For those of you new to this site, each Friday, I write a post to speak to a question I’ve received from a leader somewhere in the world. The series is entitled Today’s Challenge. Today’s question deals with a very common issue: How do I make change happen without senior leadership support?
When you find yourself in this situation, here are a few ideas to consider…
Don’t panic. Rarely are new ideas wildly popular. If your idea is getting resistance, I see it as a good thing. If your ideas are immediately accepted, they may not be progressive (crazy) enough to make a difference.
Don’t wait for senior leader support. I heard a talk almost 30 years ago that still inspires me today. It was from A. L. Patterson. He challenged his listeners with this simple message:
Start where you are. Use what you’ve got. Do what you can.
Bloom where you’re planted. Don’t think all or nothing. Lead where you are. Big things can, and do, grow from small seeds. Never underestimate the power of humble beginnings. Once an idea takes root, then it can spread.
Continue to influence up. Look for ways to involve senior leaders in your work. Seek their input and use some of it along the way. Take them to the field. Let them talk to people who are benefiting from your new idea. Share success stories with them – formally and informally. Keep them posted on progress and setbacks.
Show results. Senior leaders almost always want results. Show them your idea works. You may need a pilot or prototype or test case. Demonstrated results usually get senior leadership attention. This is a great reality check for you as well. Does your idea really add value? If not, find a new idea to champion.
Don’t give up. Leaders know progress is always preceded by change. Napoleon said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” I believe leaders are dealers in change. This is our job. If we don’t instigate change, our organizations are doomed to mediocrity, stagnation, irrelevance, or worse. Don’t ever stop leading change. If you stop leading change, you’ll stop leading.
What big idea are you championing in your organization?