As business owners, we’ve all been there—you’re introducing a new initiative or making a change in your company, and you know that your staff is not going to be thrilled. Sure, you’re the boss, and what you say goes, but you know in the long run, you’ll be better off if your team is on your side.
If your staff doesn’t understand or support your ideas, it can cause big problems—from subconscious behaviors that undermine your chances of success to deliberate sabotage. To ensure your success, it’s worth taking the time to get your team united behind your decision. Here are eight strategies you can use:
1. Give Them Ownership
People like their own ideas. So what can you do to get them to accept yours? You can try to give them ownership of the ideas you want to implement. Hold a meeting, and present your thoughts on the situation you plan to address. Guide the discussion so that it goes in the direction you want. Let your staff take their time to try to arrive at the same conclusions you have. Taking them through your process can help your employees understand why your idea is a good one.
2. Use the Power of the Written Word
When the signers of the Declaration of Independence put their John Hancocks on that famous document, they were making their position, allegiance and intentions clear and public. Similarly, if you draft a plan and get your staff to sign it to indicate their understanding and commitment to your idea, then they’re publicly on the record as being on board. Employees who publicly commit to seeing your plan through may be more likely to work for that plan’s success.
3. Communication Is Key
It is often to your benefit to cultivate an open and honest exchange of ideas and information in your business, and the success of your new initiatives can often live or die based on how well you and your employees communicate. Keep your door open, and solicit and listen to feedback.
4. Give Them a Way to Vent
If you’re encountering stiff resistance, sometimes your best bet is just to let your staff have a session to air complaints. Commit to listening and considering their objections, let them blow off steam, then get them on your side and put them to work.
You’ve worked hard to assemble a staff of talented folks. Use them! If you’re convinced that your initiatives are divinely inspired and infallible, then you’re missing out on one of your greatest resources. Often the very best ideas are those that have been refined by compromise among multiple perspectives. Let your employees make yours better.
6. Show Progress
We all like to feel that we’re making headway. Restaurants that have customer loyalty cards—you know, where you buy 10 sandwiches and get the 11th one for free—discovered long ago that customers whose cards are punched are more motivated to come back and fill the card the rest of the way. Likewise, giving your staff updates on your project's measurable progress can keep them inspired to continue working hard toward your goal.
7. Reward Publicly
Positive reinforcement is unbelievably powerful, and it works particularly well for the staff members who might not have been as enthusiastic about your idea initially. Single out one of the employees who was on the fence and point out how much they’ve accomplished and contributed to the cause.
8. Flip the Conversation
If you have an employee or partner who’s really opposed to your idea, it can be useful to flip the scripts. If each of you argues the other side of the issue, you might end up refining your idea based on the benefits or drawbacks you might not have seen before.
But what if none of these strategies works? It's important to remember that not all of your ideas will be good ones. If that's the case, you need to step back and reconsider it. You’ve hired talented people, and you should avail yourself of their valuable insight. Being willing to admit when your idea isn’t the right one for your company will make you a stronger leader in the long run and can keep you from making disastrous decisions that aren’t in your company’s best interest.
Read more articles on leadership.
This article was originally published on October 29, 2014.