4 Tips for Implementing Change in Your Sphere of Influence
Large-scale organizational change often sparks fear. There can be comfort in doing things the way they’ve always been done, even when it becomes apparent that change is a strategic business imperative that’s supported by data and coming whether we like it or not. To address the fear of change, it’s important to give every team member ownership in creating it.
Creating change is not just the responsibility of those in senior leadership roles. Creating real change is everyone’s responsibility. In fact, important initiatives such as driving diversity and inclusion, transforming corporate culture or advancing women’s leadership cannot be successful unless the initiative is operationalized and understood at every level of the company.
Fear of change, and resistance to it, is reduced if everyone sees themselves as leaders and agents of change in their spheres of influence. They are empowered to take steps in their daily jobs to implement change.
While it’s true not every employee has the ability to influence board decisions, hiring decisions or pay equity policies, everyone can be a leader in his or her sphere of influence. No matter what the role or title, anyone can take action on a daily basis to create organizational change and rally others to do the same.
Below are four tips to leading change in your sphere of influence. These actions are best executed in a sequential manner to drive truly meaningful change. The will to change is the single most daunting task for organizations, and the one most organizations are unprepared to do.
This is an often overlooked step. Leaders want to lead and take action. However, listening is a step that is critical to connecting to root issues in your organization. It is incumbent on senior leaders to personally listen first before taking action. That said, employees at any level in the company can listen to learn, hear new perspectives and understand the experiences of others before taking action. Increasing understanding creates empathy and new vantage points, which decreases fear.
Discover how to articulate the “why” of the change you seek to make with your team. This must be done at all functional levels of the organization. It’s not enough for senior leaders to have a conceptual understanding. What is needed is a locally relevant business case that answers the questions posed by middle management: “How does this connect to me and my work?” “What do I need to do on a daily/weekly basis?” “How am I being held accountable?” and, more importantly, “What’s in this for me?”
Leadership expectations start at the top of organizations. In studying the best practices of companies who are making headway advancing women for instance, visible, vocal leadership is always a critical characteristic. People in your organization look to the senior leadership team to set priorities. Is that commitment visible in the next level of management? While senior leadership plays a critical role, middle managers own the day-to-day experience and operations of your organization. Have they internalized the desired priorities, behaviors and goals? How are their actions supporting the targets being measured?
4. Have the will to change.
A willingness to change means leaders must examine their companies’ results, acknowledge they are not acceptable and choose to do something about it. They must openly and publicly commit to embracing change.
Finally, it is easy to say this is up to everyone else. While you might not be responsible for huge organizational initiatives, you do control the areas that are within your scope of responsibility. If you lead by example, even in small ways, others will take notice.
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Jeffery Tobias Halter is president of YWomen, a strategic consulting company focused on engaging men in women’s leadership advancement. Founder of the Father of Daughter Initiative, creator of the Gender Conversation QuickStarters Newsletter and the Male Advocacy Profile, Jeffery is former director of diversity strategy for The Coca-Cola Company and is the author of two books, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men and Selling to Men, Selling to Women.