Interview: IGNITE Your Communication Style to Gain Influence and Impact

In this episode, Debora McLaughlin, author of The Renegade Leader and and Running in High Heels, joins the show to share her easy to remember I.G.N.I.T.E. model for increasing your influence and impact at work. Listen in to also learn how communication impacts your influence, and how you can evaluate whether you might need to alter your communication style.

Listen to the show here (30 minutes):

Be sure to visit the radio show page to listen to past episodes and subscribe to the show.

How to Implement a Change You Don’t Even Like

One of Enclaria’s training programs is Leading Your Team Through Change, a workshop to help leaders effectively leverage their authority to influence change within their teams. During a recent session with senior leaders of a large organization, one of the participants interjected, “What if we don’t like it ourselves?”

It’s not enough to know what you need to do to implement change. One of the things that can prevent us from effectively leading and managing change is our own personal resistance to it. Sometimes we avoid doing what we need to do to move the change forward because we don’t like it ourselves. Or, we don’t like what we have to do to make it happen. You know what you should do, but something is holding you back from turning it into action.

frownie faceHow can you resist the very change you’re trying to implement? You might not like it because:

  • The project was started higher up in the organization, and while you’re responsible for implementing it, you would not have chosen to do it.
  • You spoke out against it or argued for some elements to be different, but the outcome was not what you advocated for.
  • In your quest to invite others to participate in the design of the project, it has morphed into something you don’t recognize.
  • The change will negatively impact people, and you don’t want to be the one to cause the unavoidable pain and frustration.
  • You just think it’s a bad idea and it won’t work.

Unfortunately, whether conscious or unconscious, the desire to see the change fail can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you secretly want it to fail, you will find a way for it to not work. If you doubt it will succeed, you will look for proof and act in ways that support your prediction. So, if you’re responsible for making the change happen, it’s imperative to acknowledge your own resistance and find ways to overcome it. Otherwise, you may unwittingly sabotage the project, and perhaps along with it, the organization and your career.

How do you know you’re resisting your own change initiative? For one, you start doing things you wish other people wouldn’t do when you’re implementing change: You avoid working on it, you procrastinate, and you find excuses. You also feel yourself wanting to fight, run or hide when you think or talk about it. You may wonder whether the organization should be undertaking this initiative at all or doubt your own ability to get it done. Besides relying on your own self-awareness, ask others to let you know when you do or say something that seems to contradict the change, as that may be an indicator that you’re not fully on board.

What can you do to influence a change you don’t even like? How do you reduce your own resistance to change and implement it effectively anyway?

Gain clarity. Even though you’re the change agent, if the change was instigated somewhere else in the organization, it may not have been communicated to you well. The real “why” is probably missing. Ask for the full story behind the decision to implement the change, so you can gain understanding yourself and potentially find a new source of personal motivation.

Understand your resistance. Look inside to discover the true source of your discomfort. What will you lose as a result of this change? What personal characteristic or skill (or lack thereof) seems like an impediment? What are you afraid might happen when this is implemented? What would have to change about the project for you to be comfortable implementing it? Where do you just need to get over yourself and out of your own way? Understanding your own reaction will help you identify any gaps than need to be filled, both organizationally and personally.

Influence what you can. If you are concerned that the project will not be implementable in its current form, then it’s your responsibility to speak up and turn it into something that can succeed. Ask for the resources you’ll need to support it adequately. Even if it doesn’t go your way, at least you’ll know you tried. And then you can move on to…

Make the best of it. If the project “is what it is,” then let go of the aspects you can’t control. The good news is you can choose your attitude and spin it positively for yourself. Challenge yourself to influence the change in spite of its shortcomings. See it as your opportunity to make the experience better for people than if you weren’t involved. How can you see the change from a different perspective so it feels like a good thing? Consciously choose not to become a victim of the circumstances.

You won’t always get dream projects to work on. And there will be some you don’t want to do for a variety of reasons. But mastering your own resistance and succeeding with the uncomfortable projects can be the ultimate confirmation of your ability to influence change at work.

Interview: Change-Friendly Leadership

Bestselling author Rodger Dean Duncan of Duncan Worldwide shares nuggets of wisdom from his book, Change-Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance. Listen to hear what Dr. Duncan calls the Four T’s: key leadership behaviors that drive change.

Listen to the show here (30 minutes):

Be sure to visit the radio show page to listen to past episodes and subscribe to the show.

