Imagine this scenario: You’ve gone to your boss to ask for resources, but he says, “No, we don’t have more resources.”

What do you do?

Most people would give up and make do without. After all, a no is a no. And it took all your courage to make the ask. You chalk that part up as a win, even though you’re frustrated that you didn’t get what you wanted.

Then you think maybe your boss was in a bad mood, so you look for a chance to bring it up again when he’s in a better state of mind. But the answer is still no.

A while later a mentor suggests you try making the case in a different way. So you come up with the most compelling case possible. You even put it in terms of what’s in your boss’s best interests and align it with his goals. But you get turned down again!

At this point, most people will finally admit defeat and give up. But that’s not always the right thing to do.

Being able to successfully negotiate for resources is a valuable skill for any leader

It shows you’re thinking strategically, developing your team and operating at the next level. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate you have gravitas. And to be seen as capable and respected in the eyes of your juniors, peers and key decision-makers.

But even experienced team leaders can find themselves hitting a dead end. So when you feel like you’re doing everything “right” but still getting turned down, then you may be making one of the common mistakes when asking for additional resources.

In particular, there’s one among them that I’ve seen people overlook the most. Not being aware of it could leave you frustrated, stuck and without those key resources that your team needs.

And that key mistake is…

You’re negotiating for resources with the wrong person

Most bosses won’t readily admit that they lack authority over important resource allocation decisions like budgets and headcount.

They might even agree with your ask, but when they push the request up the chain of command, they get turned down. Which means you get turned down.

This is what happened to one of my group coaching clients. She only discovered she was negotiating with the wrong person when her skip-level boss started to mentor her and revealed that the project wasn’t considered a priority for the department.

No wonder her boss had been so defensive every time she made the request for more resources. There were no more resources coming to her boss’s project, and her boss was too embarrassed to say so.

The tell-tale signs to look out for

Few bosses will admit they are powerless to give you resources. So it’s in your interest to look closely for the signs that this is the case.

If you think you may be negotiating with the wrong person, here are three signs to look for:

  1. Your boss doesn't give any explanation beyond “we have no more resources” and gets defensive when you ask for the reason behind the “no”.
  2. You’ve pressure-tested your ask with a trusted mentor or colleague and they agree you’re making a reasonable case.
  3. Other team leaders are getting resources for initiatives that seem less important than yours.

When you discover you’re negotiating with the wrong person, it’s time to widen the net

So stop repeatedly asking your boss for something they can’t deliver, which only causes more friction and frustration for both of you. Instead, broaden the set of stakeholders you’re talking to.

That could mean asking for advice from someone influential who can provide insight into what’s going on for the leadership team. Or finding a way to connect with decision-makers themselves.

Your effectiveness as a team leader depends on your access to a range of stakeholders in your organization who can help you achieve team and organizational goals.

The best time to build relationships is before you need them, so don’t wait until you’ve found the limits of your boss’s influence to start developing relationships with other senior stakeholders.

If you’re getting “no” when you ask for resources, remember to look for these signs:

  • There’s no real explanation
  • You’ve pressure-tested your ask and it’s reasonable
  • Others are getting resources instead of you

Which of these is true for you when you ask for resources and get a “no”?

Leave me a comment and let me know.

Cultivate your all-important network of senior relationships to maximize your chances of getting a “yes”

Relationships are at the heart of being successful at work and in your career. And as a team leader, having a rich, influential network will maximize your chances of success when you ask for resources. That means building a broad network of relationships beyond just the people you need to get work done.

However, certain relationships are harder to build than others – usually the ones that matter most to us professionally so we’re under pressure to get it right.

Find out the most effective ways to develop these key relationships in the Career Mastery workshop on How to Build Key Relationships to Take Your Career to the Next Level.

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This workshop provides concrete steps you can take to make it easier to build those key relationships successfully and take the anxiety out of the process.

You’ll discover:

  • Who you need to build relationships with
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  • Action plan for building your most important relationship right now

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