Effective support for change means leaders and managers do their part to lead the change with those with whom they have authority. While you can offer guidelines for what support is needed and build mutual accountability within a larger group format, for leaders whose support is crucial to the success of the initiative, it is often a good idea to solicit their support individually, which requires a one-to-one conversation.
There are many things to consider before starting these conversations. Prepare in advance to boost your confidence and plan to get what you need. You may only get one chance to gain support, so you don’t want to wing it. The following elements provide a conversation road map to help you gain support.
Determining what you want to accomplish by the end of the conversation will go a long way toward making it happen. Decide on a realistic goal for the conversation. Know what you would like the other person to commit to during the encounter. You may want agreement, or buy-in, to move forward with the initiative. You may want them to make a decision. Or, you may need them to commit to taking action or changing their own behavior. Clarify the end result so you can ensure the conversation won’t end before you get what you need.
The other person will want to know how they fit into the bigger picture. Clarify their role in the change and how it relates to others who are involved. Explain why you need their unique support for the initiative. Let them know their support is not something that can be delegated. You will both boost their ego and give their personal change activities context.
People will need a reason to move from their current level of support, especially if they need to step out of their comfort zone to do so. They also need a reason to start now. Share what will happen, to the organization and to them, if they don’t support the initiative (or don’t support it enough).
If urgency communicates why they should not withhold support for change, then the benefits provide the reason they would want to support it. Share how the benefits impact them directly and indirectly. Beyond “What’s in it for me,” benefits cover the positive impact on the company, colleagues, customers, family and others. Share how the leader and the organization will be better off when the initiative succeeds. Connect the project and their support of it to their values.
Support means different things to different people. Without a definition, you leave it open to interpretation, which may lead to the person doing what is comfortable instead of doing what is needed. Be specific about the support you need. Determine the activities and behaviors you expect. Understand whether these are desired or required, and how much room there is to design together how they will support the change. Identify the immediate next steps they can take to get started in the right direction.
Your personal attitude toward the change is couched in how you think the other person will react to your request for support. If you go into the conversation expecting it to be a hard sell, then they might perceive your strong persuasion tactics as a lack of confidence in the project. Manage your expectation of their response to match how you think they should feel about the initiative. Do you want them to see you as enthusiastic or apologetic? Confident or hesitant? Urgent or laid back? Inviting or coercing? Choose an attitude toward the conversation and an approach that communicates what you want them to experience.
To increase support, you will most likely need to start individual conversations with leaders and others in your organization. Before you speak with them, prepare yourself with these key elements so you can be ready to bring them up to strengthen your cause and gain commitment.