How to convince your boss?
A good leader hires people to tell him, what to do. A bad leader hires people and tells them what to do. Of course, this depends on the quality of people you can hire. And there is a lot of middle ground. In most companies, when you have an idea, you need to convince your boss, that it is a good idea. This is, even if we don’t admit it, sales. Selling your ideas to your boss. Because he has to make the decision in your favor.
This means, that most rules for sales apply for internal sales. And these are, at the very least:
- Understand your customer
- Sell into his success metrics
- Don’t sell things that your customer doesn’t need
With your boss, this means:
- Why does your boss spend his budget
- How does he measure success
- Only try to convince him of things that benefit him
I guess, you can already see, where this is going. The jobs to be done perspective can help you with selling ideas to your boss. Here is how:
How to sell ideas to your boss using jobs to be done?
The basic idea is simple: Your boss has a lot of jobs to be done. Responsibilities that come with his role. Things, his or her department is supposed to do. He can’t do them all alone. So he has a team. Everyone in the team has one or more roles. Responsibilities as well. Things that are in your (for sure outdated) job description. These probably make up a large part of his functional jobs.
Then there are some unwritten expectations. He is supposed to work within budget, deliver good results, report on progress, have a happy team and so on. How well he does them will influence his social jobs. How much will other people like him? Peers like other leaders, his team, his boss and other colleagues.
And then there are the emotional jobs. How does he feel? Is his job difficult? How stressed is he or she? Does the work give or drain energy? But also, how does he view himself? Can he think of himself as a good leader? Does he get a sense of purpose from his work.
For all these jobs, you as his or her employee, are a solution provider. With everything that you do. You have other customers as well, like coworkers, who have other jobs. And the currency isn’t money, but reputation. Unless you are negotiating a raise or promotion. But even then, you basically trade reputation for money. Works the same. Reputation is the primal form of money anyways.
Of course, you as an individual provide way more solutions in other roles, e.g. as a friend or in your family. Your boss has a lot of other jobs in other contexts as well. But that’s where the limiting context comes in. The minimum limiting context here would be “at work”. The written and unwritten rules of the organization define the work context further. And it is probably not the only limiting context, your boss has to operate in. This means, that you can’t help him, if he feels sad at work because of a fight he had at home. For you, that’s additional limiting context. But if your behavior prevents him from being stressed when coming home, that’s a progress.
With every decision, your boss will have all the basic forces of progress as well. Things that push him from his current solution. Anxieties that prevent him from changing. Desired and undesired outcomes when evaluating, whether he liked the change or not. Habits that keep him where he is and desires, that make him want to change.
And there are events, that trigger a decision. If you suggest a new innovation framework, but he doesn’t look for one, you won’t be heard. If he had three failed projects this year and is about to recieve budget cuts, your chances may look great.
If you know all the jobs and elements of progress, you can facilitate change. And you can direct it in a way that you like.
But I can’t to a big jobs to be done project for my boss
That’s true. And here is, where the limitations come into play. Usually, we do customer research with multiple participants. As a full project, with budget and everything. We interview them in a specific way and document the results. We then aggregate the results and discover patterns. And then we build solutions that match the data.
You probably won’t get your boss to sit down with you for 90 minutes for an interview. But you do have a lot of interactions with him. Many as one-on-one, even face to face. You have more than enough time, to extract his jobs and forces of progress. All you have to do is adjust your line of conversations to a jobs to be done interview. Slightly adjusted to reduce social awkwardness of course. But nonetheless. And you could document it, using the same material form as you would for customer interviews.
One customer taking a similar decision multiple times is not the same as many customers. But it is close enough for your needs. And you probably have many bosses during your career. So you can extract information and discover patterns. You could do the same with your colleagues as well, step by step, meeting by meeting, extracting the patterns. And this will give you a pretty good guide on how to be successful at work.
Is this a slightly weird and nerdy way to do things? For sure. Engineering your behavior at work is difficult as well. Most people don’t study their boss and coworkers in a structured way. However, you do it, even if not explicitly. Over time, most people have a pretty good idea, how their boss is thinking. Just not structured in an actionable way. So maybe, it is less weird, then we think.
I wouldn’t do this all the time and not at a full blown level. But if you want to convince your boss, it helps to understand his decision making. Understand the jobs, the forces of progress, the limiting context and the events. Even if you just asked for them and did not write them down, this will help. And then, act accordingly. You will get results beyond your expectations.