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ERA's Environmental Compliance Management Blog

How to Use Authority to Get Executive Buy-In for Your EH&S Project

Posted by Ross O'Lochlainn

This article is part 3 of our 5-part "Pitch Perfect" series on the psychology of getting executive buy in for your EH&S projects. You can read part 1 and part 2 here.  

 

authorityWhat would you do if you had more authority at your job?

I'm sure there are a few improvements you'd make to how things are being run.

Well, in this blog post we're going to show you exactly how you can increase your authority when getting approval for your environmental project...

By now you should already know about the 6 principles of influence that make the Pitch Perfect Technique so effective. You should also have started work on priming your EH&S project for success by aligning its values with your boss's to increase the chance of a "yes".

The next step of the Pitch Perfect Technique is specifically designed to boost your influence using the principle of Authority while presenting your idea.

Part of this is using what's called "The Briefcase Technique" - something we like to call a "shock and awe" approach - to impress whoever you're presenting to. It's a proven tactic that shows whoever you're talking to that you mean business (more on that later)...

What's most important to understand is that it’s crucial as an EH&S specialist or manager to maximize your authority as much as possible. It's sad to say, but this is because EH&S is pretty low in the food chain in this modern climate and you'll be pitching to some of the most authoritative people in your entire organization

What you need to aim for is to be the most authoritative person in the organization about your topic.

But how can you do that effectively?

Let’s begin…

Tapping into Someone Else’s Authority

As we’ve mentioned before, one effective way to use the authority principle is to get someone else to vouch for your expertise and introduce you as the expert.

You can apply this technique to your own pitch if you’ve taken the time to work with other people in the planning and development process. If there is anyone in a management position or similar position of authority that has played any role in the project development process (even if it was just to act as a sounding board) you should ask them to introduce you as an expert to the audience.

EHS Authority

When you feel you need an extra boost of authority, you might even ask your authoritative ally to be the one who arranges the pitch meeting and initially brings your project idea up to the C-Suite.

You’ll start off on an authoritative foot if your executives have been told “Steve - our environmental expert in our EHS department - has a really great idea… we should arrange a time to hear them out”.

Maybe your name's not Steve, but you get the idea...

It's important to point out here that while this may seem trivial, Dr. Cialdini's book - Influence - highlights an example of Realtors who increased their number of appointments by 20% just by having receptionists mention their colleagues' credentials and expertise prior to transferring the call.

That's a pretty big impact for just getting the receptionist to introduce a complete stranger to a colleague and mentioning they're an expert - even when it's totally obvious the receptionist would benefit from this arrangement also.

Now imagine the effect of getting a respected authority within the company to introduce YOU as the expert.

Make Yourself an Undeniable Expert. Crunch ALL the Numbers.

If you want to get any type of project approved, you need to look like you know what you are doing. Getting introduced as an expert is one thing. Actually living up to the label is another...

No one trusts advice – even good advice – from someone that looks like an amateur or seems like they're winging it.

authority quote 4It needs to be obvious that you've taken the time to do your research and what you're presenting is a very logical business conclusion.

And every EH&S project, at its core, is based off of environmental data and recordkeeping. Any project you seek to undertake should have a solid foundation of data that supports it and points to the need for change.

As the resident EH&S data champion, you are in a prime position to tap into that resource and use it to fuel your authority.

That’s why the next essential step in the Pitch Perfect Technique is to crunch all the relevant data you possibly can and demonstrate that you are an expert.

The common business acronym for this is SME: Subject Matter Expert.

Even though your focus will ultimately be on the Bottom Line (as we discussed in the previous part of this series) - in order to completely nail your ROI down - you need to work with all the environmental and financial data you can access.

Remember, taking the time to thoroughly crunch the numbers is the best way to dig deep when calculating costs and benefits.

In addition, having a solid grip on all the relevant data will increase your confidence going into your pitch, because you’ll know that there won’t be any curveball questions thrown your way that you can’t answer.

As the project’s creator, you’ll be expected to know all the nitty gritty details about your idea, even if you aren’t going to be presenting that info as part of your presentation. For example, you need to know exactly what type of environmental impact your project will have, down to the type and quantity of emissions reduced or materials saved (to name just two of many possibilities).

Show Them Your Expertise. Show Them Your Smart Decisions.

Digging deep into your environmental data to build a case for why your idea is necessary can be a time-consuming task. Unfortunately there is no cookie-cutter method for the type of work you’ll need to do.

You'll just have to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in...

But while doing this, remember that one of the easiest ways to show your boss that you're an expert in the subject matter is to prove you’re making smart decisions based on the data you crunched.

People notice smart decisions.

Anyone who claims to be an expert and who isn't making smart decisions is going to get found out.

authority quote 2

 

So, either write down the decisions you're making while going through the data, or simply take 5 minutes to actually think about the decisions you made and why you made them. Then be sure to find a way to highlight these in your discussion.

For most environmental projects, the key decision your boss will be interested in seeing is how and why you chose your solution to the problem.

Which service provider did you decide to work with? What new equipment do you want to install? Why are you suggesting option A over option B?

In reality, you only need to find your top 5 potential solutions and then do the most thorough assessments possible. Showing your bosses that you’ve found the top five and selected one will have the same influential impact as showing them you’ve carefully researched 50 potential solutions.

Plus it will take you a fraction of the time... And having the data to prove your decision is the best one for your company highlights you as an SME and someone who is also heavily invested in their company.

For example, if you’re looking at replacing an old boiler because you know it’s a source of reportable air emissions and you want to keep ahead of changing boiler MACT regulations, you would want to carefully compare your current situation with the possible outcomes from working with many different boiler manufacturers.

Clearly illustrate why your choice is the best one for the company based on the numbers you’ve crunched, rather than just having a personal preference or a hunch.

