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7 ways to turn that 'non-believer' into your biggest fan

You have an idea. It’s a change that will create significant value for customers, employees and your organisation. It’s brilliant!

You're no rookie and know you that when initiating a change you need to create urgency and engage important stakeholders. So, you produce a fantastic presentation ‘pack’ and unveil your idea for your colleagues. Taa-dah!! However, instead of being met with the rapturous applause it deserves, you find yourself facing blank-looks and a thousand reasons why your brilliant idea won’t work.


Pfffffff....your big idea (along with a little bit of your self-esteem) deflates.


'Change' can be a strange beast. There may be times when, no matter how much your vision makes good logical sense, other factors and agendas will get in the way. There will be people in your organisation who may be skeptical and need further convincing. Others may give you a flat ‘no’.


It’s true. Some people are just ‘difficult’ and disagree for disagreement’s sake. Big mouths with big ambitions and even bigger egos. While most organisations have these kinds of stakeholders, in my experience they are in the minority.


Most of the time when people don’t want to buy-in to an idea it’s because they either don’t understand it, or believe it’s threatening something they need or want. It could be money, power, trying to get the job done, work-overload, protecting their team or getting a promotion. They object because they believe what you’re proposing stands between them and their objective. So what can you do when faced with this situation?


Here are 7 strategies you can use to engage that 'non-believer' in your idea and build a platform for change.


  1. Be clear in your own mind why change is necessary and what will happen if things remain the same. Be honest with yourself – is ‘the why’ really compelling from perspectives other than yours?

  2. Start where they are. You've had days or even months to reach the conclusions you have. The chances are your stakeholders are well behind you and for them to buy-in to the idea, you need to start at their starting point, not yours.

  3. Ask your non-believer to help you solve the problem. Instead of presenting the answer, lay the issue out on the table then engage them by exploring different ways to solve it. Doing this often opens up possibilities you hadn’t thought of.

  4. Assess your power-base. Find out what you have that they might want and use this as leverage. Using stand-over tactics or threats is never a good idea. It pushes dissent underground, which is where it causes the most damage.

  5. Be patient. It can be frustrating when you can see that a change is a no-brainer, and someone important just doesn’t get it. It’s tempting to jump-in and ram it down their throat. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. Trust me – this never works and is more likely to cause much bigger alignment issues down the track.

  6. Never ignore or go-around a powerful stakeholder. When someone is ‘being difficult’ it can feel like it’s easier to cut-them-out of the equation e.g. exclude them from emails, not invite them to meetings etc. While this provides relief in the short-term, it will create an exponentially larger problem for you later on.

  7. Don’t start by asking your non-believer to ‘buy the car’, start by asking them to consider how having a car would make their life better. If your idea is a completely new or big concept, it may help to seek agreement in bite-sized chunks that are less daunting. 


And finally, the most important thing when you have a big idea, is to not be discouraged by dissent. Instead, expect it and see it as a challenge. While it may be tempting to mentally stamp ‘DIFFICULT’ on the stakeholder’s forehead, seek to understand their perspective and find a way to work with it.


This article is an excerpt from The Thrive Cycle: Unlock The Adaptive Organisation Within.


If you found it valuable and know others who would do the same, please remember to 'share' or 'like' it. If you'd like to discover more about the book, you can look inside at www.thethrivecycle.com

You may like to consider taking the online Adaptive Audit and using the tools and templates included with The Thrive Cycle: Unlock The Adaptive Organisation Within book. You'll create your organisation's Adaptive Profile, discover if it is a Surfer, Swimmer, Splasher or Sinker and develop an understanding of the Six Elements of Adaptive Success that determine its ability to evolve.


About the author:


Kate Christiansen is an author, business leader and passionate change-advocate who has spent twenty years adapting organisations to major strategic change.

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