In this continuously changing world we have no way but to keep up with the changes ourselves – especially when we talk about our industry which is evolving almost every hour. Change however is not always easily acceptable; organizations face a lot of resistance to drive these necessary changes. It takes an entire team of 11 players to win a football match, the captain can be great but he cannot win the match all alone! Similarly, a CEO or the leadership cannot drive these changes alone; we need more feet on the ground to do this job. This is where the power of Internal Networks comes into play, the folks who are informal influencers, the ones who have the ability to breakdown the silos, the ones who are self-driven and usually the most approachable in the group. The ability to influence doesn’t come from the position one holds, it’s rather innate and should be tapped.
Now that we have established the fact that internal networks are integral to organization success, let’s look at how they can be leveraged to the best.
Divide and rule is too passé, the new mantra is “collaborate and rule”
When any change is to be sought for, the influencers should be involved since inception. Their ideas should be considered to bring about the changes and then to drive it as well. Though they might be more effective to drive the changes, considering their reach to the ground level, if they are not involved since the beginning, others would just see them as puppets endorsing management decisions and they will lose the ground. Let the changes be their baby, trust them to raise it well.
Tall Trees might fall during storms, good old grass remains
Influencers should be like grass, with a well spread across the organization without them being formal leaders necessarily. If they have a broad coverage across, they will be able to advocate the changes, they will be able to battle any uncertainty or doubts which the employees might have. Their skills could be leveraged by organization to build consensus on burning concerns. Grass minimizes erosion & absorbs rain water which is a big benefit to the environment and at the same time it doesn’t bother others with its size or position. It is there, doing the most important job but with complete ease. Influencers would be those people who employees see as their friends, who they trust to be SMEs in that particular change and whose opinion they value. The more the spread, the better the messaging.
Look within before you look out
There are organizations who have embraced changes like no other, talk about the recent one of getting away with the bell curve for performance appraisals. For such companies, the only future ahead of them is that of immense success leading to more & more growth. To drive this growth they will need more leaders, influencers or internal network can be used to create the leadership pipeline. This will have two fold benefit –
- to nurture and reward these natural leaders for the skills they possess and the voluntary work they do, and
- Easy access to good leaders & succession planning within the organization resulting in saving cost and time.
Fragmented power houses lead to more light
Have these influencers work on different themes leading to common goals. Use them to diminish the gap between employees and leadership. Let them be the mouth pieces for leadership to get ground level info and for employees to get first-hand facts of all the big changes.
Influencers without empowerment is like a vehicle without engine
Though it’s imperative to engage with the influencers, it is equally important to empower them. Trust them to bring fresh and creative ideas to the table and enhance the risk appetite. As they say, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Encourage failure as long as the idea behind is innovative & has potential, continue to evolve in the process.
To Amplify learning
Once you have identified the area of expertise for your influencers, give them more platforms to enhance it. One tends to learn a lot when they teach and share the knowledge, leverage the concept to amplify learning for rest of the team. The chain reaction would lead to diverse knowledge workforce & even better teachers/ SMEs.
As Lennon said- “A dream you dream alone is only a dream, a dream you dream together is Reality”. Let’s dream together.