Getting to Yes with Senior Administrators

A conversation with Rebecca Jones (managing partner, Dysart and Jones) and Frank Cervone (Vice Chancellor for Information Services and CIO, Purdue University Calumet) about what will influence administrators to okay your ideas and projects.

Assumptions are your boss:

  1. Isn’t crazy
  2. Isn’t completely clueless about technology
  3. Isn’t a trained monkey

In most cases, people are in decision-making roles because they are competent. Frank says the majority of his time is spent on issues that are university-wide issues and not specific to the library or IT.

You need to give a clear vision of what you want to do and how you are going to get there. Therefore, you need to understand your boss and his/her issues. Make your initiative align with larger goals and priorities of the organizations.

Decision-makers are individuals: each with their own priorities, communication preferences and assumptions. Figure out who are the decision-makers, what type of relationship you have with them, their priorities, and their preferred communication styles.

You also need to understand how you express yourself. You need to understand how other people perceive you. Body language is as important (if not more) as verbal communication.

“Listening is not waiting to talk.” Listening is a critical skill to use and is an active task (not to mention an art).

“You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time” J.S. Knox

Some things to avoid:

  • Surprises are always a bad thing: never blindside anyone
  • Hiding and hoarding information will not make you anyone’s friend: this doesn’t get you power, it breeds hostility, stress, and distrust
  • Cowardly lions aren’t very useful: if you don’t speak up in the meeting, don’t whine after
  • Don’t be a yes person: bring up the issues in a constructive way
  • No one wants to be around an erupting volcano: need to know how much detail to give; know your audience (also, don’t be angry all the time)

What to do:

  • Stick to objective facts: opinion undermines the whole argument, but if asked for your opinion, give it in a constructive, fact-based manner
  • Be clear: know what your objective is and what you want out of the interaction
  • Be proactive: this helps with communication issues
  • Present solutions, not problems: never go into a meeting with a problem you don’t have at least one solution to fix
  • Give options: give multiple options to fix a problem and the preferred option
  • Don’t destroy your credibility: trust is super-important
  • Follow through: make sure you do what you say you will do
  • Respect people’s time: end meetings on time; make sure everyone understands why they are there and what needs to be accomplished; don’t waste people’s time; make sure people are prepared for the meeting
  • Make others look good: this will help you get to yes on what you want to get done
  • Admit to your mistakes: get it out in the open and deal with it

If you get told no, ask what is in the way of getting to yes. Ask how you can get them to yes.

This talk was basically Communication 101 with some good tips about what to avoid and what to do when you want to get approval for projects and initiatives.