By Kathi Kersznowski
It happens all too often. Someone has a great idea. It gains momentum and maybe even gathers new participants. Heck, sometimes a committee is born. Now it’s an all-out awesome idea—a movement with a vision and a purpose and objectives. The anticipation and optimism are palpable. The hypothetical ball gets rolling. Great things are starting to happen, and it’s only going to get better!
And then it happens. There’s a shift, a turn, an unanticipated plot twist. Suddenly the vision starts to feel “fake” and stakeholder buy-in starts to wane. It’s such a let-down from the rah-rah high of just a few days/weeks/months ago. I know. I’ve been there.
How can you stop this from happening? How can you prevent your vision/mission/ dream project from going from forward thinking to fizzle?
Here are six ideas you can try.
- Upcycle Your Team: Even if there are only two or three of you, switch roles from time to time. Let everyone feel valued. Is there a hierarchy or is it a group of equal partners? Be open about these roles and responsibilities. If you’re going for equality among all, there should be no secrets or sidebars.
- Crowdsource the Agenda: If you have meetings (real or virtual), allow the players to set the agenda. Add your own topics, too. Contributors should write the expected amount of time next to their topics so that an overall timeline for the session can be determined. Again, this comes down to valuing all the stakeholders. When members feel like they’re wasting their time and nothing they say matters, they start to feel like it’s all fake. Remember, everyone’s contributions should be welcomed, valued, and given due diligence. (That doesn’t mean they’ll all come to fruition, though.)
- Use Tantalizing Teasers: Always leave a little something fun on the horizon, “to be discussed next time.” Ask the team to think about a topic, gather resources, or bring examples and artifacts to share at the next meeting. This gives everyone both a feeling of importance and a sense of anticipation and excitement for what’s coming next. This is your greatest chance to block the fizzle.
- Advertise: I know it seems obvious, but sometimes folks simply need a well-crafted reminder at just the right time. Give enough notice but not too much. Make your invitation/announcement bold, colorful, creative, and interesting. Without a doubt, use all kinds of social media andmultimedia to draw ’em back in. The effort you put into advertising shows that you’re still 100 percent committed to the idea, and that goes a long way with stakeholders. (Be extra careful not to forget anybody. That could go a long way, too—in the wrong direction!)
- Outsource: Sometimes, you’ve got to think outside the box. To do so, you need to go outside your box. Go on a site visit to see how someone else does something. Skype or do a Google Hangout with a guru of some sort. Bring in a guest speaker for a fresh new voice. Maybe a little exposure to a new perspective will be just the impetus to put the fire back into your project.
- Shine a Light on the Elephant in the Room: Don’t hide what’s wrong. Be open about what’s not going well. Let the other guy (or team or committee) express what they think isn’t working. It’s OK. Invite suggestions, and live like you have a perpetual fluid action plan!
Bonus: Want to know how they’re all really feeling about your big project, idea, or committee? Take an anonymous poll. Put it online; nobody ever really feels anonymous on paper. It’s pretty hard to create a poll or survey that’s unbiased, but that’s what you’ll need to do to get the real truth. And the truth? Well, the truth shall set you free to make informed improvements and get your vision back on track.
Don’t fizzle. Sizzle!
Kathi Kersznowski is a technology integration specialist for Washington Township Public Schools in Sewell, N.J. As a professional development provider and aspiring administrator, she believes in participatory leadership and creating a culture of authentic shared learning.