Managing company relationships up, down, and across the organizational grid is fundamental to the success of driving innovation. Innovation needs to be viewed not in an isolated way but as a collaborative mindset and culture. Those who want to inspire it need to exhibit thought leadership coupled with savvy communication skills. While bringing others aboard with enthusiastic and supportive buy-in, you also need to hold them accountable, while you ultimately take full responsibility for the implementation of your ideas. Here are four ways to make that happen, even in a difficult situation such as a merger or other major change.
1. Identify the Influencers
Do your homework. Making suggestions that are half-baked just undermines your credibility and will make people more resistant to your future ideas. Find out exactly who needs to agree with your idea. Don’t think narrowly and only focus on senior decision makers. Expand the network of people who need to be sold on your idea to include major customers, rank-and-file employees on the production line, sales teams, engineers and designers, and whoever else can lend their support. Then you can go to the top of the organization for approval with a more compelling case.
2. Share a Clear, Compelling Vision
You have to keep it crystal clear and concise, though, otherwise you will confuse or bore your audience. They don’t need the whole recipe. All you need to give them is a picture of what is to come. What’s in it for them, and what sacrifices will they have to make? If you were them, what would you need to hear in order to be convinced? Oftentimes this kind of inquiry that you do by yourself will reveal ways that you can improve your idea, while it also enhances your chances of success.
3. Seize the Momentum and Move Quickly
Especially when the organization is in flux or you have new team members or partners coming aboard, it is necessary to seize whatever momentum you create. Otherwise it can fade or become watered-down by too much processing. Secure the buy-in and then set firm deadlines and start delivering on your promises. Remember, an object in motion is harder to stop that one that is stagnate. That’s especially true after you have gotten people involved so that they share your sense of urgency and ownership of the project.
4. Invite Open, Fearless Communication
During mergers and changes you will have to make hard decisions. But don’t be an insulated leader. Forget about the open door policy because it puts the burden of action on others, so you have less control over communication. Instead leave your office, daily. Go visit each person on your team at their own desk. Actively solicit their feedback. Let them get to know you and your commitment to openness and collaboration. That will remove the distance and fear that causes the silo effect. They will give you the frank insights you need to make the right choices. You’ll also hear some fantastic, innovative ideas that might otherwise never make it into the light of day. That’s outstanding thought leadership.