Are you ready to be a fearless leader?
Large-scale organizational change can often cause 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, supported by data or coming, whether we like it or not. To address the fear of change, it’s important to give every team member ownership in creating change.
Creating change is not just the responsibility of those in senior leadership roles. Creating real change is everyone’s responsibility, and 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 the resistance to it will be reduced if everyone sees themselves as leaders and agents of change in their spheres of influence, and they are empowered to take steps in their daily jobs to implement change.
While it’s true that 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 by Listening, Learning, Leading and Having the Will. And, they can rally others to do the same.
Four tips to lead in your sphere of influence
These four 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.
- Listen 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.
- Learn Learn 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?”
- Lead Leadership starts 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?
- Have the Will to Change Willingness to change means leaders must examine their companies’ results, acknowledge they are not acceptable and choose to do something about it. This is when you need to Listen, Learn, Lead … and Have the Will to drive change! Openly, publicly committing to change: This is what Having the Will to Change looks like.
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.
Each of us has a sphere of influence. Each of us can be a leader in our sphere of influence. No matter what the role or title, anyone can take action on a daily basis to create organizational change by Listening, Learning, Leading and Having the Will. And, they can rally others to do the same.
For more information on utilizing these techniques to advance women in the workplace, download the YWomen 4 Key Actions white paper.
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.