If you want to change the world, you may think that playing it nice won’t get you very far. But you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a positive attitude, especially when trying to convince people in power to help you. When you approach them respectfully, people will be far more receptive to your ideas, as well as more willing to work with you.
This positive attitude means you should avoid thinking of decision-makers, such as politicians and CEOs, as “targets” that need to be forcibly convinced to do what you want them to. For example, attacking someone on Twitter is unlikely to provoke the change you’re looking for. In fact, it’s likely to kill your chances of working with that person now or in the future.
Remember, many decision-makers are elected officials and public servants, whose job it is to help. So don’t get off on the wrong foot by thinking they’re inaccessible to the public and will never listen to your story.
There are a number of respectful and effective ways to get the attention of decision-makers, such as peaceful demonstrations, organized phone calls, boycotts and signing petitions. Any of these methods could very well lead to a fruitful relationship with those in charge.
To make your efforts even more efficient, you should map out all the relevant influencers, including people and organizations, that could possibly help your cause. Sometimes, the obvious person isn’t available or receptive, so it helps to have options.
Jennifer Tyrrell was an effective agent of change because she pursued multiple avenues after she was let go by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) when they discovered she was gay.
Looking to change this discriminatory policy, Tyrrell started a petition on Change.org, but it was soon clear that dealing with BSA executives directly wasn’t effective. So she began reaching out to people on the BSA board of directors, like the CEOs of AT&T and Ernst & Young.
Unlike the conservative BSA executives, these CEOs were known to support LGBTQ rights, and after Tyrrell urged them to speak out against BSA’s policies, they did just that. For good measure, Tyrrell also reached out to other LGBTQ-friendly companies that partnered with BSA, like UPS and Intel. And sure enough, they spoke up as well.
Eventually, in 2013, Tyrrell’s vision was realized when BSA voted to allow gay people into their community.
Getting people on board is only the start of a successful movement – you also have to know how to keep those people motivated and engaged for the duration of the movement.
To sustain people’s motivation, you need to remind them of three important things about your movement: its members’ shared purpose, their continued personal growth and their strong interpersonal connections.
First of all, while purpose attracts people to your movement, it’s also a big factor for keeping them motivated. When people share a purpose, it makes them feel united and as though they’re part of something important, even if the people come from widely different backgrounds. So don’t pass up a chance to remind people of that shared purpose.
After Neil Grimmer started his Plum Organics baby-food business, he would remind his team about the shared purpose at company meetings every Monday morning, making it a strong, motivating start to the workweek.
Next is to make sure people are growing and continuing to learn. When people recognize that your movement is helping them grow as individuals, they’ll feel more of an incentive to continue fighting for your cause – so be sure to keep challenging them.
While the author was working at Change.org, she started an initiative called the 90/10 model for decision-making. It meant that every employee is expected to make 90 percent of the necessary decisions for them to be successful in their jobs. Yes, this put a lot of responsibility in employee hands, but it also challenged them to rise to the occasion. And this ensured that they were always learning and growing on the job.
Finally, it’s important to create an environment where you and your team members can forge strong connections. Genuine relationships create an atmosphere of trust, which allows people to feel safer to take risks and be open and honest.
This environment benefits everyone. According to a recent study at Google, the highest performers are those who feel psychologically safe.
This can apply to online-based movements as well: Facebook has found that its most successful groups are ones with active administrators who create a safe and rewarding environment. They’re welcoming to new members, they ban bad behavior and they continually add new and relevant content. By making members feel comfortable and safe, such administrators set the stage for people to make strong, genuine and lasting connections.
No one likes to be on the receiving end of harsh criticism, but when you’re starting a movement, criticism is practically inevitable. No matter your purpose and vision, you’re bound to encounter someone who either opposes your idea or disagrees with your approach.
These days, there are two kinds of criticism: there’s the positive and constructive feedback, and then there are the “trolls” and “haters” who offer nothing constructive and only criticize in order to drag others down.
So what should you do when the inevitable happens and you’re faced with an obnoxious troll? You stay positive by keeping your supporters in mind.
The author spoke to plenty of petition starters while working at Change.org, and nearly all of them relied on the positive feedback of supporters when they were forced to deal with the comments of haters and trolls. By reading and rereading the positive remarks, you can remind yourself of your legion of supporters and not lose sight of the fact that haters don’t speak for everyone.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that sometimes criticism can be used to your advantage. Life doesn’t move in a straight line. It’s filled with ups and downs, especially when you’re trying to start a movement. So don’t be surprised if you stumble when trying to come out of the gate with a new idea. And remember, you’re not alone – every entrepreneur and leader has taken a fall at one time or another.
Once you understand that obstacles are bound to appear, you can then be ready to react as best you can.
The author refers to rebounding from downfalls as Rocky Moments – as in Rocky Balboa. Every one of these moments has two parts. First comes the failure, which is when you’re down and any possible success seems distant and unlikely. But if you continue to fight, you’ll eventually come to the second part, when you turn things around and triumphantly get back on your feet.
Failure doesn’t mean you’re finished. In fact, you can emerge smarter by having understood what went wrong and being equipped to overcome future challenges. Therefore, you should take a close look at the reasons for the failure and share your insight with others. By being open about mistakes with your peers, you’ll be in a position to learn from their mistakes and avoid those potential pitfalls.
So, when you encounter a Rocky Moment, remember that there are others out there who not only can offer support, but can help you learn from the experience.
Sometimes you’ll receive criticism that is helpful but delivered in a mean and unconstructive way. Even if that’s uncool, it’s still worth considering it as feedback. However, if the criticism is irrelevant, such as a comment about your appearance, just ignore it. It’s not worth your time and energy, and it won’t help you to reach your goal.
And remember, anybody can start a movement. All you need is a collaborative spirit and the right strategic approach. It starts by defining your vision and moving past any doubts about the validity of your voice or ideas. If at first you fail, don’t despair. Instead, learn from your failure and use that knowledge to keep moving forward. With determination, you can make the social change you and others desire for the future, whether it’s starting a new business or changing an unjust law.
Check out my related post: How to be a force for good?