Chip Neidigh

A Sugar-Coated Satan Sandwich

This past Tuesday, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, voted in favor of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (the “debt deal”), but he wasn’t happy about it.  He described it as a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.”

He’s not the only one eating a big helping of nastiness; frontline workers in many organizations are gagging on their own Satan sandwiches.

Oftentimes people ask me what I do for a living.  I respond with a question, “Do you like having change shoved down your throat?”  The answer: “No!  Does anyone?”  Then I respond that I help leaders in organizations not do that.

A leader’s first instinct when faced with dissent may be to crack down on the rebellion: “In these desperate times, you’re with me, or you’re against me.  I need everyone toeing the line so we can get through this quickly.”  But when the threat of coercion diminishes, frontline engagement and commitment wane.

Some leaders hire a change management consultant because they want their stubborn employees to get in line.  “Can you get those intransigent holdouts to see reason?  Maybe if you make it look better, they’ll get on board.”

But no matter how much sugar we put on that Satan sandwich, it won’t go down easy for Rep. Cleaver, because it isn’t his sandwich.

Owned solutions are better than optimal solutions.

Leaders must engage their teams early and often, to drive higher levels of commitment.  When people get their grubby fingerprints all over a solution, they own it.  When it only has the leader’s grubby fingerprints on it, no one wants to eat it.

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