silly mistake? Even a messenger should know better!” You probably have made similar statements before about your superiors. Never be hasty to judge leaders. Too often, we assume that a leader is Robocop or Superman who must have a solution to every problem or an angel who can never be wrong. No. Leaders too are human. They are fallible…. Continued

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!