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I recently began offering my readers the opportunity to sign up for my new eNewsletter. I set up the process in such a way that when readers subscribe they receive a “thank-you” email from me, along with a question about what their biggest leadership challenge is. The responses were eye-opening and far-ranging.
My friend and colleague Mack Collier, a social media consultant, responded that it is probably the ability to convince others to follow him where he wants to go. It seems to me to be the quintessential leadership challenge, and such a difficult one depending on the situation, the team and the initiative at hand. For those of us who are consultants, the challenge can even extend to getting clients to follow our lead and advice.
So I've decided to tackle the topic of “How to get buy-in – getting others to follow your lead." I believe it comes down to four critical elements:
People need to know where you’re going to take them and what this destination is going to be for them when you arrive. Remember, even if they don’t like where they’re at currently, they at least know what to expect each day when they wake up.
Going somewhere new involves opening themselves up to change and different experiences. They don’t know what to expect, so they’re not sure if they’ll like it there, or if it will be in their best interest to go with you to this new destination. This is why it’s critical for you to be very clear about your leadership vision. If it’s not clear to you where you are headed, then you’re asking your followers to take a huge leap of faith and a large risk. How likely would you be to follow someone who asked you to do the same?
This is where trust comes in. You would be more likely to follow someone who asked you to take a leap of faith if it was someone you trusted implicitly; someone who you knew had your higher good at heart. Getting others to buy-in and follow your lead requires trust on a multitude of levels. How are you working to establish and nurture this trust?
Once you have that vision clearly established in your mind, you must convey all the aspects of that picture to your followers. What does it look like? Feel like? What will it be like for them there, and for your customers, stakeholders, etc? Is there a higher purpose to being at this new place that your followers could become passionate about? If so, help them to see and understand this through words, pictures, video and through your actions.
One of the most difficult things for leaders to do is to communicate consistently and effectively with all levels of the organisation. This requires a sincere focus on communication strategy and execution to do this well. Leaders who skimp on this step pay the price!
I have learned in the past year about how we as humans absorb other people’s energy. Though I have written about the critical importance of the words ”Observe, don’t absorb”, it is still very difficult for me to master.
In essence, if I am working with someone who is exuding very high (positive) energy regarding the work we are doing, I will absorb that and reflect it back into my day and into other projects. On the flip-side, if I am working with someone who is emitting negative or flat energy, I absorb that as well. Our energy feeds off of each other as humans, so if I’m absorbing negative energy and feeding off of it, it does not bode well for my creative flow and effectiveness for the remainder of the day.
We all “absorb”, but to different degrees. Leaders must be aware of this fact when desiring to have people follow their lead. What you want people to absorb – and thus, reflect back into their work with you – is highly positive energy. If you are not emitting it, others will not receive it and reflect it.
This may seem inconsequential but it’s actually critical. If you’re presenting your vision to others you have to be very careful about the energy you’re exuding. If you are speaking and leading from a place of fear it will be picked up subconsciously by your followers.
So, my leadership advice for getting others to follow you where you want to go is: have a clear vision, establish and nurture trust; communicate clearly, consistently and effectively; and go into your work with positive energy.