February 09, 2008

Seven Ways To Get Your CEO To Follow You

Ever had a good idea that just sat there, collecting dust?

There are many ways that effective leaders make things happen. And leaders aren't always executives. Leaders are people who have a vision, who get things done, and are able to get people to follow them.

Sometimes you need to get your CEO to follow you. Believe it or not, your CEO wants to follow you. She can't possibly come up with all the ideas on her own.

Here's seven ways to get your CEO to follow you.

Just Do It

I know of an employee who wanted to start a blog. This employee presented the idea to the executive. The executive turned the idea down. A day later, the executive asked the employee why the employee didn't just execute the idea, guide it to success, then ask for forgiveness? The executive couldn't possibly authorize the idea, but could have potentially saved the idea if it had been implemented and become successful without the knowledge of the executive.

Seasoned employees, those trusted by leadership, have a longer leash than those who are new to a company. Sometimes the idea needs to be implemented in order for leadership to understand the potential of the idea. The seasoned employee gains much by learning how to read the tea leaves.

Profit And Loss

Two employees have an idea. One has a beautiful powerpoint presentation, chocked full of facts and figures and market research. The other employee has a simple presentation, but presents two profit and loss statements --- one illustrating minimal risk, one showing a reasonable expectation of potential.

Over time, the latter presentation has more potential for success than the glitzy powerpoint presentation. Know your facts, but also know the profit and loss implications of your idea.

Budgets And Timing

Ideas are more likely to succeed at the start of a fiscal year, and at the end of a fiscal year. Your CEO has a budget for projects. At the start of the year, that budget is full of money. At the end of the year, especially if your company had a good year, there may be money left in the budget that can be spent. Time your presentations around the rhythm of your fiscal year accounting cycle.

Evangelize The Idea

Back in 2002, I was the VP of Direct Marketing at Nordstrom Direct, the catalog/online channel at Nordstrom. Our employees were divided. Some liked catalogs, and believed that catalogs were the reason the website was so successful. Others loved the online channel, and thought the catalog folks represented a fossilized group of old-timers.

I took a presentation "on the road". I scheduled meetings with every department at Nordstrom Direct, illustrating to every employee how the combined efforts of all team members contributed to a happy customer, reminding each employee that Nordstrom was about pleasing customers, not about in-fighting over which channel was most important.

Sometimes, you sell your idea to the masses, not to leadership. When the masses align on a concept, leadership falls in place.

Be Humble And Confident

Leaders listen to humble, confident employees. Leaders are turned off by arrogant employees.

Align With Leadership Objectives

Ideas that foot with leadership objectives have a far better chance of succeeding than ideas that do not, on the surface, help leaders accomplish their objectives. Your CEO wants to be successful, and will do what it takes to keep her job. Help her succeed, and you succeed in the process.


Is your idea really important to you? Instead of fighting a battle you can't win, find a company that believes in your idea, and become a happier employee in the process.