Active support is needed to make changes in an organization that are effective in the long term, but gaining that support is an endless challenge to leaders. The members of your organization might trust you to identify fluid circumstances and engineer change, but the suggestion of doing something differently is still met with resistance, defensiveness and push-back.
An alternative to making your change demands non-negotiable, a strategy that seldom works to create lasting, effective change, is expanding your own perception. Through inquiry and objective listening, you can determine the perception of others and include their perspective in your own.
Where you see a solution, others may see a problem. Until you can understand that problem, you are powerless to achieve consensus around change. You have to step into another frame of reference to understand the mindset you seek to influence.
A classic example of conflicting perceptions is illustrated by this puzzle. How many squares do you see?
Since each individual box is a square, the common answer is 16. Some people also include the entire diagram as a square and return an answer of 17. Further inspection might reveal that every grouping of four squares is also a square, adding to the total. Approximately, 90% of respondents to this quiz will not consider that option and will not come up with the alternative answer of 30.
No matter how much you think you know about a situation, expanding your perception will create new insights that can be essential to consensus building. When we find an answer to the problem, we tend to stop looking for alternatives. The best answer, however, incorporates multiple perceptions all contributing to eventual consensus for change.
Critical thinking is a skill that we prize in leaders, but when it is performed in solitude it can be incomplete. To influence change, leaders must investigate the mindset of the organization, expanding their perception to incorporate this new information. Considering trends, recognizing constraints, moving past initial reactions and bringing in other interpretations contribute to the discovery of alternate perspectives.
The expanded perception will illuminate opportunities to build consensus. Where differing perspectives seem to create impassible obstacles, critical solutions can be found through probing questions and open-minded listening. On this expanded perception, a plan for developing consensus can be built that will lead to active support for change.
Building consensus may require altering the mindset of the culture and your own, and that takes time. Ultimately, that consensus where all perspectives can co-exist comfortably is what delivers results. If you are willing to look beyond your first solution, begin by asking questions. You will build rapport and make consensus easier to achieve for lasting and effective change.