Monday, March 10, 2008

Identify Supporters, Opponents and Convincibles

How do you identify your supporters, opponents and convincibles?  Part of putting your ideas in place, means knowing the influence map.  You need to know your supporters and opponents as well as those that you can convince to join your efforts.  In The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins writes about identifying your supporters, opponents, and convincibles.  

Supporters will approve your agenda because it advances their own interests, because they respect you, or because they see merit in your ideas.  Watkins provides examples:

  • People who share your vision for the future.  If you see a need for going through change, look for others who have pushed for changes like those you are promoting.
  • People who have been quietly working for change on a small scale, such as a plant engineer who has found an innovative way to significantly reduce waste.
  • People new to the company who have not yet become acculturated to its mode of operations.

Opponents will oppose you not matter what you do.  They may believe that you are wrong or they may have other reasons for resistance to your agenda.  Watkins provides examples:

  • Comfort with the status quo.  They resist changes that might undermine their position or alter established relationships.
  • Fear of looking incompetent.  They fear seeming or feeling incompetent if they have trouble adapting to the changes you are proposing and perform inadequately afterward.
  • Threat to values.  They believe you ar promoting a culture that spurns traditional definitions of value or rewards inappropriate behavior.
  • Threat to power.  They fear that the change you are proposing (such as a shift from team-leader decision making to team consensus decision making) would deprive them of power.
  • Negative consequences for key allies.  They fear that your agenda will have negative consequences for others they care about or feel responsible for.

Watkins writes:

"Convincibles are the swing voters:  people who are undecided about or indifferent to change, and people you think you could persuade once you understand and appeal to their interests.  Once you have identified convincibles look into what motivates them.  People are motivated by different things, such as status, financial security or wealth, job security, positive social and professional relationships with colleagues, and opportunities to tackle new and stimulating challenges.  So take the time to figure out what they perceive their interests to be.  Start by putting yourself in their shoes:  If you were them, what would you care about?  If it is possible to engage them directly in dialogue, then ask questions about how they see the situation, and engage in active active listening.  If you have connections to other people in their organization, then you should use them to learn.  If you don't, you might think about judiciously cultivating them.

Meanwhile, ask yourself whether there are competing forces that might tip convincibles toward resisting you.  For example, making them see that their interests are compatible with yours would prompt them to support you, but the threat of losing a comfortable status quo might trigger resistance.  Interests and competing forces should be part of what you undertake to learn about the politics of your organization through conversations, exploration of past decisions, and observation of group interactions."

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Explicitly map out your supporters, opponents and convincibles.
  • Know the key reasons for resistance by your opponents.  You may be able to address the resistance and turn opponents into supporters.
  • Get convincibles on your side by knowing their motivation.

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