Keep your great ideas from getting shot down

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this month’s feature called Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead (Harvard Business Press, 2011). Not only because the book is well-written and thoughtfully explained, but because the applications are virtually everywhere in life and work.

Buy-In is about effectively presenting your great ideas—and protecting them. Often, we get so caught up in creating the ultimate solution that we forget to communicate it properly so everyone is engaged in the transformation we want to implement. More specifically, Buy-In is also about leading change among naysayers who would rather preserve the status quo. Unfortunately, Kotter and Whitehead say multiple studies report that when significant change is needed, 70 percent of the time people back away, go into denial and fail to implement change under budget and within deadlines. Thanks to the authors’ business experience and diligent research, this book isolates naysayers’ attacks into four primary categories and explains how to overcome those different objections. Equally valuable, Kotter and Whitehead specifically illustrate how to prepare for strategic implementation of large-scale change.

Below is an excerpt from our interview with John Kotter:

CausePlanet: Your approach toward leadership and change is a unique one. What inspired you to write Buy-In?

Kotter: Buy-in is a very basic issue and one that appears in several of my previous books, most notably Leading Change. Buy-in is the act of getting people to listen to you, understand your ideas and overcome hesitation they have about supporting them. But asking people to support your idea is part of a much larger process, one that I’ve found throughout my research to be essential in making significant changes actually happen. I outline this 8-step process in Leading Change, and buy-in is step 4. People spend so much time developing good ideas, maybe because of a problem they or their company face, or because they see an opportunity for positive change. But there is very little knowledge out there about how to successfully implement these good ideas. Unless you can win support for your idea from people at all levels of your organization, you can’t move forward. Along with the team at my firm, Kotter International, we help people understand how to move forward, how to go from talking about significant, powerful change to making it happen. And in our work, we found that this one particular step—winning buy-in—is something people really struggle with. So I felt very strongly that it was something we needed to help people understand better and learn how to do well.

For more discussion about the buy-in process or how to purchase the book, visit John Kotter’s blog.

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