It has happened to me and maybe you’ve had the experience as well. You get a great idea or vision for the future, share it with a few people, then watch it fail. Sometimes people like your idea and commit to helping it succeed but then they get busy with other things and leave you on your own. Others are skeptical so they refuse to cooperate or they attack what you view as a realistic goal or a good solution to a problem.
Leadership guru John Kotter writes about this in his new book Buy In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down. Kotter’s conclusions seem pretty basic but they’re easily forgotten. They’re also summarized in a Harvard Business Review interview (October 2010) and in Inc (October 2010).
- Present your idea in short, clear, simple statements filled with common sense. Kotter’s study of great twentieth century leaders showed that all had “an astonishing talent for communicating in simple and clear ways” that helped people grasp an issue. Almost all leaders could tell great stories that connected on an emotional level.
- Anticipate and patiently deal with the common forms of opposition. These include “death by delay,” confusion, fear, and sometimes ridicule. Often resistance comes in statements that seem logical. Examples include “No one else does it like this,” “This isn’t the right time,” or “You’ll never get it to work.”
- Avoid pushing your ideas on to others or trying to overwhelm them with too much information. Shooting back at your critics escalates the conflict and weakens your cause. Try to engage troublemakers. Let them be a part of the conversation. Treat them with respect.
- Don’t let this get personal. Consider the whole group that you are working with and don’t get sidetracked by the one or two people who are attacking you.
- Focus on good communication that brings people around to your vision, your strategy, your plan. Remember “getting buy-in for a good idea is a basic human issue; it’s a life skill.”
Please share how you have dealt with resistance when you have had an idea that others ignored or criticized.