He’s known as the “Oracle of Omaha” based on his lifelong track record for picking winners in the financial markets and turning poor performing companies into successful enterprises through shrewdly targeted investments of capital and talent. Few would question his intellect or clarity.
As it turns out, Buffett also knows a few things about what it means for leaders to be honest in their description of the future when selling change to their stakeholders. His logic is based on tons of experience and it goes something like this:
Build & Maintain Trust: People place their trust in us as leaders and Change Agents. That confidence is an easy thing to lose if we try to “bait and switch” a positive change for a negative one. if you are holding a rock concert – tell them to expect one. If your change is actually a ballet – be straight-up about that.
Do Your Homework: Don’t tell folks the change will be “minor” if in fact it will not be “minor” from their frame of reference. If your change will have different impacts on different roles in your organization, be clear about that too. For some folks it might be fun. For others it might be a pain. In either case, do your research and be honest.
They Know If You Know: Be above-board about what you know, what you don’t know and what you are assuming/guessing. You don’t have to use those words, but you should apply that sentiment.
It All Comes Out in the End: When facing decisions, big changes or any element of the future, the facts as we know them are basically the facts. Eventually the facts come out, so it’s best to avoid hyperbole and deception from the start.
People Can Spot a Fake: What we know and don’t know is all we have to work with, so don’t pretend to have “insider knowledge” if you don’t – because again – deception is an unnecessary and dangerous thing when your messing with someone else’s future.
Change Agents might do well to heed the Oracle of Omaha as they plan to roll out big changes… or risk the storm of resistance that may roll in when stakeholders catch on that they have been duped.
Questions for Chatter:
Have you experienced what can go wrong when Change Agents over-advertise the positive expectations for a change?
How have you seen fellow Change Agents “keep it real” when it comes to selling a change that isn’t all “good news”?
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