Starting a new project is always going to be daunting. The keys to a successful initiative aren’t some big secret, but they do require a mindful application of knowledge. Hard work, in other words. Here’s some factors to keep in mind..
- Agreeing to something new is agreeing to change.
The importance of this is difficult to overstate, so we’ll say it again; when you ask someone to agree to something new, you’re asking them to change. Acknowledge that. If you wait until you’ve got everyone’s support, you may never get started in the first place; and if you’re not honest with yourself about what you’re asking, you’re unlikely to convince anyone to go along with your initiative.
- Over-communicate; then communicate some more
Any new endeavor hinges upon successful communication, but communication is hardly an exact science. Having said that, it is still a science, so don’t ignore research-based best practices; communicate often, not just when you need something. Engage in metacommunication. Understand that talking – sending a message – is just one small part of communication; if you’re not listening, you’re not communicating. Learn about your team, listen to their concerns, and be aware of the strong influencers in your group. If the only time you communicate is when you want something, people will (correctly) assume that when your mouth is moving, you’re engaging in politics to serve your own end. Don’t neglect communication, and you can avoid all manner of perils.
- Both Individuals and Organizations are Emotional, and Psychological Entities
Even a highly unified, senior team isn’t a single entity, so much as a diverse array of interlocking agendas, interests, motivations, and – most of all – personalities. If you look at the team as a monoculture, you’re going to make costly mistakes, and risk adding insult to opposition. Take the time to learn the individual members who make up the team, their communication preferences, styles of learning, etc. What’s important to one may not be to another – but you need everybody on the same page if you’re going to get their support.
Visual thinkers like images. Kinaesthetics want to get hands-on with your idea – literally. Auditory learners are going to want to hear you say it, so talk the whole thing through. With careful thought, you can combine these traits, but the important thing is to remember that you’re addressing a group of individuals – if you’ve lost someone, take the time to get them back on board.
- Change Requires Conflict
Change is scary, and comes with many barriers. And those exist for good reason – sticking with something that works has some powerful evolutionary forces behind it; you’re literally asking someone to go against millennia of instincts. Accept that it’s hard, and accept that there’s going to be some conflict. But don’t accept that it has to be a fight.
Positively reframing a conflict as a collaboration can be an incredibly powerful tool for shaping your discussion. Keep tabs on your own levels of assertiveness, argumentativeness, and cooperativeness, and you can navigate the creative tension necessary to initiate change.
- Decision-Making is a Multi-Faceted Process
When you understand the ways that people arrive at decisions, you’ll have better luck gaining understanding, which can turn into compliance. But you must understand the decision-making style of the different contributors if you want to have success in gaining their support. Engage creative individuals by involving them in the design process of your idea – weave fragments of their suggestions into your language when bouncing ideas back and forth.
Getting your initiative off the ground can be a tricky balancing act, but if you keep these keys in mind, you can turn your opposition into your support.