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Bringing in the Lions

| September 24, 2013

by Jim Bruce

We have all had experiences when we’ve been trying to sell a new idea of strategizing as to whether to invite the critics, the naysayers, the we’ve-tried-that-before colleagues, etc. to discussions we are having to explain and explore our idea or whether we should manage attendance at these discussions to only include individuals who are likely to be supportive of our ideas.  This is the subject of today’s Tuesday Reading – actually a video and a reading – “Bringing in the Lions” <> (~3 minute video) and <> (essay).  Both are from John Kotter, Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School and Chief Innovation Officer, Kotter International.

Kotter agrees that, when you are exploring and explaining new ideas, having “annoying” people, with their negative questions trying to shoot you down and creating situations that are hard to deal with, in the room is difficult.  Yet, he argues, having these individuals in the discussion, makes it actually easier to make your case to the people who need to be involved including the decision makers.

His experiences have found that the most successful people at getting buy-in, encourage the naysayers, the people who come up with all kinds of reasons why not to go forward, to be in the room.  They want these individuals in the communication loop from the beginning.

Kotter believes that their presence does something very good for the discussion.  All the other people in the room, your likely supporters, are also likely to be partially tuned out, multitasking, thinking about their next meeting and urgent to-dos, etc. are often not listening carefully.  Sparks created by the conflict introduced by the naysayers, attract attention.  By letting the naysayers in, the smoke and fire created draws attention to you and your idea.  This gives you the opportunity to have an audience who will actually hear you and for your voice to get their buy-in.

Kotter admits that this approach is counter intuitive and sometimes scary to the one presenting the idea.  But, he notes, this is actually what the best people at getting buy-in actually do.

So, when you present your next new idea, really prepare for your presentation of the idea, and then give his idea a try.

Have a great week.  .  .  .     jim