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Pitching Your Idea: Tips for Newbies

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I’m new to my organization. How can I bring up new ideas with my colleagues without seeming like a threat?

A: This is a tricky one. You don’t want to come across as negative about how your organization is currently doing things or as a know-it-all, but it can be painful to watch your association struggle when you have an idea that might bring better results.

Be careful not to jump in and tell your new colleagues how things were done at your last organization—as if where you worked before did it right and your new association does it wrong. Bide your time, watch and listen, and build your credibility by being a team player. Even if you do have a fantastic idea, presenting it too soon may stop it in its tracks. In many cases, your patience will be rewarded.

When the time is right (and I wish I could tell you exactly when that is, but you’ll know), run it by some trusted colleagues to get their reaction. It’s always good to have a few champions on board so that when you do share your idea with your manager, you won’t be out there on your own.

Even if you have a fantastic idea, presenting it too soon may stop it in its tracks. In many cases, your patience will be rewarded.

Before you present your idea, be sure to do a cost/benefit analysis, and if there is cost associated with your proposal, know where the funds might come from. Estimate how much time is likely to be required and what skill sets will be needed to implement the idea. The better prepared you are with critical facts and figures, the more likely it is that your idea will be accepted.

Be sure that your idea supports your organization’s mission, and be able to articulate how it will benefit your members or other stakeholders. And if the idea will help your manager meet one of his or her goals, be sure to emphasize that aspect. This is a great way to get noticed by your new boss.

If your idea isn’t well received, don’t get discouraged. You may hear, “We tried that 10 years ago and it didn’t work.” Be prepared to smile and move on graciously. You might get a chance to present your idea again, under different circumstances, in the future.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

Career Development