Imagine you’re in a meeting and you present this new, game-changing idea for the business and everyone loves it. Different people agree to do stuff about it, then a while later, you all meet again and… hardly anything happened. This is understandable, considering clients’ needs and other pressing business priorities.
Anyone who has ever been in a meeting knows how common it is to get head-nods followed by little to no action. Why do some ideas become real and others don’t? We tend to think it’s because of the quality of the idea, the timeliness or urgency of it, or even the authority of the person who proposes it – except we’ve all seen timely and quality ideas, presented with urgency by a person in authority, and that doesn’t necessarily make it happen.
What if people’s genuine adoption of an idea (the kind of adoption that gets definitive action) happens as a result of how we set the stage for it?
Setting the stage starts before the slide deck and before you get that big meeting on the calendar. You need to (1) strategize who your key players are and (2) talk with them in a way that they can begin to genuinely adopt your idea.
To strategize who your key players are, remember that game-changing ideas have far-reaching effects. Your key players aren’t necessarily who you think they are. (Hint: key players aren’t only the decision makers, the power players, or the big brains.) Ask yourself:
· Who can bring other perspectives that you can’t see, either because of their experience and expertise, or because they have a window into the world of your employees, customers or market trends that you don’t?
· Who is more of a background player but has a lot of influence?
· Who could unnecessarily or unintentionally slow down the execution?
· Who is a key facilitator?
· Who is accountable for key resources?
Once you know who your key players are, talk to them one on one. Your mission in these conversations is to plant seeds and include them in the idea; get them thinking about it with you.
1. Begin with telling people why did you came up with this idea in the first place. What does it solve and/or what purpose does it serve? When we communicate Why, we inspire, and inspired people are more likely to take action over a longer period of time.
2. Ask how this idea could be valuable for them (the classic WIFM: What’s In It For Me). Let them articulate their value because when they do, it gets clarified for them; it gains meaning because it is said in their own words. Do not modify what people say. You can build on it but still, keep it simple.
3. When they’re energized by your idea and can see the value of it, talk about how it will happen.
Ask them – from their position and view into the organization – what is needed to make it happen? Then listen. Hold off on telling them what you need from them because (a) chances are, they know their area of the business better than you do and therefore see nuances you don’t, and (b) giving them space to think about the realistic challenges and implications will help them to process your idea. In fact, if you want to see nothing happen with your idea, go ahead and tell them what you need from them before they’ve processed it themselves. Laying out your view of what’s needed from them before they’re ready to hear it will overwhelm them. Overwhelmed people give you head-nods and then don’t take action.
4. After they’ve thought through their involvement and want to move forward, be prepared to make specific requests or raise potential issues. They may have a simple solution, and if not, they are far enough along in the adoption process to creatively problem-solve with you.
*Note: this process of setting the stage might happen over a few conversations. You can only move the conversation forward to the degree that they can move forward with you.
By involving people in the beginning stages of your idea, you gain a couple essential things:
· an increased likelihood of their personal interest and inclination to make it happen with you
· their vantage point of what will be needed that you couldn’t see by yourself.
Adopting an idea happens when people are energized to do it after they’ve considered the benefits of it happening, the downside of it not happening, and what is realistically required from them.
After your key players have processed your idea and its implications, it’s time to bring everyone together to collaborate. Kick it off your big meeting with Why because even though people might remember why on the surface, they may not still feel inspired by it. It’s your job to keep bringing back the inspiration. Then acknowledge that people are already familiar with the idea, and recommend a plan with a starting point. You’ll be far more likely to lead people with realistic expectations, and your key players will be far more likely to take the necessary, definitive actions.