So how do you create these fans? Below is a blog post from the Harvard Business Review by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown.
Okay. You bought the recipe offered in our previous blog for how to get your boss to say yes, and you’re underway on an “utterly new for your organization” pet project of yours. Your boss has vowed not to get in your way and per the logic of the people who are best at dealing with the unknown — serial entrepreneurs — you are taking a small step toward your goal.
At this point, it would probably be a good idea to get other people to come along with you on your journey. Four things happen when you reach out to others for help, all of them good:
- You gain confirmation that you are on to something. People would not have come along unless they had faith in you and your idea. Not only is this reassurance a good thing, it creates legitimacy for your effort in the eyes of your colleagues and your boss.
- You gain access to other ways of thinking about what you are trying to do.
- They might be able to quietly contribute resources (time, money, expertise) to the project. And they can connect you to others in and outside your organization who might be able to help.
- They can spread the word about what you have.
So how do you create these fans?
Often we’re told that we need to sell our idea to others in our organization. And selling is a particularly important skill that has a critical place in your future — when you are dealing with your boss, something we will return to in a moment.
But for the rest of your colleagues — those who can help, but whose actions are not required — we suggest something else: Enrollment — offering them the chance to do something they discover they want to do (in this case becoming part of your effort.) You don’t convince them. They truly convince themselves.
How you get enrollment is a pretty straightforward process:
- Be enrolled yourself. You can’t expect to gain the commitment of others if you’re not committed yourself. You must want to make your idea a reality. Starting anything new is hard enough, even if you are committed. Others can sense if you are not genuinely enrolled. They can tell if you’re not excited about the idea or truly committed to making it happen. And if they get that feeling, they are bound to ask: “If he is not really into it, why should I be?”
- Create an authentic relationship. Okay, you’re truly committed to the idea. What’s the next step? Talk to anyone about what you want to do. Be genuine and transparent. Give them a complete picture. And tell them not only the positives, but the negatives too. And this is important: you also tell them why your idea is so important to you. If it goes beyond improving your organization or its business, and is also about making a small part of the world a better place, say that. You are aiming for deepening your relationship, an authentic relationship on which trust and joint action can be built. You can only build this kind of meaningful relationship if you are being forthright.
If the response is negative, or not what you hoped, that’s fine. All that means is that you’re at a dead end (at least as far as the enrollment process goes with this person). Far better that you should know that early on. What you don’t want to do is to continue to expect enrollment when it is clear it doesn’t make sense for someone else.
- Offer Action. You want to offer the person who wants to join you some real work to do, no matter how small. These aren’t open-ended commitments, such as “I will get back to you.” That task can be either big or small — depending on their needs and yours. But it’s to your advantage and theirs that there be an immediate offer so that you can take action together. When that action occurs, that’s when you know the enrollment has really taken place.
So, when do you need to be “selling” your idea? Sooner or later you will get to the point when you need resources to go forward. This is when you will have to sell your boss — and use your best persuasive skills to accomplish that sale. Like a good salesperson, you want them to buy so you can go forward. You want to be convincing and influencing them in your direction using all the ethical means and reasons at your disposal. This is an honorable effort. But it is selling and not enrollment.
There’s a big difference between selling and enrolling, and you must do both — especially with your boss. But if you want to create raving fans for whatever it is you’re doing, then remember this: When you make a “sale,” news of what you are trying to accomplish may or may not spread beyond the person you sold to. They may, as they say in television commercials, “tell their friends,” but they may not.
If someone “enrolls,” then the propagation of your message is virtually assured. They will spread the word. Maybe because they’re excited about your project. Or maybe because they’re excited about you. Whatever the reason, they tell others. And with others on board, you’re more likely to succeed.
- How to Create Raving Fans (blogs.hbr.org)