How can people affect change when they aren’t in a leadership role?

Thanh Sinden; Pip Diment, Issue 120/02, 01.02.2020
Thanh Sinden is a cultural consultant and the chair of Museum Detox; Pip Diment is the acting head of exhibitions at Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales)

Dear Pip: 

Everyone, no matter their position, can affect change. It starts with noticing what’s missing or could work better, as well as understanding your purpose in your organisation and the difference you want to make there. 

When you know what you want to change, you can begin to look at how. You will have to lead people in coming onboard, taking the actions needed to make the change you want to see. The key to this is influencing. What has been your experience of change-making in your work? 

Best wishes, Thanh

Dear Thanh: 

Change is rarely brought about solely by someone making a presentation in a meeting. The influencing you mention is a huge element for success. The more groundwork you do, the better your case for change will be. Ensure you fully understand a situation before suggesting change. 

Consulting, formally and informally, enables you to identify people to influence. Also, people are not obliged to agree with you, so be prepared – and stay focused and calm. What lessons have you learned for change-making when not in a leadership role? 

Best wishes, Pip

Dear Pip: 

I’ve learned how to bring my passion, driving values together with my ability to solve problems through devising strategies and a plan of action to influence for change. I’ve also learned patience, and kindness to yourself while being accountable to your change goal by taking consistent actions.

 Know what the change is, have a clear vision and believe in the difference you’re making. It isn’t a lone venture. I’ve built a training programme for Tate called We Make Change. It was informed by what I’ve learned around change-making when you’re not in a leadership position. Key to this is the community and network you build around yourself. In the programme, I share seven ways to equip yourself to deal with change and lead change in others.
 
Best wishes, Thanh

Dear Thanh: 

I found the Museums Association’s Transformers course helpful for tips and ideas for influencing, particularly for identifying that there are levels of engagement. Generating trust and building relationships are the only way to bring people with you. If someone rejects your suggestion, you need to understand why, in order to see their perspective and identify how you might improve your idea. 

Even leaders rarely get free rein to do exactly as they wish; true leadership is bringing people with you and ensuring a shared vision. Sharing your thoughts with like-minded people also helps develop your plans, and provides much-needed support. Transformers was great for this, as is social media.
 
Best wishes, Pip

Dear Pip: 

Transformers was an impactful programme. I met many inspiring Transformers when I was facilitator on last year’s MA Influence course. I agree that bringing people along with your idea is key; finding your influencing style will also help you understand what resonates with others. 

How can you get your message across in ways that land with different people? Test your ideas on a small scale, show your results, get people involved and make the process participatory, so you build in different people’s insights. 

Best wishes, Thanh

Dear Thanh: 

Consider what changes you might address. They don’t have to be wholesale; you can make changes in specific elements of your work that will have a strong impact. In this way, you can build confidence in your communication and influencing skills in a more manageable situation, before considering bigger changes. 

It will start you on a journey of developing relationships and learning more about your organisation, which is vital when you’re not in a position of leadership or new to the organisation. You might also consider how to help others make their changes. Not all changes have to change the world, but they might change yours. 

Best wishes, Pip 

Thanh Sinden and Pip Diment will be speaking on leadership and being a change-maker at Moving on Up: Making an Impact with your Career, at the Merseyside Maritime Museum Liverpool on 26 February  



Comments

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11.02.2020, 11:18
This reminds me of something James March wrote in 'On Leadership'

"Organizational leadership is a contradiction in terms. The essence of organization is routine, conventional behavior, bound by the standards of knowledge, morality, and legality of the time. The essence of leadership, on the other hand, is escaping the routine, the standard, and the contemporary to implement a new morality, knowledge and legality quite different from that seen by others. Leadership is pre-eminently anti-organizational. Leaders confront organizations rather than build or serve them."

I expect many of us can provide examples of when organisational leaders have failed to lead. That said, disruptors better make sure they offer beneficial alternatives. Unlike our present national politics, the future direction of museums requires to be informed by supporting evidence.