“In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true either is true or becomes so.” – John Lilly
You have an idea about how your business can do something new or better. You have run that idea through a gauntlet of trusted colleagues, individuals with the intelligence and experience to pummel the hot air out of it. The result is something stronger, more focused, and more powerful than your original idea — something that has a good chance of achieving the benefits (increased sales, decreased refunds, etc.) that you imagined in the first place. Plus, it now has the support of several of the company’s key leaders — the very people who initially beat it up for you.
You are excited to get it going — and the sooner, the better. Your impulse is to gather the troops and make a public announcement or to send out a bulk e-mail letting everyone know how his world is going to change.
But you shouldn’t do so. Not just yet. There is one more step you must take before the big leap. You must convert your good, trim, tested idea into a goal — one that is (a) easy to understand and (b) easy to implement. You will make the goal easy to understand by carefully crafting a short (less than one page is preferable) memo that explains it in simple terms, using specific examples and easy-to-grasp analogies (if needed). You can make your goal easy to implement by breaking it into a series of smaller tasks. What you are aiming for is a step-by-step map that gets your management team (those who will be responsible for making your idea happen) from where you are today to exactly where you want to be, based on your carefully articulated memo.
Doing a good job of all this means homework. It means understanding the fears before they are articulated, anticipating problems before they occur, and having answers ready before they are asked. The best way to do all that is to sit down for a few hours and draw up a list of every possible misunderstanding, concern, and negative ramification your idea might create.
Write them down on one side of a sheet of paper — and on the opposite side, write down answers.
Make sure the answers are good ones. When there are no good answers but you still strongly believe in the idea, find a way to say that. People don’t always need to know how problems are going to be solved. Sometimes, it’s enough to know that their leader is confident he can do it.
When you’ve done all that, you are ready to sell your idea to the rank and file. In doing so, speak with the certainty of someone who has done all the preliminary work you have done.
At this point, there is no reason to doubt either your plan or the goal you’ve set. So don’t. If, in the midst of your presentation, someone asks a question or raises an objection you have no answer for, say something like, “That is a good point, John. I’ll get to it in a minute or two after I first clarify the issue of . . .”
This diversion will allow you to keep the momentum going while you try to think of a satisfactory answer. If you don’t, don’t sweat it. Compliment the questioner for his intelligence. You may want to go so far as to say, “John has asked a very intelligent question, one for which I have no immediate answer. I’m going to think about it a bit and talk to some people. I’ll have an answer for him and for you before [some timeframe].
Say this with conviction and you won’t lose any converts. And finally, keep this in mind. Your idea doesn’t have to be perfect to succeed. In the busy, complex world that we live in, there are many problems and many solutions to those problems. The person who is ultimately successful is the person who can keep trying out ideas until he finds one that works.
In terms of leadership, that means you must retain control through the period of doubt so that your idea can be fully implemented. As I said, it doesn’t have to be the perfect solution to work. It just needs to be good enough.
But unless you maintain control, your idea won’t get a chance to work. So prepare yourself, make clear statements, and establish doable, step-by-step objectives. And never lose confidence.