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September - 2008 - issue > Protocol@Work
“Socializing – An amazingly effective concept”
Sridhar Jayanthi
Monday, September 1, 2008
This article is not about parties or entertaining people at work. “Socializing” is a new term that I have heard more recently in US management meetings although we have all observed it in practice long before it was coined. Managers pay heed – this may change how you get things done at work. While this concept is equally applicable in personal life as it is in professional life, I will focus on its applicability at work, especially to managers globally.

Almost routinely we have ideas or decisions that we want to get the support of a peer group or upper management to fund it. How do you “sell” your idea or a business case for a successful outcome? Depending on how you go about it we can classify managers into two broad categories – the Hopeful Manager who throws the idea in front of the management team and hope it “sticks”, and then there is the Persuasive Manager who socializes it.

The Hopeful Manager typically documents a good idea, and often does not really share with anyone except maybe close colleagues or friends before presenting it or submitting it for final consideration. Usually the person depends on the sheer brilliance of his idea to succeed. In case the idea gets turned down, depending on the importance of the idea, the reaction would be intense disappointment. This could result in frustration and loss of faith in the system or the management team. Unfortunately this type of situation is not uncommon sometimes purely due to lack of time or proximity to the audience.

The Persuasive Manager on the other hand is less dependent on the brilliance of the idea, and more on his ability to “sell”. Well before an audience is sought to present the idea, this manager has surveyed and canvassed among the key stakeholders and decision makers. The merits and weaknesses of the idea are discussed openly and opinion sought with humility. While his belief in the idea is no less than that of the Hopeful Manager, he realizes that it is not easy for people to see his perspective on the idea unless they understand the background, the reasoning, the merits and risks of the idea. These aspects are not obvious in a brief presentation and definitely hard to expect if a document is submitted without an opportunity to explain verbally. For the Persuasive Manager, the reaction to his idea being rejected is far less intense. He is already aware of the stakeholders’ reservations and concerns. The ending could result in disappointment but will not be a total surprise.

Some tips to “socialize” your idea:
Understand the audience - the decision makers and key stakeholders – the people who are positively or negatively impacted by your idea

Try to develop a champion for your idea among the stake holders, who can speak to the audience more effectively; Take advice from the champion

Understand the value as perceived by each stakeholder

Apart from highlighting the benefits of the idea, address the potential concerns that could be raised in your proposal

Spend time with each of the key stakeholders discussing the idea and why this idea is good and how it aligns with a current corporate goal

Depending on the magnitude of the idea, do your best to get stakeholders’ time to present your idea personally (even if it is remotely) before a final presentation

The final presentation should be a matter of routine and an opportunity to collectively discuss it; avoid surprising anyone in the audience either during the final presentation or when submitting the final proposal; Do NOT submit your idea before you are ready.
Handle the final result professionally; Your reaction to the final result also reflects your maturity to the audience and helps with your future prospects

The author is Vice President of Engineering and Head of India Operations, McAfee Engineering Centre, India.

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