Sometimes, you hear an idea or get a directive from your boss or one of the higher-ups that you know will spell disaster. Instead of screaming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” stay calm. By using your head, you’ll be allowed to keep it, vs. having it handed to you on a platter. Here’s how:

1. You may be informed of this new directive in a meeting. No matter how stunned you are at its stupidity, don’t compound the stupidity in the room with, “I understand this better than you do, because I’m closer to the situation, and I know….” blah, blah blah. Meetings are no place for petulance, anger, or defensiveness, and insulting or embarrassing an authority is always a serious CSM – Career Shortening Move.

2. Instead, focus on overall organizational effectiveness, not your own reaction to it. And begin tactfully learning why this directive ever saw the light of day and how it will affect you – maybe it actually does make sense. “What are the goals? What outcomes are expected? Who will be affected? Has a budget been set? How will success be measured?”

3. Once you’re sure you fully understand the “underpinnings” of the directive, you may still disagree with its wisdom. But if the boss is unwilling to explore any negatives about it, sit tight. You’ll probably be asked to prepare a plan to implement the directive, so you’ll have another chance to get your boss to consider things from another perspective.

4. When you meet with your boss to discuss your plan (and possibly lobby to change the directive), once again leave your “high horse” in the stable, and approach the discussion with respect. Avoid sounding pompous or overly dramatic about how it “must” be done this way or “the whole department is at risk.” If you think the boss won’t like your plan, ease into it hypothetically: “What do you think would happen if we….” Or, “Let’s just say we do such and such. What do you see as the pluses and minuses?” (Note the use of “we” instead of “you” or “I.”) Couch your own ideas in terms of well-thought-out suggestions rather than cut-in-stone conclusions, and always align those recommendations with what you’ve been told is important overall. Anticipate concerns and questions the boss will have about your plan, and be prepared to answer them quickly and concisely.

Do these machinations sound Machiavellian? This approach may, like the Renaissance writer himself, be somewhat calculating. But when you are not in charge, when persuasion is your only tool, you must use it wisely. If you do, you will not only be seen as a leader, but you will have helped your organization be more successful, and saved your boss from the embarrassing defeat of a doomed-to-failure idea.

Looking for a holiday business gift that will be appreciated and used for years? Ask Jeanne about quantity discounts of her new book, Success Simplified, co-authored with Stephen Covey, Tony Alessandro, and 16 other business leaders.

If your organization would like a keynote speech or training program on this or other topics, contact Jeanne Baer at  (402) 475-1127 or visit me on the web at or via email at
Copyright 2011 Creative Training Solutions

by Jeanne Baer, President
Creative Training Solutions
402-475-1127 or 800-410-3178