How To Gain Influence At Work

You’re a fresh grad. New to the workforce, full of passion, and excited to start contributing to your team. There’s only one problem;

No one will listen to your ideas.

I see this happen all the time. Smart individuals getting frustrated at work. Sometimes they become jaded and sulk. Other times they end up leaving for start-ups because they want to be listened to. They take severe pay cuts just to have their opinions mean something. But the problem follows them throughout their entire career because they never learned how to sell their ideas.

By learning how to successfully pitch your ideas, you won’t have to jump ship, you’ll become a resource for idea generation, and increase your influence at work, at home, and throughout your career.

First let’s find out why your ideas are being ignored. Next, we’ll go over the exact tactics to conquer meetings and get your opinions heard.

Why Won’t Anyone Listen to Me? 

Reason 1. You don’t know the unwritten ground rules.

Imagine your first day on the job as a banker. Full of excitement and valor, you pitch an idea in your first meeting. An idea you’re convinced will revolutionize the company:

Why don’t we serve an ad to every non-customer who uses our ATM’s asking them to join our bank? With a 2% conversion rate, we can increase our revenue by $X.XX

Instead of getting raucous agreement, people stare at you. Blankly.

You’re later informed that there is an agreement in place between competing banks which states that they are not to promote their services on ATM’s.

Just like that your idea gets shutdown. You didn’t know the rules of the game you were playing.

You have to learn the laws or principles that govern your company for you to be taken seriously (we’ll explain how below).

Reason 2. Your Idea Sucks

You haven’t fully fleshed out the value proposition.

There are risks you haven’t evaluated.

There are issues with execution that are irreconcilable.

You haven’t nailed your elevator pitch.

For whatever reason your idea sucks and you won’t realize it until pitch day and everyone else tears it apart.

You have to learn how to un-suck your idea for you to be taken seriously (we’ll explain how below).

Reason 3. Nobody Supports You

Even if your idea is fantastic, if you don’t have buy-in from your colleagues, it will never get off the ground floor.

Drumming up support for your idea is more important than your idea itself. (tweet this)

The halls of history are littered with the carcasses of good ideas that somebody failed to execute on. Your colleagues are often the ones that will be doing the heavy lifting to help your idea see fruition. If they refuse to lift a finger for you, your idea won’t make it out of the board room.

You have to learn how to gain advocates for you to be taken seriously.

Okay I get it. How do I fix it?

How To Conquer Meetings And Get Your Voice Heard

Mastering The Art Of The Water Cooler Pitch

The conversations you have in the hallways, at your cubicle, at the water cooler are all prime situations for you to practice pitching your idea.

The biggest issue most people face is that they keep their ideas secret for fear that someone may steal it. They want to wait until the last moment to create a grand reveal and amaze the rest of the team.

This never works.

Ideas die from underexposure, not overexposure.

Pitching ideas to coworkers gives them a chance to prod and test your idea, for you to see what objections they bring up, and ultimately solidify your core message.

One of my first bosses told me about this trick during one of our career discussions. She told me how early in her career she noticed one of her coworkers receiving unprecedented support for her ideas despite being new to the company.

It turns out she was inviting executives out to coffee and pitching her idea over lattes. When the pitch meeting finally happened, the most senior person in the meeting in the team was already nodding in approval. Consequently, she developed a reputation for having great ideas and was always consulted before any decision was made.

As you can imagine, her career skyrocketed.

With each water cooler pitch, you gain a deeper understanding of the unwritten ground rules, the pitfalls you could face executing your idea, and  perfect your elevator pitch.

Additionally, you gain advocates that have heard your idea, provided feedback, and ultimately support your intentions because the idea has become a team effort.

So now when you walk into the meeting and pitch your idea- It’s foolproof. You have multiple people nodding in agreement. The unwritten ground rules have all been addressed, and you have support for execution.

So now you don’t be the fresh grad with nasty ideas.

You’ll be the nasty grad with fresh ideas.

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  1. Damian Shchur November 14, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Great post. I often have good ideas but fear sharing them because I want them to remain my ideas. However, this obviously ends up with a low execution rate of my ideas. Bouncing ideas with people is key, but i also think that if you wait too long before making the big pitch, the idea is more likely to get stolen.

    1. brokerchange November 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Great point Damian and it’s something we often struggle with.

      Here is something you can do to protect yourself. After they give you feedback, implement it immediately and send them an email update:

      “Hey, thanks for the feedback on xyz idea. Here is how it looks now [attached]”


      Now you have in writing that it was your idea in the first place which will deter any potential thieves.

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