How should you present your initiative to the boss?

November 19, 2017

A young colleague, who was working on an idea to move forward, recently asked me, “how do I present my initiative to my boss”? She had been trying but was a bit frustrated to see it not moving forward.

Several Initiatives get killed at the stage of an idea. Why? Not because they are not good but because they are either not presented in the right way or not presented at the right time.

According to Victor Hugo, Initiative means “doing the right thing without being told.”

This simple definition points out towards the real challenge. When you propose to do something you have not been told to do, risks are many: fear of failure, someone may block the work, you might get more work etc. Yet, taking Initiative is the right thing to do. It makes you different from others; and most of the bosses appreciate it even if they may not approve all initiatives presented to them.

Here are three suggestions:

Timing is the key:
Even the best of the ideas discussed at a time when the boss is too busy, rushing for a meeting, stressed with something, or just having a bad mood will not receive a good response. You know your boss’s personality and working style. Handle carefully and find the best time and manner to approach him/her.

Pre-test the idea:
You should certainly have a plan on how will the initiative be implemented. Yet, present the idea first in such a way that you are also seeking inputs and suggestions to make it work. Managers are more likely to approve when their ideas are included in the plan. They want to call the shots! Emphasise why is the initiative in the interest of the organization, linking it with the organizational goals missions or priorities.

Don’t become too pushy: Remember, bosses don’t like to be bossed around. So, don’t be too pushy. Give them time to think and respond. You can certainly do the follow up in a gentle way.

Finally, remember that taking an initiative is also an opportunity for you to learn new things and new skills, which leads to your own growth and success. Ralph Waldo Emreson sums it up well, “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”