Prerequisites for Change Adoption

About twenty years ago, I was an engineering co-op student at Delco Electronics (now Delphi), an automotive electronics company that at the time was a subsidiary of General Motors. One summer, the company put on a Technology Expo to show off all the futuristic technology they were developing. They needed help with some of the demonstrations, so naturally, we interns were asked to volunteer.

One of the cars featured in the Expo was a Geo Metro sedan (remember those?) that had been converted to an electric car. The battery took up the entire space under the hood and the trunk. After the Expo they let me drive it. I remember it was so weird that all you could hear was the tires on the ground. And I felt so cool to be driving it, even though it couldn’t go very fast.

Fast-forward twenty years later, and last weekend, I bought my own electric vehicle! And yet even though I saw it in action twenty years ago, it still feels like I’m driving this futuristic technology. It has me thinking:  Why has it taken so long for EV technology to take hold as it’s just barely starting to now? And what can it tell us about some of the prerequisites for change adoption?

full batteryMeet Minimal Expectations

First of all, this “souped-up” Geo Metro was anything but. In order to use the minimal amount of energy, it had no power anything – steering, windows, zip. I don’t even think it had air conditioning. And it had a manual stick-shift transmission. For this new technology to be accepted, it at least would have to support all the things people have come to expect as standard on vehicles today. Taking away things that are considered basic amenities isn’t going to fly with most people.

Ensure Feasibility

Even at their current maximum driving range, an electric car is not for anyone who typically drives long distances. In fact, there will be times I’ll need to trade cars with my husband to make sure I can get where I’m going (and back). In some parts of the country, including here in Atlanta, an infrastructure of charging stations is becoming more widespread. With my current driving patterns, the growing number of places to charge the car, and the ability to borrow another car if needed, it was feasible for me to get one.

Make Value Greater Than Cost

I’m pretty sure that first electric Geo Metro cost millions of dollars in design and development. The cost of the technology (or change) must be low enough for people to accept it as a good trade for the value they are getting. Even today, electric cars are still expensive compared to similar gas-powered versions. The electric car I bought this weekend had a sizable manufacturers rebate and a hefty income tax rebate, making it much more affordable and even less than the cost of an equivalent gas-powered car. Since I had the desire to drive one, and the driving patterns that would make it feasible to own one, and the need to get rid of my old car, the incentives made the decision a no-brainer.

Add Social Proof

When I started to consider getting an electric car, I started seeing them everywhere. Since other people had made the switch to electric, I figured I could too. Seeing others driving the car not only made it safe, but made me realize if I wanted to be on the early adoption side of the curve, I would have to hurry up!

Connect to Values

I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist, but I’ve had an awareness and desire to make earth-friendly decisions since high school. I try to recycle as much as I can, I use reusable grocery bags, and little things like that. I am concerned about the future of our planet. The electric car is an opportunity for me to make a bigger statement in that regard.

We make decisions every day at work and in life that can help us understand how people adopt change. What are some of the prerequisites you would add to the list based on your own experience?

Three Main Impact Zones of Change

As you embark on implementing a change in your organization, it’s important to identify who will be impacted – not just those who are the primary targets of the change, but others in your organization who are impacted by or who have an impact on the change. There may be many individuals or groups who may not be obvious stakeholders in your project whom you need to address and influence. If you don’t, your change initiative may create some unexpected collateral damage.

Click to download a pdf of the map.

Click to download a pdf of the map.

One way to map out your stakeholders is by Impact Zone, which tells you the ultimate level of involvement in the change. The following is a list of people to consider as stakeholders of your change, categorized into three impact zones:

Primary Impact Zone – Those Who DO

The people in your organization who are closest to the change and most involved with the work that will change are in the Primary Impact Zone. These are the people who:

Do the Work – Who are the ones who most need to change the way they work in order for the change to happen?

Use the Outputs – Who uses the outputs of the work that is changing?

Are Affected by the Outcome – Who will be affected if you achieve the desired outcome of the change? Who will be affected if you don’t?

Provide the Inputs – Who supplies those who do the work with something that will affect the ability to change?

Secondary Impact Zone – Those Who SUPPORT

Those people who support the work and the change are in the Secondary Impact Zone. Make no mistake, though, those in this zone can have a significant affect on the organization’s ability to change. These are the people who:

Manage the Work – Who are the ones who have authority over the people and processes in the Primary Impact Zone?

