Do your constituents want to change?

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You’ve experienced it – you’re given the assignment. The change proposed makes sense for the organization. You buy in. It’s logical. The change is in line with your beliefs. Everyone should get this.

Early in the process you take the idea to the people. How’d it go?

This was something like what former presidential communication advisor and under secretary of state for public diplomacy, Karen Hughes, experienced when addressing an audience of 500 women in September of 2005. She was speaking at a Saudi university and trying to spread the American message in the Muslim world. When Ms. Hughes discussed her hope that Saudi women would someday be able to “fully participate in society” as they do in America, many challenged her.

Apparently, voting and driving are not a goal for many of the women in the audience, some suggested measures of freedom mentioned by Ms. Hughes. One audience member said, “Women have more than equal rights, and men have obligations accompanying their rights.” Does everyone in the audience want the responsibility associated with the freedom the change leader is proposing? Maybe not.

There are two sides (at least) to any persuasive argument. Until these distinctions are explored the change leader may be working at cross purposes with the audience. Empathy, curiosity, active listening, and preparation are the only answer to minimize this type of disconnect.

Talent and experience comes into play to properly deal with the confusion live, during the session. Being aware of different audience viewpoints is the best way to get off on the right foot. Remember, logic is trumped by history and tradition. We must understand that history. And, oh by the way, we might not have the best solution. Click here to receive our Change Complexity Assessment Form.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On October 9, 2008
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