In the world of corporations and organizations, few things are as sacrosanct as bum bum BUUUUM! C-Level Approval. It’s practically the Excalibur of Cubicle Land. And with good reason. Getting the approval of the big boss lady (or man) matters in ways that aren’t always apparent right off the bat. When I speak about employment branding, building talent communities or content marketing (relatively diverse, albeit related subjects) I always get asked how to get the A-OK from upstairs. So in a nutshell, here’s how:
Be Cautious: Your excitement over an idea you heard at a conference can be infectious. It can also put someone who is PAID to make the really hard decisions off. If your plan (you DO have a plan right?) comes off as “shoot the moon” ambitious, you might want to scale it back a little bit. How do you do this? Plan small steps. Sure they’re less impressive in the board room but waaaaay more attainable in the break room (AKA getting other employees to pitch in on YOUR baby project). Also? Getting approval for small changes gets easier once you’ve begun showing results.
Create Solutions: At this point you should be well-versed in the goals of your department and how they fit in with the overall organizational plan. (If not, please stop reading this and try and figure that part out). No matter what you are trying to do, you HAVE to tie your idea into a plan that is beneficial to the company (and ideally your direct department). Is your company cutting costs? Then show how you’ll support your employment branding campaign internally. Is the organization’s candidate pipeline filled with bottlenecks? Include plans for how your talent community will address that and when. Remember, if it’s not tied into what the company wants to do, it’s just a distracting project. A distracting project is much harder for a C-anything-O to say “yes” to.
Get Competitive. There are many attributes of a successful CEO, but many of them do have some sort of competitive nature. So, what is the competition doing? Is it working for them? I am continually shocked at how many smart recruiters, marketers and HR Pros leave this step by the wayside. If your competition is doing something really well and they are seeing results, why wouldn’t you at least factor that into your decision making process? By doing an in-depth competitive analysis (or even a candidate experience scan) you might discover that your company is the only one NOT doing a specific, possibly even industry standard practice. DOH!
Case The Joint: Best practices, case studies and industry leading are all terms that can be music to a Executive’s ears. While competing is nice, leading the industry is even better. This works especially in well in content marketing sells. I will go in to consult with a company and find out they are doing tremendous, noteworthy work that no one knows about. Huh? In simple terms? Explain to your CEO why you should be bragging and then show him how.
Cry. Well, not really, but the old adage “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission” applies in business too. Sort of. While I would never advise starting a project that eats up work hours without asking someone above you first, I would advise trying a small-scale informal version of your idea, simply to get an idea of what it could be. While controlled, miniscule results can’t be extrapolated to enterprise scale projects right off the bat, they sure give a solid foundation to how it might work going forward and this arms you with one of the most important weapons in your approval arsenal: DATA. Keep in mind that you should be completely honest about where the data came from and how much of it is easily provable in an implementation scenario.
C‘est La Vie. It won’t always work. Sometimes you will do everything right and your idea will still get denied. That’s okay. Live to fight another day and keep ferreting information about why the project (or projects) might more closely align with company goals or be up for additional budget money. Not only will this help you build your case for a project you desperately want to do, it will help you to understand your company and business better and increase the chances that next time you ask, the answer will be YES.