This is desirable not to discourage you from stepping out of bounds. On the contrary, knowing the boundaries enables you to step out with intention which is much better and, ultimately more successful, then doing so accidentally or with sheer force.
When you have a great idea, you want to win over your leadership in a way that sparks their imagination and gets the wheels turning on “how to.” Anything short of that kind of deep, resounding support is risks wasting your time in the long run. But winning someone’s support isn’t easy. The sheer force of your personality—even coupled with strong relationships—won’t cut it.
Instead, you need a plan to ensure that your approach reflects your leadership’s interests and concerns—just to be heard—and then is logically structured around the purpose and function of the organization. Two components are essential to planning your approach:
- knowing your boss and
- knowing the boundaries, or the organizational “box.”
“Knowing your boss” involves gaining an understanding of your leadership’s strengths, weaknesses, and work style. Unfortunately, we most often have this information about ourselves and our subordinate staff. We don’t often have the conversation with our leadership about what their styles are. What you’re even less likely to have are any insights into the issues they are working on for themselves with their supervisors. Gaining more insight into what issues your boss or leadership are working on might be difficult, but it’s important to understand as much as you can about where they are in their professional journey.
In addition to knowing your boss, you need to understand the “box” within which you’re working—what are the documented (and less formal) rules of engagement. This step includes understanding the limits by engaging leadership in sketching them out (if they’re unspoken or inferred). Once you know where the boundaries are, you will also better understand where your solution falls—inside or outside of those bounds. Understanding this upfront is critical for building buy-in for your idea. Shedding any self-imposed constraints and determining anything and everything you can do within your current power is also important to fully exploring the organizational box.
To solve something in a new, innovative way, you first have to know what new is. Only then can you purposefully step off the prescribed path. One of the most compelling things you can do early on to build support is to demonstrate that you have the perspective, vision, and direction to at least get your idea started and implement whatever aspect of it you can in your own work. Your own adoption of the idea will go a long way in gaining buy-in from leadership.