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Satisfy the silent skeptic

Prevent wait-and-see types from waiting too long

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management

You want your team to pounce on a project, take risks and make bold moves. But most teammates prefer to sit back, wait for others to take charge and then say “I told you so” when things go wrong.

Here’s how to engage skeptics:

Present facts, not directives. Silent skeptics hate to be told to “do this, do that.” They may comply, but they privately convince themselves and others that they’re just spinning their wheels to indulge a power-hungry taskmaster.

It’s better to share lots of facts with them in an open dialogue. Provide a historical perspective (e.g., “Here’s what we’ve tried before and the results ...”). Let them dissect the issues at their pace. Encourage them to voice questions and concerns. Only after they’ve talked it out will they lift their veil of skepticism.

Predict outcomes. Exchange predictions with skeptics about what they think will happen if you embark on a project. Invite them to speculate about the consequences of their actions—both positive and negative—under various scenarios.

Example: You want to launch a new pay-for-performance program, so you ask skeptics to guess how they’ll respond to different incentives. You also solicit their advice on how the new program will affect their peers, knowing full well that skeptics tend to withhold their opinions at first. By allowing them to go on record and predict what’ll happen, they’ll feel more secure plunging in.

Act fast. Skeptics thrive in bureaucracies with lots of talk but little follow-through. If you take action decisively, it forces fence-sitters to stop doubting and get moving.

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