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Ruffling Politial Feathers

July 26, 2012

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Some call it being a radical.  Some say it is challenging the process.  Others would call it disrespectful to the culture.  The flip side would say it is the only way to enact change.

We have all most likely been on both sides of this coin as we have watched others make decisions, take action and stand up for something different than the norm.  We ourselves may have been the ones challenging the process…I certainly know that I have had my fair share of ruffling political feathers.
I have been called all of these above and many more labels because of such, some good/some not so pleasant.  So what have I learned from these experiences?  Well, I’m still learning every time, no two situations are the same, but I’ll share a few personal reasonings, insights and cautions.
  • Start with Good Intentions: Every decision I have ever made has been with good intentions to move an initiative (either my own or someone else’s) which I felt would better a person, an organization or a system.  I have never had malicious intentions.  This is key, as anyone with ulterior motives that are for personal gain only are not acting with integrity and not what I am addressing here.
  • The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions: Even with the best of intentions, resistance to change is inevitable and if you do fully understand the culture, predict the obstacles or get buy-in, you are bound to go down a road that will be difficult to overcome.
  • Pick Your Battles: This should go without saying, but unfortunately I have seen others, and yes chosen myself, to fight every fight that comes along.  Instead, be intentional with which battles you will hang your hat…and reputation…on.
  • Have a Game Plan: Change management, transition management, strategic planning, they all have at a minimum one thing in common – there are specific theoretical processes that exist and should be followed.  You should not simply stand up for something you believe in without having a plan.  If you want to enact change without simply being known as the person with the biggest mouth or the biggest barrier, take calculated steps along the way and have a reason for each.  There are plenty of resources that can teach you change management, start with the guru: John Kotter (the Harvard Business Professor, not the TV show).
  • You Gotta Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run: Kenny Rogers knows what he’s talking about.  Be able to identify when things are not going your way and when the battle is either completely lost or simply not worth it…walk away.  If all of these situations exist and you have been given a clear message from the most influential people around you that enough is enough…run and work on the next tip.
  • Damage Control: Regardless if you were successful or went down in flames, you will have to play some damage control.  The name of this post says it all, you are ruffling feathers, you are going to burn bridges, and there is a good chance you will make a few enemies.  That was never the goal, but it is usually inevitable, so learn to mitigate this along the way and definitely make amends where you can afterwards.
Change is good, change is inevitable, but change for change sake is not the goal.  First break all the rules, challenge the process, make a difference and do it smartly.  Personally, as someone with Significance in my top 5 strengths, I have a deep desire to make a difference in the world.  I have always been drawn to change, to doing things a little differently and to be recognized for being the person who improved things for the better.  I’d like to think I have accomplished this in many ways and will continue to do so.
To thrive at implementing change in an organizational environment, you must realize this is a political world and the more influence you hold, the better your chances will be at succeeding and without ruffling too many feathers.
Have you ruffled a feather or two in your time?  Was it worth it?
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