When you are an innovator, you must adapt to being both an insider and an outsider. Which side brings out the best in you?
You are at an exceptional place in your career—the innovation track. Your passion and skill inspire management to create positions to match your unique abilities with their emerging business needs. You excel at meeting each new challenge and thrive on being an insider in management’s major decisions.
At the end of the day, however, you often wonder why your peers and their teams do not share your level of commitment. It is understood that you must collaborate with them to achieve results, so you are considerate of their initiatives and give them your full support. Yet, they fall short of your expectations. Consistently giving more than you are receiving in return is testing your patience, and you are earning a reputation for being difficult to work with.
Your determination, although highly valued by management, comes across as being too intense and indicating a certain degree of impatience to your peers. You are leading the company toward future success, but your peers are unimpressed and their comments are damaging your reputation. They aren’t keen to work with you, as they consider your expectations to be too high and unreasonable.
How do you win their support to embrace this business challenge? How do you get them to commit beyond the bare minimum?
You will need to face all differences and convince them to support your critical objectives. Before implementing your specific plans, you will need to invest time in influencing.
Innovators are agents of change and usually out of synch with their peers—often being viewed as outsiders rather than insiders. A major challenge that confronts you is that your intelligence and experience will tend to be valued more highly by the executive team than by your peers. You or an executive will need to persuade them that what isn’t so obvious now will be possible one day. And whatever the outcome may be, the learning achieved by testing new approaches will have significant value for the business.
Not everyone will share your sense of urgency. Have you ever been a lane-hopping driver gambling that you will beat the next light only to end up stopped at the red light with all those slower drivers you just passed? It is conceivable your peers will not see themselves as hindering your project in any way. Instead, they will see you as being the problem, and they will be quite willing to point out how your management behavior is the cause.
Management may consider you as an insider laying the groundwork for future goals. Although your intensity and impatience may be warranted in your role, if it prevents you from changing the mindsets of others and gaining alignment, your plans will be stalled.
As an innovator, you can improve your ability to influence outcomes in the following ways:
1. Be prepared to be an outsider for a long while. Acceptance rarely comes easily. Much will depend upon the initiative you are responsible for driving and its degree of difference from the business norms others are accustomed to.
2. Be mindful of your behavior as an insider or an outsider. Take time to reflect on the differences in your behavior in these two roles. These insights will help you to pace yourself and your efforts.
3. Take time to educate. All people have good reasons for doing what they do, which means their resistance is valid. Until you help them see things differently, they will passionately hold on to their current attitudes.
4. Remember that pace is the biggest cause of conflict. The more insistent and unyielding you become, the more resistant they will become. People accept change much more readily when it makes sense to them. More humility and less hubris are needed to forge effective working relationships.
5. Be willing to receive support. You should accept and even seek the active support of an executive or two to educate and influence. Let those people in power support your efforts. You may not think you need them, but skeptics may need to see that management believes. That, in turn, increases your credibility and what you are trying to achieve.
As an innovator, you must remember that you will need to be both an insider and an outsider. This duality suggests that you need to be especially mindful of your influencing skills to improve understanding. By doing so, you will gain the level of commitment and support required to move the project forward, and you will also avoid having to repair any damage your reputation may have suffered with your peers.
Judi Walsh is a catalyst for Transforming Leadership Behaviors. Leaders with outdated mindsets are good for the competition and bad for retention of talent. Discovery driven coaching accelerates development for leaders who want or must lead in new ways.