You can’t be a leader if no one follows you.
And you will never truly be effective unless you can get others to come along to make your vision a reality.
Even better, three things happen–all of them good–if they do come along.
1. You gain confirmation that you’re on to something. People won’t come along unless they have faith in you and your idea. Sure, they can be ordered to follow. But they won’t do their best work. If they follow willingly, not only is this reassurance a good thing, it creates legitimacy for your effort in the eyes of their co-workers.
2. You gain access to other ways of thinking about what you’re trying to do.
3. They can spread the word about what you’re doing.
So how do you get people to come along?
Often, we’re told that we need to sell our idea to others. And selling is an important skill that has a place.
But let me suggest something else. Enrollment–offering people 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 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’s not really into it, why should I be?”
Create an authentic relationship. OK, you’re truly committed to the idea. What’s the next step? Talk to everyone 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: Also tell them why your idea is so important to you. If it goes beyond improving your organization or its business, and includes making a small part of the world a better place, say that.
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 at this moment). Far better that you should know that early on. What you don’t want to do is to continue to expect enrollment when it’s 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. 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.
This three-step plan should make it far easier for you to get people to follow you into battle.