Few of us have the power to change policy absolutely, but all of us have the power to effect change through the power of influence. That which you cannot do directly yourself can be accomplished with the creation of a team. Saver soldiers realize it's imperative to persuade others to join in making a difference as they make a dollar. Influence multiplies the value of knowledge.
You might have already found ways to cut your personal footprint at work. What if you convinced others to join in? What kind of impact would that have? Or perhaps you can invent new ways to support your employees and co-workers. Would others at your company participate? How would that transform your company's reputation as an employer?
When you take on the challenge of influencing others, you are stepping up as a leader during a time of change.
Here are some tips on how to help lead others, starting with the most basic form of influence: evangelizing, or spreading the good word.
In the context of business, evangelism signifies your personal campaign to bring about change. It arises from your deep passion to make a difference, combined with a strategic understanding of the area in which you want to see that change. I've identified three basic rules for effective evangelism.
Teach, Don't Preach
In the business world, you must use finesse when challenging the status quo; this point is especially crucial if you’re ahead of the revolutionary curve.
The task of saving people, communities, or the planet is emotionally charged. It's easy to feel you know best, and you want to beat people over the head with your knowledge—and in so doing, you may find you inadvertently make others feel bad about themselves. This is not the way to move people to action. Careful instruction is.
First, be well informed so you have the depth of knowledge required to answer tough questions.
Communicate clearly. Talk in specific but easy-to-understand terms. Use relevant examples. Stay away from jargon, slogans, or bromides. Avoid language that is emotionally charged or accusatory. Lead with the business case, and once you’ve established that connection, introduce the social and ethical cases.
Next, be interactive. Great teachers don't just broadcast. They listen and become involved in a conversation. Spend time developing thought-provoking questions that encourage others to take a learning journey with you.
Finally, give out homework. Learning isn't passive. Try to make others feel so involved they want to go out and discover more about the subject themselves. The more they learn on their own, the more drawn in they’ll be—and quite possibly, the more they'll have to teach you.
Follow Up Relentlessly
Effective evangelists are detail-oriented and accountable. These traits send a signal that you are serious and will not go away until you convince others to change.
First, keep your promises. When you're evangelizing, your students often will challenge you to provide more information. Get back to them with the promised data as quickly as possible. The sooner you follow up on your promises, the more they will believe you are serious and will listen to you.
Next, report progress. This step is especially important if you’re evangelizing to a group of people about an initiative you’re already undertaking. Let them know what's transpired since your initial discussion. Measure and express your progress in objective terms. Your diligence in reporting can help bring your biggest skeptics into the fold.
Finally, celebrate success. To keep others involved over the long haul, recognize their contributions publicly. Send congratulatory e-mails and post on Intranet discussion boards. Create an event, or leverage an existing one, and invite a wide audience. Celebrations send a signal you are leading a winning team, making it more appealing to those not yet converted.
Welcome Your Skeptics Into the Fold When They Eventually Convert
Regardless of how difficult others have made it for you to succeed, you now acknowledge them as partners. Every saver I've interviewed told me they faced doubters who, bearing blank stares and folded arms, disagreed with the facts presented and accused them of stridency or idealism. Sometimes such skeptics even attempt to undermine your work through counter-evangelism, attacking you personally.
Later, when they come around, be large enough to welcome them. Skeptics can become the most passionate converts. Many of the most significant movements are led by those who admit they once were in the dark, but now see the light.
2. Unleash the Power of Many
Another way to influence others is to organize diverse groups of like-minded people inside your company. Such groups not only show senior management there is a collective will for change, but also can penetrate corporate boundaries and spread ideas, regardless of how sprawling and massive the company might be.
A variety of different approaches exist to create and manage groups. The two most effective are to build a movement and to create a network.
Build a Movement
Movements can effect great change. Throughout history, they have caused governments to fall, wars to end, and policies to shift. Movements can start with as few as two people, and they can accomplish more with fewer people than you might imagine.
Movements are created when people come together to pursue a shared vision and/or passion. To foster a movement, find your kindred spirits at the company. You’ll draw them out by being public about your beliefs. Make your vision part of your conversation at breaks, off-site meetings, and social gatherings.
Grow your group faster by advertising for new members. Post notices and send e-mails about your involvement in your socially responsible quest, and mention that you're looking for others to join in.
Next, take advantage of available corporate resources. It's much easier to start a movement around an existing corporate initiative that already has some degree of funding and support. But if you do have to start from scratch, search out existing corporate resources. Does your company give you the right to use meeting rooms and facilities, or to take time off to pursue social projects? Is the corporate Intranet useful? Are marketing resources available to promote activities?
Finally, make the team you assemble highly visible. Effective movements aren’t secret but very public. Look for opportunities to demonstrate the commitment, size, and/or power of your movement. Let people know this is a sizable group that's not going away.
Create a Network
In many cases, the obstacle to creating change isn't people, but the structure of your organization. Companies with assorted businesses often operate as if each business unit were an independent company with its own rules, policies, and culture.
To protect their independence, business-unit leaders typically create corporate silos, a term borrowed from the military to describe organizational structures and cultural practices designed to block intervention from so-called outsiders that could upset the status quo.
These silos make it difficult to promote a cause across a company. But you can succeed by creating a network of people who operate inside each silo so that your ideas cross political and organizational boundaries.
3. Mentor Your Leaders
No matter how persuasive you can be, how committed you are, or how many peers you sign up, there are going to be times when real change will require your leaders to become as involved as you are.
What do you do when a business revolution is under way and your leadership doesn’t realize it? You find an opportunity to become a reverse mentor. Reverse mentoring takes place when you help someone above you in the organizational chart understand new concepts in business.
During the 1990s Internet revolution, a great deal of reverse mentoring took place—young, Internet-savvy workers, sometimes sporting nose rings and spiked purple hair, were invited into executives’ corner offices to show them how this new thing called the World Wide Web worked. At the time, many business leaders were fearful their inability to understand the Net was going to ruin their business. They needed help, they asked for it, they got it.
People often made fun of this kind of mentoring, and several national advertisements for tech-related companies featured strange-looking twenty-somethings taking older corporate execs under their wings. But in the twenty-first century, reverse mentoring is becoming common. Today's leaders, who realize they must stay on top of emerging business trends, know their frontline employees and managers often have a better understanding of the marketplace than they do.
Odds are good that if you have something intelligent to say and the courage to say it, you're going to be listened to, and perhaps even asked to continue the conversation. As I said previously, business surveys report that about eight out of ten CEOs prioritize corporate social-responsibility efforts on their strategic agendas. As long as you are smart about how you convey your ideas, they're likely to respond positively.
Excerpted from "Saving the World at Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference" by Tim Sanders; Copyright © 2008 by Tim Sanders. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.