How to Get Senior Leaders to Embrace New Technology Ideas

Jan 4, 2018
8 Min Read
Vineet Nayar Interview

Vineet Nayar Interview


If senior leaders balk when you mention new tech, there are several steps you can take to persuade them.

You know you may have an issue persuading senior leadership to embrace new technology when half of them still use a flip phone and the other half still have their assistants print out emails.

It’s not unusual to have some leaders be wary of new technology, but their level of resistance may undermine your efforts to be more innovative – or your company’s ability to compete.

How do you convince senior leaders that new technology isn’t reserved for the latest Star Trek movie and that using it can deliver better results?

First, you need to understand that the resistance by these leaders may be grounded in insecurity. Vineet Nayar, the former CEO of HCL Technologies and chairman and CEO of Sampark Foundation, explains that it’s important to understand the source of his or her insecurity.

“Make sure you aren’t feeding your boss’s insecurity by acting too aggressively,” he says. “If you approach him or her collaboratively, you might just get better results.”

Your direct supervisor may be able to help you get a meeting with a senior leader, giving you a chance to provide an easy explanation of what the technology can do. While the senior boss may not accept the idea right away, be persistent (not obnoxious) in continuing to provide examples of how the new technology could be implemented.

“Self-doubting managers fear the unknown and assume the unintended. Trust, the only antidote, is built by transparency. Even if it takes more time and effort, share as much information as possible,” Nayar explains.

Jason Nazar, co-founder and CEO of Comparably, agrees that persistence – and patience –ares key if you don’t initially succeed in your request for new technology.

“The person who is willing to keep asking for what they want, and keeps demonstrating value, is ultimately the most persuasive,” he notes.

At the same time, make sure you think about the timing of your request. For example, it may not be a good idea to pitch the request to a senior leader who is trying to finish quarterly reports or meeting with board members soon. Rather, it’s more likely you will encounter a more receptive audience if you wait until the senior leader isn’t rushing to meet a deadline or dealing with bad news.


How to pitch new technology successfully

Before making your pitch for the new technology, make sure you’re prepared to present your case. Here are some tips to increase the chances you will be successful in your quest:

  • Avoid hesitant language. Senior leaders don’t get to the c-suite by being indecisive, and they’re not going to pay attention to anyone who can’t speak confidently. Eliminate language such as “I mean,” “ummm,” “like” and “you know.” Don’t use “upspeak,” which is when your voice rises as the end of a statement as if it were a question.
  • Be negative. Research has shown that negative information often has a bigger influence than positive information. If you want the leader to choose between two options (new technology or no technology), then be negative about the option you don’t want the leader to choose.
  • Build a connection. Make eye contact when you’re speaking with the senior leader, but not so much that you seem creepy. Nod you head three to four times when the leader is talking – research shows this makes the speaker feel important.
  • INSEAD Business School found in a study that 67% of sellers who used mirroring were able to make a sale compared to 12% who did not use the technique. Still, you have to tread carefully as senior leaders are likely to be familiar with mirroring and may see you as trying to manipulate them. Try leaving about two to four seconds before mirroring an action.
  • Address objections directly. Before you make the pitch to the senior leader, you need to think of each and every possible objection from “it costs too much” to “the current system works just fine.” Formulate answers that are concise but provide facts, such as “we could increase the productivity of our field staff by 20% in the first quarter.” But make sure you don’t overpromise: Nazar says that the person who promises a 20% boost and then delivers a 30% increase is rewarded, but one who promises a 40% gain and then delivers 35% is punished.
  • Ask questions. You cannot go before a senior leader to make your case for new technology and then just answer questions. Travis Bradberry, author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” and cofounder of TalentSmart, notes that persuasive people also ask good questions because they are truly listening and not just planning what to say next. “You’ll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking questions,” he says.
  • Use emotion. While facts are important, a study by Quantified Communications finds after a linguistics analysis of key world leaders that appealing to emotion and intuition is also effective. Try conveying information to a senior leader by giving an example of how the technology will change lives – of employees and of customers.

Finally, your chances of success are diminished if you take the lone wolf route. A senior leader often relies on input from trusted employees, which means you need to find out who the senior leader will turn to, and help build the case with those people, as well. Demonstrate to others that you’re a supportive, professional colleague and they will be more willing to provide support for new technology when you need it.

“When I do something for you, you feel compelled to do something for me.  It is part of our evolutionary DNA to help each other out to survive as a species,” Nazar explains.


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