37: Building Consensus From the Inside Out

Arms of business partners keeping their hands on top of each oth
To create change you must first get your most important people on board, then move out from there.

This is the second in a series on how to lead change effectively. If you have not listened to the first in this series that is okay because these episodes stand on their own as individual lessons that build on the theme of orchestrating change.

Without Consensus, change is Dead on Arrival

In order to orchestrate big change in your organization, you must first start with your inner circle of leaders and stake holders. If you don’t you risk catching them by surprise and alienating them because they were not at least consulted and told what was going on, what you are planning to do.

“Move to?maestro from macho in the way we are thinking.” Warren Bennis

Leaders need to shed the ways of being a C.O.P. (Control, Order, and Predict) and become an A.C.E. (Acknowledge, Create, Empower). In order to get people onboard with your idea start by telling the people in your closest inner circle. Once you have convinced them you can move to the next circle out, and continue building consensus until you have a core group that can move the change through the rest of the organization.

Top 7 Reasons Why Followers Resist Change

  1. The Mother of all Reasons: F.E.A.R. False Expectations Appearing Real.
  2. Insecurity: People may not be in as good a position after the change.
  3. Power: Sometimes people loose it in a change.
  4. Inertia: Breaking the energy that creates the status quo.
  5. Energy: It takes a lot of work and energy to change things, and it takes away from your regular work.
  6. Money: Change costs money and some people don’t want to spend it.
  7. Tradition: Some people just do not want to change.

Saving Face is not just an Asian Concept

It is very important to persuade and convince individuals before groups, especially key influencers in your organization. Once someone makes a public declaration of how they feel about change (positive or negative) they will staunchly resist changing that opinion, because doing so makes them look like a waffler that cannot make up their mind. To them a public change of opinion is a form of losing face, an embarrassment. Telling people about change privately gives them the chance to consider their position and possibly change their mind without the whole group knowing about it.

“Successful companies have a consensus from a top to the bottom on a set of overall goals. The most brilliant management strategy will fail if that consensus is missing.” John Young of Hewlett-Packard

Concensus Circles-07-16 at 8.32.10 AM


Six Circles of Influence

  1. The Board Circle: decision making board.
  2. Inner Circle of Top Leadership: members of the executive management team.
  3. General Management: Managers and mid-level supervisors
  4. Key Stake Holders: Other key people that should be kept in the loop and have influence such as former executive team members, retirees, and major donors.
  5. Key Opposition: Those important people that are opposed to the change.
  6. Rank and members of the organization, employees, and others that should be notified before the public is told.

Final Takeaways

  • List the key stakeholders in your organization and rank them according to the diagram above.
  • Identify the power brokers of influence in those circles.
  • Who is the single most important person or group in your organization that needs to give approval to move forward?