What this requires then is a systematic assessment of your options.

In most of the cases we’ve been a part of, we find that executives often like to see a comparison of your top two or three options and build the case for your final decision.

They don't want to do the work, but they want to feel like they're in control, making decisions to move the company in the right direction.

For that reason, you'll get the best results by presenting 2-3 viable options to them and make your recommendation on which one is best for the company.

The ultimate goal is that you want them to conclude that your decision is the same decision they would have reached if they were in your position and had done the work.

At the end of this post, we'll link to a guide that shows you how to evaluate solution providers, with the top questions to ask and what you need to look for...

But once you've crunched the data and found the right solution, what's the most effective way to present this information?

How to Leverage The Briefcase Technique to Impress

Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich - a popular personal finance website - describes a method he uses to impress potential clients and bosses called 'The Briefcase Technique'. It has delivered some spectacular results for his readers.

Watch Ramit describe the Briefcase Technique here:

 

 

You'll notice he refers to 'The Briefcase Technique' in terms of impressing freelance clients or using it a job interview...

Ignore that and focus on the real crux of why this psychological tool works:

  1. It adds a brief moment of drama as you produce a document from your briefcase.
  2. But, more importantly, it signals that you have done extensive research into the benefits that can be brought to the organization.

But what exactly should be in your Briefcase Document and how should it be structured?

The Most Important Job of the Expert

There is one duty that often gets overlooked when people train themselves to be the SME about a project… and unfortunately it's the same thing that you need structure your entire document around.

It’s the job of being a guide for those who have little to no background or knowledge about EH&S processes and programs.

And your target audience – your executive – falls squarely into that category.

Here’s the catch to keep in mind when you’re busy crunching all the numbers and assessing your options: you should only present a fraction of the data you crunch in your pitch.

Have the data available if they wish to review it, but you need to give them a crystal clear snapshot of what's going on in their organization.

Remember, the C-Suite is really only interested in how your project relates to the Bottom Line, and nearly everything else is unimportant - unless they've stated otherwise.

There’s no benefit to sharing all your complex spreadsheets or emission calculations… instead just emphasize the project’s benefits.

Here are a few useful strategies that many environmental experts have used to condense all their research into accessible and digestible pitches:

  • Rely more on simple visuals and graphs – these give a good bird’s-eye view without overwhelming your audience.
  • If necessary, use a simple presentation tool like PowerPoint, but don’t bother using some of the more advanced features. Keep your slides minimalistic and use them to emphasize only your main points.
  • If you do use PowerPoint, cut back on text whenever possible and use the slides to highlight talking points.
  • Take the time to learn the corporate jargon your executives speak and use those terms when appropriate. However, it's very important to avoid the over-use of jargon. Relating to how your executives speak can be helpful, but peppering every other sentence with jargon makes it sound like you're overcompensating. Check out this business article for some helpful insight on the use of jargon in presentations and pitches: click here to read the article.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words – sometimes a photo can have the biggest impact. For example, if you’re concerned about how much of the materials you purchase for processing get thrown out as waste because of an inefficient process, take a snapshot and present that along with your oral presentation.

And although the bulk of your research won’t make it into your pitch, you will have developed a strong foundation of research and evidence if the need ever arises to defend your idea from critiques or overcome objections that could rise up after you’ve pitched your idea.

authority quote 3

Why Being the Expert Works

No surprises here: making yourself an expert in whatever topic you’re working on is an effective way to leverage authority principle to increase your influence.

The more authority you carry as a presenter, the fewer psychological objections your audience will throw in your way.

Any doubts your audience might have will be because they want or need more information, not that they don’t believe your claims.

Psychologists tell us that it’s important to signal that we are experts before we make any type of request, for this reason you need to structure your argument to signal your authority before making the request.

For that reason, you'll get the best results if you present in the following structure:

  • Problem - speak about the problem in detail
  • Agitate - focus on the business issues the problem is creating for the organization
  • Resolve - offer possible solutions to the problem, along with the benefits to the organization and a structured implementation plan

This doesn’t mean that you need to frontload all your research or overwhelm your boss with details, but it does mean you need ensure you are perceived as the expert authority on the topic before you make your request. Use the Problem & Agitate sections to signal your expertise, then make your request after you've presented the possible options in the Resolve section.

Depending on the weight you carry in your organization, signaling your position as an expert could be as simple as mentioning you’ve “carefully analyzed the top 5 options” or that you spent the last few months “thoroughly investigating” the situation.

Obviously, it's best to analyze options carefully, but assessing numerous options can be intimidating and laborious...

That's why we suggest you download our free “How To” guide about finding and narrowing down your potential solution providers and add it to your Making the Pitch toolkit.

With the guide you’ll learn:

  • The best questions to ask your potential solution providers (and a few that most people forget to ask)
  • Our strategy for casting your net wide and then narrowing down your options
  • How to make the final decision

The guide is written using the example of a business trying to improve their environmental management system, but you can easily apply the ideas and guidelines to suit your own environmental project if they differ.

Get your free copy of the guide and add it to your Making the Pitch toolkit now by clicking the button below!

 

Download the Free Guide

 

In The Next Part of this Series

Now that you’re ready to become an expert and capitalize on your authority by crunching all your numbers and making smart decisions that show off your expertise, it’s time to get ready for the last step of the Pitch Perfect Technique.

Next time we’ll tap into the power of social proof and teach you how to use it in your pitch in a number of effective ways so that you can switch your boss’ psychology from being risk-adverse to reward-focused.

Before then, don’t forget to download the free decision-making guide for your toolkit and to subscribe to these articles so you can get this mini-series delivered straight to your inbox.

 

Click here to subscribe to this series

 

ERA Environmental Alex

About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog

Topics: Environmental Compliance & Data Management, Emissions Management