How To Get Your Ideas Heard

In my prior post, I discuss some reasons and guidance on what to do if no lower level employees’ ideas get heard.  Not always is it a systemic issue, however, and I would argue that more often than not, it’s YOUR ideas that don’t get heard.

It’s just me they don’t listen to…

So, you are brilliant after all!  Being an engineer, likely with experience in your area, you do have valid input that should be listened to.  The reason why JUST your ideas are not being listened to are simpler to remedy.  There are essentially two reasons for this.  The first is that your idea will take too long, be too costly, or simply too difficult to implement.  In this case, it’s not that your idea is unworthy, but rather, the business decision is based on the project’s bottom line.  It is up to the project manager to determine what feature set will provide the greatest return on investment of time and resources.  Because of that, perhaps you can see if there is any way to scale down the scope of the suggested feature, or just hold it off for another revision of the project with a new scope.

The other side of this is that your idea is a great one, but you cannot communicate its worth effectively.  I watched a Cosby show episode (worth a watch) once where one of Vanessa comes home for a family dinner and introduces the family to her new fiancé.  At dinner, Bill explains to him why they don’t like him.

Do you have a favorite food.  Something that you really, ya know, love.

Oh yeah, on occasion I enjoy a nice juicy steak.

Steak, there you go.  We got a porterhouse.  a porterhouse and no white lines in it at all.  And what would you like to go along with it.

OH, uh some crispy potatoes.

No problem.  Now we got mushrooms.  You like the mushrooms.  you can smell it. …

Now, I’m gonna present it to you.  I go over, I don’t get a plate.  I get the garbage can lid.  And I turn it upside down after taking it off the garbage can.  I take your steak, your potatoes and your sautéed mushrooms, and I give it to you.  Not too appetizing is it?  It’s in the presentation.

I hope that made my point.  After presenting your idea (that you know is worthwhile) and getting turned down, ask why.  In fact, ask them to repeat your idea back to you, so that you can be sure that what they heard is what you said.  If it’s your communication style that is at fault, they won’t be able to repeat it back to you correctly.  In that event, DON’T sit there and try to drill it into their heads.  You’ve already lost the round.  Say instead, “Let me get back to you.  I need to find a way to communicate it better.”  Go back to your desk and start writing.  Make flowcharts if necessary, even mock-ups of what you think it will be like.  The more information the better, and then send it to your team.  Either it will be resolved before the next meeting, or you can then present it at the next meeting after everyone has had a chance to read it and understand what you’re trying to do.  One important point here, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  Managers don’t want to see technical specifications, they want to see why a customer would want it.  With engineers, class diagrams could be useful, or CAD drawings, or any other supporting tech documentation.

To Summarize

If you have a cultural problem, or haughty managers, you will have a painstaking time trying to get your ideas across.  It’s not that they won’t listen, but that they just don’t care about your point of view.  If it’s important enough, push it and make them listen because it’s THAT good.  Otherwise, if the idea is sound, communicate it better, or understand why it’s not feasible.


  • Great post Christian. I really like your idea of being able to keep communicating even if at first it wasn’t successful and created the wrong impression. It’s so valuable to understand that communicating our ideas is an ongoing learning process and that we can get better at it with some practice and deliberation.

    • Christian Fey

      Thanks Guy!

      I’ve noticed that people tend to shut down once they are refused. Not to say that it shouldn’t be the right response, but you need to make that determination based on whether you were actually understood or not. If not, that’s when you need to MAKE yourself clear to them, and yeah, sometimes multiple times bringing up the same thing may be just what is needed to get things across.

      Thanks for your wisdom!