Fund the Work – Who has spending authority and can make decisions that affect the ability to implement the change?

Regulate the Work – How do rules and regulations impact the ability to change, and who has the authority to apply or change the rules?

Support the Work – Who else supports the work that will change?

Tertiary Impact Zone – Those Who SEE

Other people in your organization may not be involved in or support the work, but they will be affected by what they see happening. How they experience change events may affect their own work and their trust in the organization. The people in this Tertiary Impact Zone are more impacted by the change than they have an impact on the change. These are the people who:

See the Work – Who will be impacted by what they see happening with this change?

Do Similar Work – Who else in your organization does similar work and may feel uneasy or unfair when they see the changes?

Identifying your stakeholders is an important first step in developing your approach to change. Use the Change Impact Map to help pinpoint those who will be affected by the change, those who will have an impact on the change, and those who will watch the change happen.


Who else would you add to these three Change Impact Zones?

So You Want to Be an Independent Change Management Consultant…

It seems to be a trend that after spending enough time as an internal change management practitioner that you’ll have the desire to go out on your own and become an independent consultant. I frequently talk with people who are considering or in the process of making this transition, or who are at least dreaming of making the leap some day.

I suspect that the tendency to want to escape is due in part because influencing change from the middle of an organization is at best challenging and at times a seemingly fruitless effort. From that point of view, it seems that becoming an external consultant would give you a different kind of influence plus the ability to step out of the confines of the organizational structure.

People sometimes ask me for tips I can share to help them make the jump to their own business, and once they do, how to be successful at it. The following tips are a few of the recurring themes of these conversations:

Identify the space you fill as a change practitioner. Change Management is a large field with many possible avenues for adding value. Your ideal business is the point where your passion meets your ability meets a need someone will pay to fill. It’s about who you are, what you do, who you serve, and how you help change happen. It may take some trial and error and soul searching to find your spot.

For me, here at Enclaria, I help people influence change at work. Specifically, I help individuals and teams who are responsible for implementing change in their organizations, but who don’t have a lot of authority to get it done. It’s important for me to help you do this yourself, through behind the scenes coaching for individuals, workshop facilitation for teams, training on the topics of influence and change management, and providing off-the-shelf resources with the blog, radio show and change management toolkit.

Be willing to say “no.” Once you discover the space you’re meant to fill, be willing to say “no” to work that falls outside those boundaries. When you first start out, it’s tempting to take on anything people ask you to do. And yes, there are times when you need the paycheck. However, saying “no” to work that mis-defines who you want to be as a change practitioner frees you up to do the work you want to do, and helps others see more clearly what you can provide for them.

For example, I intentionally don’t do full-time on-site client consulting or contract work. For one thing, I believe you are fully capable of influencing change yourself, and me diving in to do all the work doesn’t allow you to grow in your ability to do that. For another thing, I have zero desire to be a road warrior. Saying “no” to constant travel is an important lifestyle decision for me — and also has a large impact on the type of work that I choose to do.

Do it for the right reasons. Consider why you want to leave your steady paycheck and step out into running your own business. Have you dreamed of owning your own business for a long time? Do you have a passion for helping others’ changes succeed? Do you see a need in the marketplace that has gone unfilled?

The prospect of being your own boss and influencing from outside is enticing. However, if you want to leave your internal role because you feel stuck and aren’t getting the support you need to succeed, or if you believe it would be easier to influence from an external position because no one is listening to you now, starting a business may not be the solution. Instead, if you really want to see your project through, but you’re frustrated with your progress so far, consider working with me to identify how to get unstuck and to build your change management capability within the context of your project. And while we’re at it, we can talk about whether stepping out on your own is the right path for you.

If you’re looking to make the leap, what questions do you have? If you are an independent consultant, what tips would you share?

Interview: The Four Workplace Conversations

In this episode, workplace communication expert Skip Weisman shares the four conversations that happen at work, three of which create low morale, low productivity and kill profits. Which one works? Listen to find out The Four Workplace Conversations, how and why they occur and specific strategies to move to the one “right” conversation.

Listen to the show here (30 minutes):

Be sure to visit the radio show page to listen to past episodes and subscribe to the show.

How to Thrive (and Not Dive) as a Change Agent

When we take on a change agent role in an organization, we start off with high hopes for making a difference. Whether you’re hired into the position, assigned or volunteered to take it on, there are a number of things that can help set you apart as someone who can get things done. On the other hand, not doing these things can cause your effort to crash and burn.

propercareandfeedingAlign Your Efforts to the Bigger Picture.

