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'Infecting' your team

By - Last modified: March 20, 2013 at 11:38 AM

You can't deny it! There's just something extraordinary about walking into an Apple store.

Sure, it's sleek. The stuff on the counters, the decor and the dress code are all cool. And it's always buzzing. But there's something else in the air.

And that something else is what makes all the difference.

It's the people with the logos on their chests. They love their company and they love being there. And can't help passing along their passion to every customer who crosses the threshold.

So how do you create that kind of atmosphere if you're not an Apple? And if maybe you aren't blessed with even semi-"hot" products? Or a name that anyone beyond your immediate circle of commerce can remember?

Can you "infect" your entire organization with the spirit to become, and to convey to others, something extraordinary?

Yes, you can.

But probably not in the ways that first come to mind, like a speech or a study by smart outsiders. It's more subtle than that. A lot more subtle …. and here's how it goes.

Power-packed persuasion starts with self-commitment. In order to get others obsessed, you need to be obsessed — totally and without reservation. It's the only way to come across with credibility, particularly when the cultural shift you seek is a big one.

It also helps if what you are attempting is "no going back" kind of commitment. Not something that people can try for a while, then retreat back to what they were doing if they don't like it. Leave those initiatives to others. The last thing you can afford is to hang your credibility on something trivial.

That may or may not work. And won't make much difference either way.

Yours are the big ones. The "bet-the-farm," the "do-or-die" kinds of things.

So, let's say you've got a "jump-off-the-cliff" idea in mind.

First, get yourself convinced that the future of your business absolutely depends upon it. By studying it diligently. Alone. People may be curious about what you're doing with your door shut for a part of every day.

That's good. Let them wonder. Because when you do let them know, they'll be more inclined to go along with you. Because they know you've invested in it.

When you are convinced of your idea, share it with your closest confidant. Not before!

Seek her refinements and alignment. Don't sell -- listen and adapt. This isn't about getting confirmation. It's about building momentum. From other peoples' own insides out.

Then ask the next-closest members of your management team to join the discussion. Ask them to digest the idea, simmer on it for a while, talk among themselves and give back their contributions.

Be open minded. Socratic, not judgmental. Playing the role of Solomon to convolve the result into something that becomes a burning part of every participant's anticipation.

Then, look every participant directly in the eye and ask directly for a "lay across the tracks" oath to support the effort … and for the person who would like to lead it!

Your continuing role? To support and counsel the champion who steps forward. Push and redirect when you must. Demand progress, but without taking control.

By initiating this kind of thinking, then handing it off with your stewardship, you'll be setting a new precedent of trust and confidence for your team. Do it over and over again. By the fourth time, others will be emulating your model. And your culture will have changed.

Just the way Apple's did.

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