10 Tips for Successfully Influencing Change

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Apr 21, 2015

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, was quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.

Most of us would agree, and we may even be tempted to add that the increased pace and velocity of change in modern business is rapidly becoming an exhausting and debilitating “constant” as well.

But what can be done? Are we destined to be helpless pawns in the relentless transformations occurring all around us? Or are there guideposts to help us navigate change?

10 tips for a successful change

At WorldAtWork’s most recent Future of Work Forum, change – and how to deal with it – was a prevailing theme throughout the event.

Delta Emerson, President of Global Shared Services at Ryan LLC, offered her Top 10 tips for plotting a successful course through a change management initiative – especially in a new role or a new company.

Designing and executing change in any environment requires a firm but cautious approach.

  1. Don’t call their babies “ugly.” As anxious as you may be to tackle challenges and begin shaping a new path forward, respect the company’s DNA and don’t act like a savior or a change agent. Take the time to understand the culture and what is held sacred before launching your ideas.
  2. Put your toolbox under the table. Seek to understand and diagnose before you try to prescribe a solution. Not all tools work the same in different environments, and your most reliable “go-to solution” may not be relevant in your new situation. Trying to solve a problem before you’ve earned employees’ trust may make them feel like you’re doing something to them, rather than for them. Avoid being a bulldozer running straight to problems – move sideways too in order to build consensus for your ideas.
  3. Watch your body language. Restrain yourself from reacting when something shocks or surprises you. You’re likely to encounter many new ideas and systems – bite your lip until you understand them well enough to offer well-informed feedback.
  4. Bloom where you’re planted. Make the best of each situation in which you find yourself. Circumstances are rarely ideal, but that shouldn’t prevent you from doing what you can where you are.
  5. Tell the Emperor if he/she has no clothes. Be courageous, but considerate.
  6. Know when to fold your tent. Bide your time and choose your battles wisely. An idea that may be a non-starter with other leaders now may receive an enthusiastic response in a different situation or at another time.
  7.  Share the (Superman) cape. Involve others in your change initiative to gather ideas and gain buy-in. Absolutely share the credit for any and all forward progress.
  8. Cross the finish line. You must execute! No matter how good the idea, nothing is gained without effectively operationalizing it.
  9. Just because you built it doesn’t mean they’ll come. Be prepared to educate others, market and sell your plans to a broad audience — repeatedly.
  10. Look in the mirror. Be self-aware throughout the change process. Your goal is to be an agent of reasonable and responsible change, not a manager of extraneous change.

Do you have any tips for successfully initiating and executing change that should be added to this list?

The post originally appeared in a somewhat different form on