People don’t take on board the things that people close to them tell them (I think that makes sense?). Even if the people close to them are experts, people still put up this mental barrier that prevents them from absorbing information or making decisions based on what they’re told.
My girlfriend knows her stuff. Anything health and wellbeing-related; nutrition, health, fitness, you name it, she has a good level of knowledge. And seeing as though her job, and passion, is making people healthier and happier, it’s probably a good idea that she does. It’s no wonder then, that when any of our family or friends are wanting to lose weight or something, they always turn to Gemma. But, no matter what they’re told, nothing much changes. They go home and slip straight back into the lifestyle they’ve just been saying they’re not happy with and want to change.
I think you’ll find, in your private and professional life, that this happens all the time. Although people understand you’re level of expertise and competences, they still might have trouble believing in your problem solving solutions. Now, while I do think you should generally ignore most advice, it’s different when you’re being paid to provide it.
Why don’t people listen?
Sometimes, you’re just too close to people that you can’t see their true skills and competences for what they are. It’s like being engrossed in the details of a piece of work and overseeing the bigger picture. You can’t believe that they’re capable of having the solution to your problems. Deep down, you might not trust them as much as you think you do. You still see them as the young, wet behind the ears kids that you employed 2 years ago and oversee the capable, talented and eager go-getters they are today. And this is amplified when they’re skilled in areas that are unfamiliar to your company and you’ve got nothing to compare them to. It’s like your mother still seeing the same snotty-nosed, Mitre-hugging, Batman-impersonating, Moonwalking, ex-Boro mascot you used to be and not who you are now. (I was going to give a whole list of describing words that sum up who I am now there, but I thought against sounding as vain as an arteries relative and, in the spirit of maintaining momentum and not wishing to drift off the point or lose your attention with an uncalled-for ramble, move swiftly on.)
Now, it’s not that they don’t like your ideas. They may well agree with everything you say and genuinely think you’re idea could work. But they don’t know you’re right and backing you means taking a chance. And there are a lot of companies out there that just simply hate taking chances. They want a guarantee. So they look for someone, something, that’s proven and reliable and that’s been shown to work time and time again.
Cue agencies, consultants and third-party suppliers
That’s why agencies and consultants get plenty of work. If you’ve got a high profile list of clients that travels as far as your scroll bar can venture, then you’re pretty much a guarantee of value for money. You’re a safe bet. You’ve done it before, so we know roughly what we’re expecting. Plus, you’ve also got the added bonus of being removed from the company, so you can pretty much get away with slating its every marketing effort and, instead of been given a disciplinary, you’re given a standing ovation for pointing out what plenty of people in the room already knew, but didn’t have the balls to bring up.
But all an agency or consultant is doing here is being objective and honest. There’s no secret tricks. No mirrors and smoke screens. They just tell it how it is. But, because they don’t have a connection with the company, they can’t be seen as rebelling against the status quo. They’re not seen as disagreeing with their manager or colleagues. They’re not viewed as a disruptive and outspoken outcast. They don’t look like a dick for going against the grain and sticking their necks on the line in meetings and on conference calls. They’re respected for their honesty and paid for their objectivity.
So how do I get my ideas heard?
You do the same as the agencies and consultants do. You be objective and honest. All day. Every day. You be completely impartial. No matter how much you love your job or the company you work for, you’ve got to maintain your own independance. You tell the truth, your truth, about everything. You rebel against the status quo if you want to. You disagree with your manager and colleagues if you need to. You be a disruptive, outspoken outcast and you be prepared to look like a dick and put your neck on the line if you have to. If you don’t like something and don’t agree, speak up and say why. Show how it can be done better and be prepared to do the dirty work to make it happen. Don’t have the confidence? Then pretend you do.
If you don’t do any of this; if you don’t be your own person and think for yourself; if you don’t stand up and be counted, challenge the status quo with purpose and without shame; if you’re not impartial, objective and honest; if you’re not behaving like a third party consultant or an independent agency, then your ideas, when you have them, will blend in with the rest of the average ideas from the rest of the average, compliant workforce. And that is the most disposable and replaceable place to be in any company.
Only when you’ve convinced everybody involved that you’re willing to point out the things that nobody else dares to; you’re going to stand up for yourself and fight the norm with change; you’re going to recommend a better solution and act on it and get things done; only when everybody understands that that’s who you are, will anybody listen to your ideas and trust you to make it happen.