There’s something about us public relations people that makes us act as though we were anointed to save the boss’ job just about every day. The problem for most of us is that these “clients” rarely listen to us closely, and when it seems that they do, they take a different approach or act on only a fraction of what we suggest.
Those who are really successful at moving the boss—and their bosses—to do things, think things and take action tend to put themselves through a self-examination exercise. This keeps them focused on helping their leaders do a better job each day. So continuously ask yourself these questions:
1. Why do I want to be heard by my boss?
2. Why should the boss listen to me about anything? What’s in it for him or her?
3. What’s not working right now, and why?
4. There are clearly some risks if I do punch through and get heard by the boss; am I ready for those?
5. Am I ready to start being more brutally honest with myself first?
6. Can I train myself to focus on what really matters from the perspective of those who run the place?
7. How willing am I to change myself to have the kind of influence I seek?
I hear the following all the time: “There are things my boss should be changing right now that I’ve been harping on for weeks, maybe months. What am I doing wrong, and how can I get her to do the things that I think should be done?”
Whenever I’m asked these questions, I always ask a question back: “Is your boss doing something immoral, illegal, unethical, utterly stupid, risky or dangerous?” If the answer to any of these is yes, you may have to make a career decision before they make a decision to follow your advice.
So how do you get the boss to follow your advice? Don’t nag. Stop harping at the things that you want them to do after about two weeks. Five days would be even better. If the boss is not going to do something that you suggest promptly, they’re probably not going to do it at all. Move on to something else, promptly.
Just remember whose bus you are traveling on. It is theirs. You are along to be a helpful passenger, but the directions and the decisions are always theirs. Don’t like the ride, the direction or the other passengers? Catch another bus or get one of your own.
BE MORE IMPORTANT
One thing about communicators, we have new ideas all day long. All of us, in fact, throw ideas away every single day because we have so many and too few places to put them into action. Do drop the burden of pressuring and whining at someone who is clearly going to do something else or nothing.
Make yourself more important within the organization by following this rule: Always make fewer but far more important suggestions to move the business forward. The goal is to always say things that matter. Here are five test questions to ask yourself before making a suggestion:
1. Does the idea you’re about to suggest help the boss achieve his or her goals or objectives?
2. Does that suggestion you’re about to make help the organization achieve its goals or objectives?
3. Even if the answers to questions 1 and 2 are yes, is it something that really needs to be done, anyway?
4. Does it make, save or preserve money, and resources?
5. What will fail, or fail to proceed or succeed if the idea you are about to suggest is ignored or remains undone?
This last question is vitally important to the process of thinking through how you suggest things to leadership. Stop being the first person to raise your hand unless you’re the only one in the room. Say things that matter, write things that matter, suggest things that are genuine and important options for the boss to consider. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when:
• People hold up meetings waiting for you to arrive.
• People remember what you say and perhaps quote you in other places or venues.
• Your stories are told and shared as though those stories belong to the person telling them.
• Others seek out your opinions and ideas, and/or share their agendas and beliefs with you in the hope of influencing you to influence the behavior of others.
And one more thing: Remember the YOYO rule. Having an important, interesting, successful and influential PR career is up to you. You are on your own (YOYO) to achieve it.
Jim Lukaszewski is president of The Lukaszewski Group, a crisis communications agency based in Minneapolis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.