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Success at leading change – dramatic, sustained improvement – is largely determined by a leader’s capacity to engage others in a mutually supported vision of the future. Engagement means getting people’s whole-hearted support and participation. When this is realized, change is held in place by myriad hands, heads, and hearts.  

This is critical because obstacles are part of life and you will need all the help you can get to realize success. You want resources to flow to you, people, money, and time to be dedicated by any and all who see a shared road to success.  When this happens, synergies will take place you do not mandate, coordinate, and may not even be aware of.  This is because your ideas have successfully spread, and other people in other places are taking action helping you move things forward. 

Five Techniques for Creating a Shared Stake in Success 

1. Practice exceeding others’ expectations. Every morning ask yourself, how can you "wow" somebody who is critical to your success? Do it, and meet with them face-to-face to express your appreciation. Then, engage them in a discussion on how your combined efforts are creating a better future. Ask them, "What synergies do you see in our work?" Listen and learn.

2. Engage others in conversation to discover their answers to these questions:

a. What are your most pressing issues?

b. What needs do you have that are not being met?

c. What successes are you working toward?

d. Who are your constituencies and what do they want?

Then, explore with them how these can be addressed through your efforts.  

3. Hold meetings with groups of allied players to identify mutual goals. Follow-up with regular progress reports showing the results of your efforts and the challenges you encounter. Work together to overcome obstacles and clear logjams.

4. Create a visible representation of your key players’ interpretations of success. Post it somewhere it can be easily viewed. This generates (a) a sense of inclusion among all who participate and (b) mutual ownership as everyone sees their thumbprints on the future.   

5. Meet with senior stakeholders and ask them to describe in detail the future state they are working toward. Go through the details with them and listen carefully: 

a. What does this future state look like? Describe it in detail. What will be different? What new capacity will emerge?

b. How will you know it when it happens? What are the indicators you will look for? How will success be measured?

c. What are the benefits to you personally? To the organization? What is the ROI (return on investment) for the effort?

Write up what you learn in a 1-page summary and present it back to each senior member you interview, or otherwise visibly demonstrate what he or she communicated to you. Verify with them that you have captured their point-of-view. Refine it with their input until they are satisfied.

- Seth Kahan,