I have some really amazing ideas on how to improve my workplace’s operations in order to increase efficiency and productivity. How can I suggest these ideas to my director without stepping on his toes? I don’t want him to think I’m telling him how to do his job.
It’s so wonderful to hear that you are producing ideas and coming up with creative ways to improve operations at your work place. Continue to think in this way, as it will set you apart from your peers and help take your career further and on a faster track. I recommend that you take a three-pronged approach in addressing your ideas with your manager and then bringing them to fruition:
First, pull your manager aside or schedule a brief 15-minute meeting with them to bring up the idea in general. The conversation should sound something like this: “I wanted to share some ideas I’ve been thinking through over the past several weeks. I think there are some new things that we could try that could help us do X quicker or Y more easily. Seeing how experienced you are and how much knowledge you have of the company, I truly value your opinion and would like to share them with you. Would you mind if I scheduled 60 minutes with you next week to discuss in more detail?” This initial approach does three things: 1) turns a “you against them” situation into a “we” situation, 2) flatters your manager, and 3) mentally prepares them for a future conversation. I can guarantee that your manager will be open to the discussion. If your manager is interested in hearing more right then and there, perhaps reveal a few ideas without too much detail but then push back a bit and say “I would absolutely love to share more, but I want to come prepared and show you just how seriously I’ve thought through these. Would you mind if I scheduled this for next week instead?” This will give you time to prepare an amazing presentation.
Second, discuss your ideas with your manager in the formal meeting. It will be essential that you prepare for this meeting. The more professional your presentation, the more seriously your ideas will be taken. If you approach the meeting without notes, a presentation, and your confidence in tow – your manager may assume you haven’t given as much thought to your ideas as you initially conveyed. I also recommend asking, outright, if you can begin testing out and idea or two or develop a fuller plan on how to take these ideas to fruition. Another suggestion is to hold this meeting in the morning, as nothing too hectic will have happened by then so your manager’s attention can be fully on your presentation.
Third, if given the green light to move forward on your suggestions, I would set future steps out immediately, such as: scheduling a follow-up meeting with your manager to present a fuller project plan (etc.); or developing a project plan that defines tasks, owners, due dates, risks, concerns, and more. On the flip side, you must be prepared that your ideas may not be accepted (perhaps for good reason or perhaps for no reason). In the case that your manager feels that you are stepping on his toes, then be sure to explain (again) your intentions. Hopefully, your manager is a strong leader who knows that:
“Leadership sometimes means eating humble pie.” – Nora Chipaumire
I encourage you not to look at your development of new ideas as a “me against him” situation. If you truly do feel that way, your manager will feel your nervousness or anxiety in the meeting and potentially adopt it himself. Rather, approach this situation as you wanting to help make improvements for the company. Take your ideas, approach, and presentation seriously – and so will those around you.
Best of Luck,