Rule #5: Find your Allies

It takes a village, pick the right villagers to gather their pitchforks and join you!

It takes a village, pick the right villagers to gather their pitchforks and join you!

Every great caper takes a team (see The Sting, Ocean’s Eleven, Trading Places).  There may be someone leading the charge but it takes a village to pull off a victory. Smart change agents make sure they have the right villagers charging by their side. Here’s some to start looking for right now:

  1. EF Hutton: No, not the real E.F. Hutton (he’s deceased, be very, very worried if he shows up). You need the “opinion leader,” a team member with enough gravitas, experience and respect from the other team members that they pay attention when this person speaks.  In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell describes in “The Law of E.F. Hutton” that the person who is the “real” leader of the team is most likely not the official leader. When they speak, everyone listens.  Get this person on your side and you’ve won half the war.
  2. The Human Calculator: You know this person. They can calculate it all in their head, run data up, down and sideways and spit it out in record time. They look at data and see patterns others miss, usually saving you a few serious mistakes.  And it’s effortless for them, like breathing.
  3. The Historian: The Historian knows everything that has been tried before and may even know where the bodies were buried. Sometimes this person can be a bit of an Eeyore (“Well Sonny, we tried that in aught eight but it just didn’t fly”). The historian you’re looking for is the one who remembers bits and pieces of systems and research that were built for other projects that just might be useful and knows who worked on those projects.  You slice a great deal of learning curve by talking to people who have tried similar things.
  4. The Top Producer/Chief Rainmaker/Revenue Generating Machine: Often this person will be a contender for the EF Hutton slot but if not, they are a valuable source of feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
  5. The Fixer:  The backbone of many teams. This person can take a statement like “IT says it will take 200 hours to build the interface so they can’t get to it until next year,” roll the situation through their head and come out with “Okay, the platform they’re using in sprocket accounting is nearly the exact thing that we want and they have lots of bandwidth because we really only care about counting widgets here. They also have a student intern this summer, let’s hijack the intern and see if we can copy over the system and have the intern recode the smaller piece that needs to be changed.”  This is also the person that knows that Mary in Customer Service is dying to change her job and move into project management so she’ll volunteer her time for any task or project that might get her closer to that goal. They have lots of people’s cell numbers and can get them to answer day, night or holidays. They usually talk 800 miles per hour and you can see the wheels turning when they do.  They have lots of favors on deposit in the favor bank.  Very handy to have in your corner.
  6. The Front Person: This is your smooth talker. Speaking in perfect “corporate-speak” they are the official face of your change. They need to be well liked, reasonably respected and easily able to talk their way to those at the top of the house.
  7. The Executive Sponsor:  In an ideal world you’ll have an upper level sponsor who stands behind what you’re trying to do. You’ve convinced them of the importance of the plan and they have the will and ability to pull resources from other departments to help jumpstart your plan. They also are the first to back your Front Guy when they’re presenting to the top of the house. If you don’t have an executive sponsor, you will absolutely need to have #4 in your corner.

Draft each one of these players on your team well before you make any public announcements about your planned changes.  It’s usually going to take drinks, lunch or coffee for you to get them on board.  Be prepared to change your plan based on the feedback they give you. Let them punch holes in it and knock it around a bit. You’ll end up with a better plan.

What other team members have you found invaluable when you’re creating a change? Share your suggestions in the comments section.

P.S. If you’ve ever wanted a great explanation of exactly how Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III beat the Duke brothers on the commodities floor in Trading Places listen here.

Want to see all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Start here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

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© Jeanne Goldie 2015