The always entertaing former NBA coach turned announcer Jeff Van Gundy was reflecting on the difficulty that many coaches have with connecting with their much younger and far wealthier players. Van Gundy's opinion was that a coach's message can, over time, start to lose its resonance, and it's effectiveness.
Van Gundy made what I thought was an excellent point in the discussion:
If you as leader are the only one that always has to tell the truth, then you need more leaders on the team.
It makes sense. If the coach, manager, or leader is the sole voice of the organizational 'truth', he or she will always be fighting an uphill battle. In the NBA, Van Gundy felt that you needed one or two players, preferably star players or at least starters, that were completely on board with the coach's approach and could help to reinforce the 'right' way to prepare, practice, and play. These respected players could help keep the team together, and serve as a kind of validation for the coach's program.
I think this concept can apply in corporate organizations as well. Work groups and teams all have some natural leaders, roles models, and respected members. Managers that can forge understanding and connection with these leaders will likely have a better opportunity to fold in all the entire team, perhaps leading to a more cohesive, and better functioning group.
This idea of leveraging key internal leaders or champions also has application in tools and technologies that are being increasingly deployed inside organizations to facilitate collaboration in the enterprise. Technologies like wikis, forums, and microblogs are often positioned by project leaders as solutions that will bring significant value to all members of the organization. But they also can have 'adoption' problems, with many employees reluctant to replace traditional and proven methods of collaboration (e-mail, phone, voice mail, shared network drives) with the new processes and tools.
Recruiting and deploying 'champions', a few key and hopefully respected employees to serve as guides and leaders in the adoption of these new approaches, and that serve as examples for the other members of the organization to follow is often a critical success factor in these projects. These are the ones that will kick-start forum discussions, post new findings on a wiki page, and actively share bookmarks, and tag and organize content. Without these leaders, your project may not thrive.
Just like the great JVG says, if you as coach, leader, or technology evangelist are the only one 'telling the truth' you are going to have problems getting everyone to see the light.