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Rejection-proof your proposal

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in Dealing with Bosses,Office Management

If you want your boss to accept your idea, you must choose your approach carefully. You can’t control everything that will affect—or prevent—your boss’s approval.

You can, however, increase your chances for success by asking yourself questions—and coming up with solid answers—about everything that could hurt your chances of gaining support for the proposal. Questions to ask include:


  • What has to happen so that I will consider my effort a success?
  • What roles will others have to play in that success?
  • What alternative outcomes will satisfy the underlying needs and achieve equivalent results?


  • What’s the history of my (or my team’s) influence relationship with this person or decision-making group?
  • What are the current issues in this relationship?
  • What’s the current level of trust?


  • What are the current priorities of the person (or group) that I want to influence?
  • Are there any significant common or conflicting vested interests in this situation? If so, what does each of us have to gain or lose if my proposal is accepted?
  • Are there relevant values on each side? If so, do we share the same ones?


  • Will my idea fit well within the overall business strategy, structures and processes of the organization? If not, how far outside the norms is it?
  • Who are the other stakeholders in the outcome? How can I involve them?


  • What are the formal and informal cultural norms of our organization that could be relevant to this issue?
  • Do any cultural practices already exist that could be useful in this situation? Any taboos that could derail my approach?

External Trends and Issues

  • What’s going on right now in the organization that could have a positive or negative impact on my influence opportunity?

— Adapted from Exercising Influence, B. Kim Barnes, www.exercisinginfluence.com.

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