Apr 20 2023

Bring People Along for The Ride, Part I of II

One of the CEOs I mentor asked me the other day asked me this question:

I need to start making my organization think differently – more like a startup that needs to scale and less like a project. People need to start doing more specific jobs and not swarm all over everything. How do I get people to “get” this without freaking out?

Every CEO faces dilemmas like this all the time.

One of my management mantras over the years has been, “You have to bring people along for the ride.” Fundamentally, that means two things. I’ll write about one of them here today and save the other for next week.

First, bringing people along for the ride means you have to involve the people in the organization in the origins and design of the change you’re seeking to drive.

Let’s face it. No one really likes change. But what people really don’t like is change being IMPOSED ON THEM, especially where THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY.

Without being disingenuous, you as a leader can set the stage for others in your organization helping you with changes — even if you generally know the changes you want to drive. Bring people together. Talk about the challenges you see that are related to the solution you’re contemplating. Get people talking, brainstorming, grabbing post-its and whiteboard pens. Talk a little bit – bring in your perspective and help shape the discussion. But also listen closely and be open to people’s ideas and let those shape the outcome as well.

Then, bring people back for a second and third meeting to then react to some of your idea distillation and even straw man plans. You’ll find that process not only produces a better solution but also makes people comfortable with the solution, because you’ve added more transparency to the equation and brought people along for the ride. Nothing done in the vacuum of the CEO’s mind achieves this same level of impact.

More thoughts on this to come in some related posts over the next couple of weeks around some geeky sounding terms like The Ladder of Inference, Inquiry vs. Advocacy, and Double Loop Learning. Next week’s post will be about how to think about transitions and the way to lead people through them once you’ve involved them in creating the transition. Its link won’t be live until April 20, but it’s here for future reference.