There’s no faster way to burn out as a change agent than working counter to the stated goals and strategy of the organization. And even if you’re not at odds with the direction the organization is trying to move, if you appear to be working on something superfluous, it will be hard to gain attention and support. Find the connection to the bigger picture, however tenuous, and make sure it’s visible. If you aren’t privy to the strategy, make the case that you need to know it. If there isn’t one, help leaders articulate it so you can elevate your project from ancillary to essential.

Get Yourself a Sponsor.

Many a change agent has been left in limbo because leaders washed their hands of the project as soon as it was assigned a manager. Instead, maintain accountability with those who have the authority to make or break your effort. Find someone who can be your advocate and help you keep your initiative well fueled with resources and timely decisions. Define the sponsor role up front and mutually set expectations for how you will work together to implement change.

Work With People, Not Against Them.

When people aren’t doing what they said they will, or aren’t reacting to change in ways that make sense, it can be easy to fault them for not supporting or participating in change. Placing blame is a sure way to create conflict and weaken your influence. Instead, be curious about what’s happening from their perspective, and work to understand what’s really going on. Be more of a detective than an interrogator. It’s easier to influence when you’re on their side than when you’re working against them.

Do What It Takes.

Being an effective change agent takes a lot of effort, usually behind the scenes: Gain commitment individually rather than relying on a generalized group presentation to do the job. Design meetings in advance rather than just showing up. Provide feedback to and address the resistance of leaders and anyone else. Design programs to help managers cascade the change throughout the organization. Facilitate awkward conversations that would otherwise go undiscussed. Doing what it takes to help people align and change, even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult, makes all the difference.

Making an impact in your organization as an individual is a challenging feat of drive and influence. Effective change agents stand out as someone who can make a difference when they align themselves to the bigger picture within the organization, when they make sure they have an advocate with more authority, when they work with people and not against them, and when they decide to do what it takes to make it happen.

Ready to thrive in your role as a change agent? Find out how we can work together to influence change in my Influence Accelerator Coaching Program.

Interview: How to Measure and Maximize Alignment in Your Change Initiatives

Ever wonder if people in your organization are really on the same page when it comes to change? In this episode, Michael Taylor of SchellingPoint shares a way to measure and maximize alignment in your change initiatives. We discuss why alignment is important, who needs to be aligned, how to tell if you have alignment or not, and what you can do when you need better alignment.

Listen to the show here (30 minutes):

Be sure to visit the radio show page to listen to past episodes and subscribe to the show.

Can’t Get Support for Change? Just Hide It

In my 2010 book 99 Ways to Influence Change, one thing I did not include was to Hide It. Yet, I’ve heard recent examples of people doing just that – implementing change even when it’s been explicitly shot down or repeatedly unsupported at the top.

Peeping Tom

In one case, a presenter at a PMI event shared a number of ways to implement Agile software development practices in an organization, and one of the approaches she called “Black Market Agile.” In the example she cited, they had decided against implementing Agile at the corporate level, but one division decided to do it anyway, finding ways to somehow hide it from view while gaining the benefits.

Another case of hidden change was from a sustainability manager who was denied support from the leader of one business unit. Rather than count the business unit as a lost cause, in an approach she called “Covert Ops,” she found allies at lower levels who could implement sustainable practices within the scope of their own influence.

In my own experience, I was once told to stop working on an employee engagement project because top management thought my time would be better spent on other projects. Rather than let the initiative die, I worked behind the scenes with a supportive group of lower-level managers to carry the torch, at least in their own areas.

A common theme across all these examples is the limitation in scope that occurs when you’re hiding your efforts from view. The change can never expand to the point where it would be visible to the leader who opposes it. Going rogue can be successful within the scope of your own influence, but if and when you want to expand to the rest of the organization, you’ll have to find a way to safely step back into the light.

Asking forgiveness instead of permission has its risks and advantages. Whether you call it Black Market Change or Covert Ops, hiding your change efforts can be a risky endeavor, especially if you’ve been explicitly told not to do it. But it also has the benefits of starting small and proving the concept, so you can show people who originally doubted that it is something worth doing. And sometimes, you can ingrain a change so far into an organization that it is impossible to turn back.

Have you had experience trying to hide your change project? Was it successful? What happened when they found out about it?