I recently met with a client who is often tasked with rolling out new initiatives to internal teams. I was struck by how savvy he was in coordinating getting commitment from senior leadership. It reminded me how often I see leaders make mistakes in their approach to getting buy-in for new initiatives.
Here are some of the most common mistakes I see leaders make when rolling out new initiatives – are you guilty of any of these?
1) Assuming the formal presentation is the decision point.
A new initiative often comes with a formal presentation to the client group or internal team about the new process/procedure. Inexperienced leaders assume this is where the they get buy-in for the project and motivate people to take action. Rarely is that the case.
Most of us resist change unless there is a compelling reason for it to make our jobs or lives easier. The bigger and more successful the organization, the harder this is.
The decision to support something new starts the moment people are aware it’s coming. Effective leaders know that they need to start having one-on-one conversations with people well in advance of major meetings to understand their concerns.
Formal presentations go more smoothly when the key players have been engaged long before you’re in front of the room. That way, supporting the new initiative is a foregone conclusion.
2) Not addressing concerns proactively.
Thinking on your feet is a great skill to have during the formal presentation…but it won’t get you far if you haven’t done your homework.
Effective leaders expect that any client or internal group is going to have concerns about a new initiative and will seek to uncover these concerns early. Then, they spend time during the formal presentation discussing what obstacles they already know are there (because they've already discovered them) and what they’ll be doing to address these.
Smart leaders don’t try to hide obstacles – they dialogue about them openly and come in with a game plan. Talk in terms of solutions, not new problems.
3) Spending too much time in the weeds.
People don't really care that much about the new 9-step procedure. They care about how they will benefit from the expected results (or how they may suffer if things go south).
Effective leaders spend time talking in terms of the benefits people will receive from a new initiative. Of course you should answer questions raised, but save the detailed logistics for after you have commitment on what's most important.
4) Ignoring the people who will help you most.
You’ll discover a lot by talking with people who interact most with employees or customers. In many organizations, administrative and executive assistants are some of the most knowledge people around and can help you understand where you are missing the mark.
Get to know them, earn their trust — and support their success. When you need help (and you will) they can be some of your best allies if your new initiative will be of real benefit to the organization.