MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you get buy in for a new idea? is written by Perry Yeatman, CEO of Perry Yeatman Global Partners.
Building your career as a “change agent” often requires you to do things that have never been done before. Sometimes it’s a big change, other times it’s small. But given how much most people don’t like change, it always takes a fair amount of persuasion to make change happen — and even more to make it stick. So, it’s best to take a multi-step approach:
Pick your battles
Because implementing something new is never easy, first do your best to ensure it’s worthwhile for your team and/or your organization. That usually means focusing on a change (process or product) that alleviates a major pain point or capitalizes on a big new growth opportunity.
Once you’re convinced your idea is worth the fight, you need to listen to suggestions and explore alternatives. People won’t listen to you until they feel they’ve been heard. So whether you feel you need it or not, listen to those who are currently involved and those who you need to engage in order to make your idea work. I learned this the hard way. Every minute you spend listening will be time well spent; the more radical the idea, the more listening you should do.
Paint a picture of the benefits
To make it easier for people to transition, help them see the benefits of what could be. In other words, why your idea will be worth the extra effort. And don’t just discuss the benefits for your consumers or customers, make sure to emphasize how it could benefit them as an employee as well.
Paint the picture, but don’t sugar coat it or pretend there aren’t issues or consequences. New ideas rarely come without problems. Acknowledging that up front lets people know that you’ve considered the risks and repercussions. This will give them confidence that together you’ll be able to work out whatever issues do arise.
See also: The number one way to motivate employees
Make it their idea, too
If the change is really about ego for you, folks will know it and they will be much less likely to support it. So, when you talk about the idea, be sure to give credit to those who inspired and helped you. They will feel more included, less threatened and much more likely to get on board.
It’s important to be clear about the outcome, but flexible about implementation. With my teams I often found that my ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas were strategically sound and had real merit. But, I rarely got the execution exactly right.
Remember, change is never easy and new ideas are going to scare at least some of your employees. So, if the benefits are worth the effort, then take the time to do it right and make it stick.