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Are you a leader? Don't be afraid to flip-flop

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The U.S. presidential debates have led to cries of flip-flopping against Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but if you're a business leader you shouldn't be deterred by such labels.

"As a business leader, your job is to flip-flop," change expert John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor, insists on Forbes.com with Shaun Spearman, of the Kotter International consulting firm. "In doing so, you are responding to the exponential rate of change that continues to make the business world more competitive and more volatile every day."

But it's important that you flip-flop sensibly, getting people to understand and support the reasons for change. Don't present your new position as something you have always held, which only insults others whose support you need. Explain your reasons – the context of the change – but stay away from the common pattern of claiming there is a so-called "burning platform" requiring everyone to jump for their lives by making this change.

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The authors argue that employees want to understand the opportunity for the organization in the change, not just the problem. Instead of warning, for example, that your company will become a takeover target if it does not adopt the changes, tell staff that making these changes will offer an opportunity to grow and sustain independence.

It is also vital to create a sense of urgency for this corporate change by sharing your reasons and initiating dialogue with followers. You won't succeed if everyone defers to you, and all you get is nodding heads or silence rather than buy-in.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

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