A majority of my conversations with other kingmakers follow this same script.

Me: So what’s up?
Them: I’m having a tough time.
Me: So… what’s up?
Them: I have this idea.
Me: Uh huh.
Them: But my [boss, pastor, manager, CEO, director, board, committee, lunch lady] is stuck in the [70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2013]. How do I get her to budge?
Me: What time is it? This could take a while…
Moving an idea through a process, whatever it is, is never easy.
And it shouldn’t be easy.
It shouldn’t be impossible, but whoever sits between you and the realization of your idea has been trusted to filter ideas for the org so that the good ones grow and the others die. And let me tell you – that’s a good thing. 
I realize there are managers and gatekeepers who leave a lot to be desired. We all have our horror stories about the one who was too controlling, too fearful, too old-school, too close to the CEO, who had no connection to the VP’s and on and on. But if you allow any of those excuses to be the thing that keeps your  idea from getting off the ground, then I’d say the system has done it’s job.
Ideas should be fought for, labored over and wrestled with. Ideas should keep you up late at night and wake you up early in the morning. Ideas should stumble out of your mouth when you’re talking about something non-related and should cause you to gloss over while you’re watching the big game because you can’t stop thinking about it. If you’re not at that level of distraction and panic with your ideas, then you’re wasting everyone’s time and the out of touch manager is the perfect obstacle to distract the clutter that are ideas lacking passion.
“But I have the passion. That’s why I’m here! So get off the soapbox and help me figure it out, Dex.”
The best tool in any kingmaker’s toolkit is what I call Up-fluence.
Up-Fluence: the ability to navigate processes, people and pitfalls and motivate others along the way
There are 6 strategies that I’ve observed in Up-fluencers who get ideas through the toughest of kept gates. These are
  1. Incremental Innovation
  2. Culture of Change
  3. Data
  4. Hug and Punch
  5. Honor
  6. Wait for Permission or Ask for Forgiveness
We’ll jump into these, but before we do, ask yourself this question:
Is this idea worth the hassle ?
If the answer is no, there’s no need to read any further.

What’s Your Cutting Fluid?

Maybe you’ve seen a CNC machine transforming a block of metal into custom rims, robotic arms or works of art. CNC machines are comprised of a lot of parts; the big arm moves the head that houses the bit that whittles away the material sliver by sliver.

That constant work of metal versus metal creates friction and generates an enormous amount of heat. So engineers added another part to the machine. Cutting fluid.

Cutting fluid creates an environment where friction can happen. It keeps all the moving parts cool enough for the real work to happen. Without cutting fluid, the machine parts would easily overheat and no work would be done.

As a part of a team of leaders, heat and friction should be expected. There should be a healthy desire to disturb, unearth, evaluate and refine. But in the midst of all that, what keeps the idea machine from overheating and destroying itself in the process?

Culture is the cutting fluid of any organization. It’s the way that hard work and heavy lifting gets done without disastrous results of hurt feelings, fatigue and disrespect.

Culture makes the tough choices easier to swallow.

Culture makes long hours make sense.

Culture makes opposing views not equate to opposition.

Any place where collaboration happens, the cutting fluid of a healthy culture is essential. So what is the path to a healthy culture? Here’s a short list of things that anyone can do to help pave the way.

  • Critique never becomes critical.
  • Failure isn’t fatal.
  • Laugh louder than you argue.
  • Welcome disagreement. Avoid being disagreeable.
  • Challenges are met with encouragement.
  • Be real about your shortcomings.
  • Be humble with your strengths.

What is your cutting fluid? How do you keep collaboration and the challenge of leading others positive, optimistic and in the context of a healthy culture? Figure this out and you will be able to do the tough stuff without it all blowing up in your face.