How to Communicate an Idea to Leadership
As the leader of a creative team, many, if not most, of the ideas we develop come from members of the team, not from higher leadership. As part of the senior team, I have the unique position of seeing and representing both the creative perspective and the organizational perspective. I hope these thoughts will help creatives when presenting an idea “up” to leadership.
As part of the process, you should consider the PURPOSE behind the idea, then PLAN to make your presentation, and finally, the best way to PITCH the idea.
Leadership’s responsibility is to make sure resources are used to support the church’s overall mission; any idea they’ll consider needs to fall in line with that mission. So, it’s important to have an acute awareness of the big picture. It might be really cool to build a new app or install a display in the hallway, but be sure the idea advances the mission and vision or it won’t likely be given a green light. And if your church doesn’t have a defined mission or vision, perhaps you could be the one to initiate the process for developing one.
When considering purpose, it’s also helpful to be aware of leadership’s goals, both short-term and long-term. In any given season, leaders are typically focused on a specific project or goal that supports the church’s mission. What is the leader focused on right now? Is this the best time to pitch your idea, or would there be a better time? Timing can be an important factor for leaders when considering proposals. Ideas that require significant resources are ideally presented at budget preparation time so leadership can factor it into the budget for the following year.
As you develop ideas to share with leadership, you’ll want to consider some factors to help with receptivity. First, as much as possible, communicate regularly with leadership. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to as many leaders as possible on a regular basis. Ask them to lunch. Ask them about their ministry goals. The more you collaborate with leadership, the more they will know and trust you when you have an idea to share.
Second, work to break the stereotypes of creatives. One of those stereotypes is that creatives often have ideas that are unrealistic. Leaders want ideas that are outside the box but not “over the top.” Leaders want fresh ideas, but they still must be within the bounds of the church culture.
Finally, with respect to planning, make sure the idea is achievable. If the idea was not specifically placed in the budget, where will the money come from? Is there room in your ministry budget, or will you be asking leadership to fund it from another line item? Will other ministries in the church be on board with the idea, or will you be alone in its support? Have you gotten feedback from other ministries to determine if they will also support the idea?
Once you’ve considered the purpose of the idea and planned how it will be best received, it’s time to pitch the idea. Before you actually meet with leadership, you’ll want to anticipate their questions and be ready with answers.
Also, depending on the size and the culture of your organization, you may only have a limited amount of time in the pitch meeting. Building anticipation may be part of your pitch strategy, but only take that as far as you believe the leader will tolerate it. Most leaders have limited time and will want you to get to the point quickly.
You’ll want to avoid using industry jargon. If you know your leader is well-informed in your area of specialty (back to the earlier point of spending time with them on a regular basis), then go ahead. But most leaders will be limited in their understanding of your world. So be sensitive by only using language they’ll understand.
Finally, provide more than one option. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, if the leader doesn’t like the idea, you need to have a backup. Often your second or third favorite idea will be the leader’s first choice. This is particularly true for projects which involve design. Second, by providing more than one option, you’ll demonstrate your versatility and flexibility, which most leaders appreciate.
Leaders expect creative ideas from creative people. Keep them coming! But as you do, consider these points to make your idea and its presentation as effective as possible.