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In the previous two posts, we’ve discussed how the leader of a change movement can find and leverage her heretic core followers, and the principles and pitfalls that leader and her core followers must understand and avoid. We also discussed that the primary role of the core follower group is to provide opportunities for others to be and act as, and ultimately choose to become, followers, and that the success of the entire change initiative hinges on their ability to do so. In this post, we break down the process of doing just that.
Recruit, Don’t Sell.
Once your follower group has learned the realizations, faculties, and skills needed to lead and influence and earned the permission of the organization to play that role, it’s time to turn your attention to enrolling explorers.
Assign each explorer a follower group member. That established member will serve as the explorer’s primary contact with the group.
Explorers still need one or more of the following three things in order to choose whether or not to join the group:
- confidence in their ability to make the changes being asked of them
- a good reason to make the changes
At this stage in the process, explorers have had a months or even years to get the information they need to make a choice. The problem is that they’ve interpreted the information in a way that makes it seem like a threat instead of an opportunity.
It could be that an explorer is one of the best at doing things the current way and doesn’t want to lose that status to become a novice. This fear is exacerbated in explorers since they have spent the last few years resisting the change––if they choose to commit now, they have some serious catching up to do. Explorers may also question their ability to operate in the new manner expected.
Regardless of the reason for not already choosing to buy in, it is the follower group’s job to create opportunities where explorers can confront their concerns and doubts without fear of retribution.
Enrollment is Not Convincing.
When enrolling explorers, the followers’ job is not to sell the vision and mission or convince anyone of their worth. Enrollment is not a pitch. Enrollment is the art of creating a space where the targeted individual can exercise freewill and make an honest choice. An explorer who willingly chooses to commit will make a valuable addition to the follower group, while someone who is persuaded or worse yet, manipulated, will not.
It is this art of enrollment––helping others confront their concerns and fears so that they can make an empowered, free choice––that all followers must master. When you do, you will gradually grow yourselves and your recruits into a powerful army of leaders who will assure that the changes and improvements continue.
There’s Power in Numbers.
Now that you understand you must create ways for explorers to confront their misgivings about the change, how do you do it? One way is to invite them to a session facilitated by the follower group with an agenda centered around just that. It’s best to conduct these discussions with the entire explorer cadre because ultimately, you’re trying to create a tight-knit social group who shares a vision and mission.
This group approach also offers the best platform for explorers to make their choice publicly, in front of other explorers and the core follower group. An important caveat: this public declaration is only possible if followers facilitating the event create a space where every single person present accepts the idea that each explorer can decline to join the follower group. Otherwise, the followers will find themselves leading a mere “bitch session” instead of an enrollment conversation––a miscalculation that can set back the entire change initiative. That’s why it is so crucial that the follower group receive training and coaching from a master of enrollment.
Regardless of when and how it happens, once the explorer has had ample time to consider whether he will join the mission or not, the follower group must explicitly request that the explorer make his choice. If the explorer chooses to commit, you––the followers––will invite your new compatriot to your next group meeting. Also ask him to participate in one of your current projects. This two-pronged welcome––a gathering and an action––helps the new follower see himself as he now is, a key member of a movement, and will help ensure that he begins to be and act in service of the vision and mission.
Followers Can Only Influence Explorers.
I want to emphasize once again that the people followers are targeting are explorers. There are two other groups of folks who have reacted to the change in distinct ways: deniers and resistors. It is up to the original leader to move those who are denying into the resistance category by sending an unmistakable message that opposing the change is futile because sooner or later, they’ll have to grapple with it. Leaders, you must move those who are already resistors into the exploration category by conveying that your patience has limits, and if they are unable or unwilling to get onboard, there are consequences.
Followers, you can support these efforts by keeping your eyes and ears open for resistors who feign support but actually only want to disrupt and delay the group. These saboteurs can be of any rank––even supervisors or managers who are in positions of power and influence. The follower group must not hesitate to remove any member who disrupts their cause.
Confronting resistors usually plays out best this way: core followers should approach the detractor and tell them they are no longer welcome at group meetings. Followers, it is important that you are completely straight with the resistor during these conversations. He must understand why he is being removed and be told under what conditions he’d be welcomed back.
Ultimately, the enrollment of explorers is a process that will be repeated again and again via meaningful projects until enough explorers have chosen to become followers and there are significantly more followers than resistors in the community. At this tipping point, the group has fulfilled its main purpose and may disband. The peer pressure from the army of committed followers they’ve helped create––along with the leader’s stalwartness––will now have to convert or remove any remaining resistors.
Unfortunately, most of the individuals still resisting the change at this point will probably never convert. Many will merely comply and do the minimum necessary to blend in. It’s up to you, the leader, to decide whether or not these compliers are a significant threat to the mission. If so, you must minimize their effect or remove them.
Leaders, once your follower group has succeeded, you will acknowledge and thank them for their service. Then, you must turn your attention to completing the mission while continuing to encourage and drive progress toward your vision––which will mean new missions. It will all get easier now that the group behind you is far larger than the group against you.
At this point, take a moment to celebrate: your followers outweigh your resistors. Your vision is spreading. The bright new reality you believed in is being born.
People have to choose to join––or jump–freely. Pictured above: Force Recon Marines parachute training with SEALs. Photo by Lance Cpl. Reece Lodder. Used with permission via CC.