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In politics, a leader who changes his or her mind is immediately labelled a flip-flopper. In business, there usually isn't a vocal opposition with big ad budgets lying in wait ready to brand you for changes in position, but it is a danger to consider. In, Cornell management professor Samuel Bacharach writes that to change your mind while maintaining your credibility, you have to follow certain steps.

First, it's vital to explain to your supporters how your ideas have evolved. You want them to understand your thinking, and why the shift happened. Ideally, lay this out early, before the rumour or gossip mills start churning.

Make sure they understand that your change of tactic is not a change of intent, that you haven't abandoned your shared goals. "Assure your supporters that what you did was an adjustment and that you're still committed to the direction that you, as a group, are moving toward," he writes.

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Politicians who change are invariably called opportunists, a tag you want to avoid. So make it clear that the change you are advocating arose from necessity rather than opportunism, again relating it to your shared goals. You want to make it clear that their voice was taken into account (even when you couldn't consult with them), because this adjustment still keeps their collective interests in mind.

"The ability to change your mind is an essential quality of leadership. Done well, the change of course looks like a moment of courage," he concludes.

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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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