A friend of mine had a problem.
Notice that it really wasn’t me. It was a friend. I swear.
This person has experience, leadership skills, integrity, and know-how. And yet, when he had to lead a major change in his organization, he wasn’t getting the support he needed:
- Regardless of his expertise, experience, or credibility, something stood in his way.
- Key stakeholders lost interest or engagement in the change initiative.
- End users were confused.
- His team couldn’t communicate consistently about the change.
- This honest, experienced, and dependable person was stuck.
Sound familiar? These are all signs that my friend had a trust problem. If you encounter similar experiences, here’s what you can do about them.
#1: Avoid the island
Remember the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks? He winds up on a deserted island and a volleyball becomes his best friend. He names the volleyball Wilson.
Ever feel like that in your organization?
You’re busy struggling to survive. You feel the pain of things that aren’t going well. You wonder if any hope is left. You can’t flag down anyone to help you, and you are left to your own devices, building makeshift solutions and working incredibly hard to complete basic tasks that should be much easier. Oh, and you have maybe one person you can talk to about the pain you are going through. That’s your Wilson.
How did you arrive at this island? Why are you working so hard to survive?
Without the entire crew in place to support you, you are left to work things out on your own. It’s a bad situation.
You need a support team, a back-up plan, and buy-in.
Wilson is not enough.
#2: Build partnerships
Think about a time that you worked with someone who made you think. A time that you had a casual conversation. After you were done, you were still thinking about that discussion.
After spending time with them, you were still pondering about questions they asked, what you answered, and what it all meant.
That person demonstrated “organized curiosity.”
When others ask questions and seek to understand our circumstances, it is engaging. When they show they are curious about us, rather than having an agenda for ourselves, they increase the possibility that we trust them. They cause us to think differently. And they are seen as more credible.
Also, successful people build informal teams. The teams aren’t just people in their departments. They are crews that support them in all areas of the organization.
These partnerships don’t happen by accident. You must intentionally reach out to others. There doesn’t need to be an agenda.
It is more than taking someone to lunch. More than volunteering to work on a committee. It is about intentionally and honestly reaching out to others in your organization to better understand how you can help.
It can be as simple as arriving a few minutes early to a meeting, to allow time for conversation.
Notice I said how you can help them. Pay it forward.
What if you can’t help? That’s okay. But by finding ways to understand the needs of their area and the struggles they face, and then connecting that to the big picture, you’ve built a partnership.
Think ahead to questions you can ask that help you better understand their day-to- day circumstances:
- What has changed in our field? How does that impact your team?
- What do you think will be different in the future? How does that change how your team will work?
- What are the biggest opportunities for your team to succeed?
- What is most important this year? Why?
These questions require more than a simple yes or no answer. That’s why they are engaging and encourage future discussion.
When your peers and colleagues understand that you are genuinely interested in them, you are seen as a more valuable partner.
#3: Understand your stakeholders
Know your audience. And your audience includes learners, executives, and, possibly, customers.
Think through the audiences that your area may impact. You will increase the probability that key audiences will stand behind your department’s priorities.
While identifying audiences is critical, you should also consider:
- Who can assist your team in anticipating other initiatives in your organization that can impact your plans?
- What other technologies or initiatives are competing for resources?
- What else is planned for your company that could conflict with an enterprise-wide rollout?
- Who is able to offer advice and guidance so that your team can prepare?
Depending on the size of your organization, you may need representation from:
- Human resources
- Information technology
- Internal help desks
- Risk and audit
- Project management
Consider your end users, also. Are there members of your organization that would be early adopters of the system?
How can you build their support?
Remember that asking for everyone’s feedback, and acting on it, will gain buy-in.
#4: Build your brand, and your team
Consider ways to elevate your team and build your brand internally.
Use existing resources to highlight any individual team contributions. This may include:
- Internal emails
- Internal newsletters
- Company intranet
- Company publications
- Press releases
- Visual presentation or highlights in your department
- Visual representation in key areas of your organization
If you are the department leader, consider identifying key department members that best represent your area. Explore the same areas listed above to assist them in building their own brand.
If your team or area receives recognition or rewards, whether individually or as a team, it is an opportunity to highlight achievements.
The recognition you and your team receive will build trust and credibility in and beyond your organization.