Organizational Culture

Want to Advocate for Change? Here are 3 Realities You Need to Know

advocate for change

Great business leaders are always looking to optimize.

This article comes courtesy of University of Birmingham’s Online MBA Program, designed for enterprising business professionals who are ready to enhance their practical knowledge for the next step in their careers. Find out more about the University of Birmingham Online MBA by clicking here.

They strive to continuously identify improvements and execute change initiatives for the good of the organization. However, being a change advocate in the workplace is a rough road. To paraphrase Charles Kettering, everyone wants progress, but no one wants change.

People are naturally resistant to change and for good reason. After all, it’s uncomfortable and risky. Most people prefer to stay on a steady, predictable course—even when the change in question offers a significant potential upside.

According to Pete Foss, Lecturer on the topic of Change Management at the University of Birmingham, anyone looking to create change has to have an awareness of the various issues and approaches to implementing change on the individual, team, or company level. Change advocates require an understanding of the imperatives for the change, and a full scope of the impact to the organization – a topic covered in University of Birmingham’s Module on the Management of Change.

So, if you’re looking to persuade people that some kind of change is necessary and beneficial for your organization, it’s best to prepare for the reality ahead of you. Whether you’re looking to improve an inefficient process, develop a new line of business, or anything in between, here are three stark truths to keep in mind as you advocate for change.

  1. You won’t be popular.

Being a change advocate means you’re actively campaigning for the discomfort of others. Any change disrupts the status quo and there will be plenty of people who don’t like that—and won’t like you as a result. That’s just part of the deal. Foss shares that tension and conflict will arise as change is often met with resistance. It’s up to you to be proactive in identifying and defusing conflict, to keep an open mind, and to empathize with and aid the employees around you who feel threatened by the change to ensure that their employment, status, or well-being in the organization is not harmed.

Once your change has taken place and the rewards are evident, people may (or may not) come around. Remember that being effective and respected are far more important in business than being liked.

  1. You’ll need leadership buy-in.

Any significant change requires leadership support. Regardless of your position in the organization, you’ll need at least one powerful ally on the leadership team who believes in your vision. Before you attempt to sell everyone else on your idea, make sure one leader (other than yourself) believes it’s a viable option and is willing to back you. If you’re unable to do this, the change you’re advocating for might not be the right one. 

  1. Your reputation will follow you.

When considering your ideas, people will factor in what they already know about you (i.e. your reputation). If you’ve already proven yourself to be someone who really understands the business and can get things done, your chances of success exponentially increase. If you’re known as someone who talks a lot but can’t follow through, or if you’re relatively unknown, you’re facing a much steeper uphill battle.

Advocating for change will also increase your visibility. It has the potential to shape your reputation in the future. Your success now, or lack thereof, will impact your ability to effectively advocate for change from here on out. Foss suggests that affecting change in an organization doesn’t always go as planned, which is why he teaches his students to identify failure points along the way, and adjust course as needed.

So choose your battles carefully. Be mindful of how you present yourself and how you manage setbacks in particular.

Advocating for change isn’t always easy, but it can be very worthwhile. If you see something that can and should be improved—and you know how to make that happen—be vocal. Just prepare yourself for the road ahead.

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