February 2012

Winning Support for Your Idea

Jay W. Vogt

by Jay W. Vogt

Winning support for an idea often means patiently and carefully navigating a minefield of personalities and interests that may threaten to stall or kill your idea. Before you start, use this simple yet powerful tool to map the political landscape and chart a path to acceptance of your idea.

Matrix that Maps Trust and Agreement

The tool is a four-cell matrix featured by master consultant and author Peter Block in his book, The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work. One dimension maps agreement, and the other maps trust. Typically there are some people who are in high agreement with your idea, and others who are in low agreement. Similarly, there are usually some people with whom you share high levels of trust, and others only low levels.

This framework sets up this creative tension:

Low Trust

High Trust

High Agreement

Strange bedfellow


Low Agreement


Respected opposition


The players in this quadrant are the ones whom you trust, who in turn trust you. They also agree with you on this idea. They are your allies. They form the base of your support. You probably want everyone to be your allies, but rarely is that the case. So take good care of the ones you have. Meet with them. Keep them informed. Solicit their advice and counsel. Strategize with them. Get them involved. Ask for their help. Put them to work. Let them be a bridge to other key players whom you don't know so well. Let them be the core of your winning coalition.

Strange Bedfellows

The players in this quadrant are the ones whom you don't trust, but who, for whatever reason, back you on this idea. Bless them for that. Define your area of shared opportunity with them on this one. Don't expect agreement on everything. And don't expect it to last forever. Explore their motivations, and develop a joint strategy. You may have a history with these players, and if so you'll have to set it aside for now to build on your common agreement. You never know, you may find that working together builds trust, and they become allies. If so, great! On the other hand, don't leave yourself too open to them. Find your areas of mutual interest and work those diligently, but otherwise, be somewhat wary.

Respected Opposition

The players in this quadrant are the ones whom you trust, but who don't happen to agree with you on this one. You agree to disagree. This is a blessing. You can reach out to them to elevate the tone of the debate if your adversaries start to throw mud, and you can dialogue respectfully with them about flaws in your proposal, hoping to improve it and thereby win greater support. Maybe they'll even come around. Keep the doors open, and the communication flowing.


The players in this quadrant are the ones that you don't trust, and who disagree with you on this idea. For these reasons, they have earned the title of adversaries. They are the ones with the most power to stop you. Find ways to convert them to strange bedfellows or respected opposition if you can, but otherwise you must do what you can to neutralize their opposition. If you do reach out to them, be sure you don't lose your cool. You don't want to antagonize these folks. If you can't be civil, go stealth, and just focus on building bridges in the other three quadrants.

Using the Matrix to Win Support for Your Idea

Think of the key players who can help you or stop you. How much do you trust them? How much do they agree with your idea? Write their names on the matrix where they belong. Strategize how to build on the strength of your allies, confirm the support of your strange bedfellows, build bridges to your respected opposition, and neutralize your adversaries.

Jay W. Vogt is an organizational development consultant, and author of Recharge Your Team–The Grounded Visioning Approach. Learn more at www.peoplesworth.com.