I'm used to succeeding through my own efforts, but my boss has told me I'll need to carry people with me if I am to succeed. How do I go about that?
A Your boss is right; your role is a tricky one in that it requires you to create change through influencing people who are not in your direct control, and the chances are in a conservative organisation that there will be resistance to changing the status quo. Ask anyone who succeeded in creating positive change through other people, and you'll tend to find they have done it through a combination of a sound strategy, personal belief in their mission, effective communication and sheer persistence.
All four elements are important: a strategy that is rationally sound, but is not conveyed to those who have to implement it in a compelling way will remain a theoretical blueprint or will be implemented only partially. Similarly, if the owner of the change initiative is less that 100% positive about what's to be achieved, it's unlikely that they'll enlist the energetic support required to make the necessary happen. Stamina is also important, especially when there are no immediate results to show and colleagues react with indifference or rejection.
Take stock of your own position on these four elements: where are you weakest? No doubt you are pretty confident about your stratey - after all, you're a newcomer and able to use a fresh pair of eyes to spot the inefficiencies and inconsistencies that hamper the enterprise from being truly commercial. You may have also found case studies of widely respected organisations that have gained success by following a path similar to the one you're recommending.
But have you considered the downside of your strategy? Being more commercial may make logical sense in that it should bring more revenue, but this will bring other changes, not all of which may be welcome. What are the implications for the balance of power, for example? 'Solid state' business often have long-established fiefdoms that are staunchly defended against change. Being aware of the subtle impact of your strategy will help you find ways to persuade your peers to back you.
If you are feeling neutral about the task in hand, you may need to re-describe it in your own head so that you can feel enthusiastic about it. Look at the wider picture of what greater commercialism will bring. More revenue could mean more opportunity, increased satisfaction at working in a winning business, and greater job security - all of which make your role a vital one.
How good are you at persuading others? Many people who regard themselves as poor salesmen can nevertheless be powerful advocates when they are talking about something in which they strongly believe. Persuasion involves gathering input as well as generating output. You will need to do a lot of listening so that you understand the perspective of key colleagues.
Though some of your communication will have to be of public nature, in setting out the stall for the main elements of the strategy and sharing plans with a wide audience, some of the most important communications will be tailored to a specific person or small group. Of course, if you are not a confident presenter, you may need professional help to brush up your technique, so that you can instil trust in your audiences that you are someone with whom they want to align.
Persistence is not to be undervalued in your role. Many good initiatives fall by the wayside because of lack of consistent follow-through. You are a novelty in the organisation and some people will want to be involved with you, while others hope that if they ignore you long enough you will go away. One way of maintaining interest is to establish quick wins and create markers for success that reflect well on those who participate. Make sure you have left enough money in your budget to gather data that will demonstrate progress and celebrate success publicly.
To keep your spirits up over the long haul, it is worth identifying private markers for your personal progress in carrying people with you - for example, when some hitherto recalcitrant senior colleague invites your input to a business plan, or when your work is acknowledged in public.
Don't forget to take some credit for your achievements: you need to do a good job, but also to be seen to be doing one.
Miranda Kennett is an independent coach. If you have an issue you'd like her to cover, email: email@example.com