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Degree of Support

Sometimes, the greatest challenge in getting your change initiative accomplished is knowing whether people are really on board with the change – or if they’re just giving you the answers they think you want to hear.  However, there are two techniques that you can use to measure the degree to which people are bought into your change: count the number of “nots” they use and evaluate whether they’re making specific commitments or not.

Count the “Nots”

You’re trying to determine what you need to do to get someone on board.  Their support is critical to the initiative, but you’re struggling to understand what it is that they’re really looking for.  You can hear them describing what they want – sort of – but you can’t seem to put your finger on what the gap is.  There’s a reason: they don’t want you to.

They start talking about what they don’t want as a part of the end solution.  They speak of what it shouldn’t look like.  Pretty soon, you realize that all they’re talking about is what it shouldn’t be.  We all have times when we need to talk out what we’re looking for, and some of that will contrast with what we don’t want – but the difference is that we don’t stop there.

If you’re hearing all about the “nots” and you’re not hearing about the things they really want, then you may find that they’re not on board.  They don’t really want to accomplish your change.  What they want is to give the appearance of being helpful without actually being helpful.  If you want to get a sense of the degree to which people are really committed, count the number of times that they say the word “not.”  The more you hear the word, the less committed to your change they are.

Specific Commitments

Another tactic that is used when people don’t want to commit is to make vague statements.  “Have your people call my people” is a Hollywood cliché for “I don’t want to meet with you” – but every organization has their version of this sentiment.  We know the people who are always for whatever you want to do when you’re speaking with them, but they don’t seem to answer your call.  The challenge is in creating situations where the vague sense of support is replaced with a specific commitment – or a statement that indicates a refusal to commit to anything.

Often, the argument is made that there is no specific commitment you want from the other person, just a general sense of support.  However, people don’t work this way.  We can say we’re committed to a big-picture idea, but until we’ve made the first step, it’s really just a wish.  If we want to get people to commit to your change imitative, give them something small to do to demonstrate their support or at least compliance.  Small commitments lead to bigger commitments.

Most people believe that a red light is the worst light in a stoplight.  After all, green means go, and yellow only means caution.  However, in your world, caution requires precious attention – and that’s both hard to develop and hard to maintain.  We want to get to a clear yes or no – so at least we know where we stand.

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