Too often leaders make half-hearted attempts to build support for change. They might hold one big planning event. (I call this a Big Bang Approach to Change.) Or they notice that people are worn out, so they hold a team-building event complete with refreshments and games to let people know that they really care. Or maybe they bring in a motivational speaker to inspire people to get with the program.
These activities aren’t necessarily bad, but they often miss the point. Every step in your plan needs to encourage engagement and strong commitment to making a project a success. Failing to build strong support or energy or forward momentum is risky and can kill otherwise decent plans.
Building support begins with you. You need to understand what support for change feels like when it is present and helping drive things forward—and what is feels like when energy is low or working against you. Anything less than that full commitment may increase inertia or resistance.
Here are five questions that I encourage you and your planning and/or executive team to ask yourselves.
Question 1: How important is it for you to be able to build and sustain strong support throughout the organization for your new ideas or other big changes?
Question 2: How willing are you to be influenced by the people whom you want to influence?
Question 3: How would you rate the importance your organization gives to building and sustaining strong support?
You might think about your entire organization, a division, a professional specialty such as IT or HR, or the team you work with directly. If you are a consultant or a coach, then consider focusing on just one client organization.
Question 4: How would you rate your effectiveness in building and sustaining strong support for new ideas, big projects, and organizational changes?
Question 5: To what extent do you believe that building support begins with you?
Understanding your scores:
- If you scored a 4 or 5 on Questions 1 through 3, then my guess is that you and your organization have a mindset that is needed to create energy and forward momentum.
- But if you scored a 3 on those first three questions, be careful. You might pay attention to support when it is convenient but ignore it when you are very busy. A so-so commitment to support often sends a mixed message and can lead to skepticism and cynicism.
- If you scored high on Question 4, you seem to be skilled at working with the human part of change. Congratulations— not a lot of people are skilled in this area.
- But, if you scored low on this question and high on all the others, you are in luck. Your head is in the right place. (And that is a big deal.) All you need to do is increase your skills. There is no shortage of good resources that can help you learn new skills and improve your performance in the human part of change.
- But, if you invest in skills training and coaching without high scores on the other items, you will probably waste your money and time.
- The importance of Question 5 is sometimes forgotten. You can’t delegate enthusiasm or support. If you are responsible for the success of a big project in some way, then your score probably should be a 5.