Has this happened to you? You’ve come up with a product idea, a strategy, a way around a big problem, or a different way to get better results cheaper as your next move. You have worked hard on a presentation, and excitedly shared your ideas with your boss…and WHAM, they say No. They might do it by politely ignoring your recommendations. You might hear the painful “Are you kidding? You can’t be serious.” The worst (my opinion) is being told in a patronizing tone, “You don’t really understand our situation. Stick to what you know better.” You feel stomped, squished, and shut down. You were so sure this was going to go well!
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. -Mike Tyson
As a leader you have a few choices as to what your next move will be.
You can yell, scream, whine, tell someone they are an idiot because they can’t see the brilliance of your idea, etc. You can see yourself as a victim, and wallow in self-pity. You can store up another “they done me wrong” story in your collection for whining to sympathetic listeners. You can feed a grudge until its grip on your mind lasts to your grave. You could call yourself an idiot for trying to make the world a better place, and fade back to sleepwalking through life.
Fools take those options. Your best leader self is not a fool.
Instead, work through these four options to make your best next move:
Learn from it to make your next move.
We often learn more from failures than successes, if we’re willing to. First, embrace your emotional responses, acknowledge them, and then set them aside. Analyze the situation. Put yourself in the position of others – how might your idea have been perceived by them? Any clues about what they focused on or why they said no? Was there a larger context that you weren’t aware of?
Practice separating criticism of your ideas from criticism of your identity.
Don’t begin with the assumption that saying no to your idea is about you personally. It’s unlikely to be true, for starters. Leaders gain strength when they have the discipline to hold their identity separate from their ideas. Reading and imagination are important but only take you to the brink of experience.
Consider taking another run with your idea or proposal.
Review whatever feedback you have, get some other perspectives, and find ways to address all the concerns and risks. Review your presentation and see if a modified approach might work better. “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15) Have confidence in yourself, and sharpen your idea and your presentation.
Choose to walk away without nursing wounds.
You always have the option to say “Nope, I’m done with that. But I’ll keep looking for new ideas. I won’t let this experience stop me from doing a good job with my next move.” That’s a professional response.