Creating a Shared Stake in Success

Dramatic, sustained improvement is largely determined by a leader’s capacity to both enroll and engage others in a mutually supported vision
December 22, 2010

Dramatic, sustained improvement is largely determined by a leader’s capacity to both enroll and engage others in a mutually supported vision of the future. Engagement means getting their whole-hearted support and participation. When this is happens, success is held in place by myriad hands, heads and hearts.

Achieving a shared stake is critical because obstacles are part of life, and you need all the help you can get to realize growth. You want resources to flow to you -- people, money and time to be dedicated by any and all who see a shared road to the future. When this happens, synergies will take place you do not initiate or coordinate. 

Four Techniques for Creating a Shared Stake in Success

1. Practice exceeding others’ expectations. 

Every morning, ask yourself how can you “wow” somebody who is critical to your success. Then meet with that person face-to-face to express your appreciation and discuss how your combined efforts are creating a better future. Ask, “What synergies do you see in our work?” 

2. Engage others in conversation to discover their answers to these questions:

  • What are your most pressing issues?
  • What needs do you have that are not being met?
  • What successes are you working toward?
  • Who are your constituencies, and what do they want?

Then, explore how these can be addressed through your combined efforts.

3. Hold meetings with groups of allied players to identify mutual goals. 

Follow up with regular progress showing the results of your efforts and the challenges you encounter. Work together to overcome obstacles and clear logjams.

4. Ask critical stakeholders to describe in detail the future state they are working toward. Go through the details with them and listen carefully:

  • What does this future state look like? Describe it in detail. What will be different? What new capacity will emerge?
  • How will you know it when it happens? What are the indicators you will look for? How will success be measured?
  • What are the benefits to you personally? To the organization? What is the return on investment for the effort?

Laying the Groundwork to a Shared Future

The only way to have a new idea catch fire is to set it free in the world in ways that enable as many people as possible to begin using it constructively. That’s when exponential growth occurs.

Interaction lays the groundwork of the future. You must get out of your office and talk to people. Find out what they are facing and learn how they see the world independent of your needs and goals.

We are constantly generating the future through interaction with unforeseen events and circumstances. The understandings we carry -- what we are doing, where we are going, what and whom we are hoping to influence -- shape our responses and initiatives and our behavior.

Communication done well enables us to:


1. Make sense of what is going on around us

2. Decide where to put our efforts

3. Balance the needs of the moment with our long-term goals

4. Take action.


Communication done poorly does the opposite. It:


1. Confuses us

2. Makes it difficult for us to choose where to put our efforts

3. Distracts us from the needs of the moment and our long-term intentions

4. Stifles effective action.

Once you using communication effectively, you immediately win support of a very important contingent: those who are focused on getting things done well, resolving pressing circumstances and moving steadily toward their overarching objectives. This is the first layer of effective penetration. Simply by doing a good job of communicating, you attract others who are effective because they rely on a social network of effective communicators and you have joined them.

The implications are significant. For example, it means you can’t just send a well-crafted memo (or report or PowerPoint or spreadsheet or presentation) and expect people to read it and change their behavior to conform to your conclusions. And yet that is essentially what most communication efforts amount to.

Think about it for a moment. A report consists of words on paper. Without people to read and interpret, reports are just sheets of paper or bits of magnetized metal. All the action is in the interpretation of the people who wrestle through the document and absorb it into their relationships where they make sense of it and take action with others. This process needs to happen with other people, not in the privacy of a single brain.

Want more tips on creating a shared stake in success? Check out these stories:

This is why getting people together, face-to-face, to share air, is so important. Today we have lots of technology that makes it possible for people to talk otherwise -- everything from telephones and chatrooms to state-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities. But face-to-face is still the most valuable, highest-leverage activity.

So what’s a business person to do? Create ways for people to get together and converse. Get them participating, engaged, and involved. This is the road to personal investment, enthusiastic support, and genuine buy-in. This is how you move people across the line from “I have to do this” to “I want to do this.” And that makes all the difference in the world.

Seth Kahan is the author of the Washington Post bestseller, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out. He provides strategy consulting to business owners and mentoring to independent consultants.  More information can be found on his website,