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Mayes Wilson & Associates

How Leaders build support for good ideas

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC |

Not one of your good ideas will become reality until other people embrace it and agree to help it move it forward. – Laurie B. Jones

Let that sink in for a minute; I suggest reading it again.

The quote’s message may not be a surprise but it’s worth putting on a prominently displayed sticky note. Frequently I see leaders get ahead of their team–the staff or the board. That’s when they call me saying, “I can’t get my team on board with this plan.” My first question: “How did you arrive at this juncture with your staff/board?”

Socializing New Ideas

One client has an approach that clearly embodies the message of the quote. The organizations’ senior leaders frequently “socialize” new ideas. Initially, I was concerned about the amount of time the “socializing” was taking, then I stepped back and watched. I observed that the approach allows the Leaders to:

  • Share the idea and then listen;
  • Improve the idea incorporating the input of others;
  • Understand resistance/questions;
  • Build awareness and support;
  • Practice articulating the idea until it is ready to be shared more broadly.

Audiences to include

So far, I’ve mentioned socializing your idea with the staff and board. You are probably thinking there are other audiences that should be included in this process. You are right! The list below isn’t exhaustive; brainstorm with your team about who should be on your idea socializing list.

1) Clients/members. These folks will directly feel the effects of the proposed idea (and if it’s not going to affect them, you might want to ask yourself about the impact of this idea). It’s not only fair to float the idea past a representative group, it’s probably dangerous not to. Their lived experience will be invaluable in refining the idea and making sure it will work “in the trenches.” It’s particularly important to include this group if they are significantly different from your staff/board in terms of race, ethnicity, or other lived experience.

2) Donors. While your board members are hopefully donors, there are other significant donors who should probably be included in a socialization process. Think about which donors are well-connected and likely to influence their peers to accept or reject your new idea and ask them for their reactions. Remember, to get advice, ask for money. To get money, ask for advice.

3) The Challengers. There are always one or two in any organization, people who are resistant to change. You can often learn a lot from those who challenge an idea. Include them in the conversation early, find out what makes them uncomfortable, and how they would fix it.

Does socializing an idea take time?

Yes. But as a Leader you can either spend time building support or you can take the “bull in a china shop” approach. With the second approach, you will likely spend time frustrated and facing resistance. You get to make the choice.

How will you build support for your next idea or project? I’d love to hear your success story of building support. And, if you are at an impasse with an idea, or your team is not unified on how to move forward, call me, I can help.

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