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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

How to Pitch a New Idea to Your Boss

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You have a great idea for a new project—a marketing initiative that’s going to reach new audiences, a revamped tagline for a flagging product, or an efficient new way to organize the team's records. You’re probably feeling excited (way to innovate!) and slightly apprehensive (um, how exactly am I going to convince my boss it’s worthwhile?).

Remember, pitching a project to your boss is like pitching anything else—you need to look at the cost-benefit analysis from his or her perspective. To sway your supervisor that your brainchild is the way to go, be prepared with answers to the questions that will be on his or her mind.

1. When Will You Find the Time?

The introduction of any new project obviously means additional demands on your time. So, the first thing you will want to assure your boss of is that it won’t distract from all of the work already on your plate.

Phrasing this actually takes a more delicate balance than you may imagine. Seem too busy, and your boss may suggest you hold off on a new initiative, but make it seem like you have all the time in the world, and your supervisor may wonder what’s taken you so long to suggest additional tasks.

So, the best approach is to explain how the new project fits into the cycle of your workload—for example, how it dovetails perfectly with the end the one seasonal task before you ramp up for the next. Try something like, “Last year, I had extra time on my hands after the winter recruitment push—I’d love to devote that time to exploring some new approaches before we really delve into the next phase this summer.”

Don’t have a schedule that ebbs and flows? Present your boss with a plan to get work an hour earlier or shift hours from a less essential project.

2. How Does it Contribute to the Mission?

Think about when you’re answering questions in a job interview: You want to focus on how your efforts will contribute to the organization, as opposed to how working for the organization will benefit you. Similarly, you’ll want to focus on how this project fits into the bigger picture—not just how it will add to your resume, but how it will advance the work of the organization as a whole.

A great approach here is to talk about where the idea came from. Something inspired you to connect taking a certain course with doing your job better, right? Sharing this insight can help get your boss on the same page. Try this: “After yesterday’s staff meeting, I was thinking about growing our base, and that led me to think holistically about our PR efforts. I think one opportunity we’ve been missing is…”

Bonus: Starting from the beginning is also a great way to keep from getting flustered and makes it more likely that you’ll cover all of the points you want to hit.

3. What Do You Need to Make it Happen?

Now that you’ve contextualized how the project will fit with your workload and objectives, you need to show that you’ve thought through how it will impact everyone else. Will you need additional staff, resources, or space?

You may think that the only way to sell a project is to suggest you’ll have a minimum footprint, but that’s not necessarily the case. What you really need to show is that your needs are proportionate to your expected impact. The best approach is to start from your desired results and work back: “I think revamping our pitch deck for small business clients could give us a much stronger presentation. It’ll take a bit of the team's time and some design resources, but if it results in new business, it’ll be well worth it.”

Remember, it’s better to ask for what you actually need when you pitch the project than to get approval and have to ask for more resources a week later.

New projects and ideas can lead to all kinds of good things—more responsibilities, increased visibility on your team, and of course those awesome new lines on your resume. Just use the tips above to put your best foot forward when presenting it, and you’ll be sure to get it off the ground.

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