Friday, June 24, 2011

Building Support Carefully

We have been looking at ways to apply the well-honed political skills of Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University, to our career challenges, especially if we work in large organizations resistant to change. The first two skills were knowing whom to consult and choosing your battles. The third key component is building support carefully when you want to make a real difference.

The first step is identifying the stakeholders - the people who have a vested interest in the status quo and the people who will benefit from the proposed change. Take the time to discuss with each player her concerns and goals. Identify common ground, as well as issues that may divide you. Don't assume you know where each person is coming from; we often project our preconceptions on others and misread the true situation.

Building support doesn't start when you have a specific proposal to move forward. Focus on building strong business relationships on an ongoing basis, as I outline in this article. Remember, patience is an important ingredient in the change process. Be clear about your vision. Communicate frequently. Be open to feedback. Give people some time to make the idea their own. By building support carefully, you will greatly increase your chances of success.

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