Channeling the Obama of '08
Seth Kahan is the author of the Washington Post bestseller, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, published by Jossey-Bass 2010.
What a difference two years makes. Here we are in the midst of incredibly complex change along with large-scale exacerbating circumstances. But, where is the engagement we felt so keenly in the months before November 2008?
Mr. President, if you're reading, here are six things you can do to rectify the situation and build the kind of participatory support you enjoyed before we elected you to the highest office in the land:
1. Communicate so people get it and spread it.
The "it" is not a precooked, hard-boiled message, not an elevator speech, not an answer. "It" is a verb, it is a conversation that cascades, a dialogue that arouses passion and creates its own social network.
2. Identify and energize your most valuable players.
People are at the heart of change. Take the time to engage the people who can make the biggest difference. Am I talking about your supporters? Well, that's one group - but there are others. You also need to get the participation of valuable people who may or may not be advocates including technical experts, practical visionaries, resource providers, students and professors, alliance builders and, yes, even detractors. Court these people and give them exciting ways to be part of the action.
3. Map the territory of change.
Do this by systematically listening to the stories of your most valuable players. Find out where change can go fast and where it will get bogged down. What do you listen for? Here are five things:
Stop lights - If someone says you are going to crash and burn, have them tell you more. Get to know these dire predictions of doom because within these failure fears is the heart of concern.
Caution lights - When people tell you that there is danger on the horizon, or big problems ahead, take note. Compile the individual answers intelligently and use them to delineate the cultural terrain you face.
Themes - Anything that is a pattern in the system is worth noting, even if it's false or derived from mistaken assumptions. Look beneath the surface to understand where it comes from.
High-value nuggets - As you listen to story after story, you will collect gems that point the way to big wins for multiple constituents.
Educational deficits - The story-listening process will teach you what people need to learn in order to engage and play a bigger game. Then, have their peers provide the education rather than you and your supporters. Let the lessons come from within the social networks of those who lack the information.
Finally, you must synthesize all that you learn and share it wide and far. Help people to see themselves, their concerns and hopes within the larger fabric of our nation at this important crossroads.
4. Accelerate change through communities that perform.
These are groups of people who share passion for a particular topic and put their passion into practice. These groups can advance your cause faster than you because they create systemic pull.
Communities that perform each have three flywheels that must be set into motion in order to deliver engagement. They must provide value to the change program, serve the community's concerns by delivering on high priorities specific to the group, and provide benefits to each person who participates. Get these three going at once and you have a powerful engine that will run all on its own.
5. Generate dramatic surges in progress through well-timed live events.
Special face-to-face gatherings can accelerate your programs when executed on a strategic timeline. Create events that bring your most valuable players together in high-value, high-leverage experiences designed to push things forward in leaps and bounds.
6. Welcome bottlenecks, and break through logjams.
Obstacles, hurdles and challenges are all part of change. Develop a special mentality: expect trouble and take advantage of it. Movement stops because multiple streams converge in a wreck. Each one of these stoppages is literally an opportunity to free up the system on several fronts at once. But you need special tools and tactics, such as trained facilitators who respect the power of the logjam and work intelligently to liberate the flow of change.
Getting change right means finding better ways to engage. It means developing the liberating structures that enable many more people to participate in the success we so desperately need.
October 12, 2010; 3:03 PM ET |
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