Before you can influence people, you need to get their attention. If you are leading a change initiative, one of your biggest challenges is the high-stimulus environment everyone lives and works in.
People's heads are already filled with concerns (How will I meet this deadline for my boss? I wonder if my son is going to stay home from school today. My email inbox is overflowing and I know there are important people in there.). On top of that the rest of the world is constantly bombarding them (Buy a Coke. Grab a cup of coffee. The president of the company is introducing a new matrix for performance evaluation. HR needs you to decide which mutual funds to put a portion of your pension in.).
Breaking through information overload is a real challenge. It's one thing to reach your direct subordinates and evangelists. It is another to break through the onslaught of inner and outer stimulation and reach the other people you depend on for your change to succeed.
Once you have their attention you must get them engaged, involved, and contributing. How? Through effective communication using social construction. Social construction is just what it says it is: social - done in community, and construction - the act of building. It tells us we build our understanding of the world together, through our relationships.
As a change leader you must become adept at stimulating this kind of community back-and-forth. To create engagement, draw your people into conversation, accept their experiences, and allow them to change yours.
Enticing people to engage with your ideas is difficult, very difficult. Change leaders must penetrate information overload. (See the 5 ways below). Then they must establish win-win scenarios with their most valuable players. When supporting your initiative becomes the best way for others to resolve their conflicts, ease pressures, achieve their goals, and otherwise get ahead, they will heed your communication and begin to work for your success because it is interwoven with their own.
To see your idea catch fire, let it loose in ways that generate ownership among your most important stakeholders. Setting it free in this way is not the same as giving up control. Become an ace at creating healthy interaction, tapping into others’ webs of experience and information. In this regard, face-to-face is the most valuable highest-leverage activity to get change right.
As with all negotiations, value is at the heart of engagement. Once it’s apparent how an idea generates value for each person, each will commit to action. Change doesn’t require formal authority or a budget—in fact, management oversight and budget battles create distractions that can impede the real work of change.
You need a river of conversation, fluidly absorbing new tributaries of ideas and innovation, enabling others to grab your ideas and run with them faster than you can keep up with. That’s how rapid, widespread engagement takes place.
Five Ways to Cut Through Information Overload
1. Call a special meeting to address your stakeholders’ concerns, not yours.
—Seth Kahan is a change leadership specialist. His new book, Getting Innovation Right, is available for pre-order on Amazon now. His last book, Getting Change Right, is a Washington Post bestseller. Follow Seth on Twitter (@SethKahan). Learn more about Seth's work at VisionaryLeadership.com.
[Image: Flickr user Flavio Ronco]