5 ways to get executives on board with change
Updated: Apr 28
If there's one group of stakeholders who can make or break your change - it's the executives. Often the most senior leaders in the organisation, these stakeholders have loads of authority AND usually bucketloads of influence that they can use to garner support or resistance for your change. Executives didn't get to their lofty positions by sitting back and twiddling their thumbs, so understanding how to present information and requests to them in an enticing way is crucial. Here are 5 ways to get them not just on board with your change, but maybe even leading it for you!
#1 Understand their current priorities
For folks at the top, time is scarce. They need to deliver (and deliver well) amongst multitudes of meetings, competing interests, and complex decisions. So understand their current priorities and show how your change aligns. What is on their transformation agenda? How can your change help them deliver that faster and quicker? If successful, what could this change do for their image or their future plans? Get on their track to get them on yours.
#2 Get them involved in the vision
An Inspirational Change Vision can move mountains when it comes to breaking down competing priorities, disinterest, fatigue, and even resistance. If you can get the executive to truly feel, understand, and maybe even participate in setting the change vision (that is, the experience they want people to have through the change), so much of the groundwork is done. As you move higher up the organisation, you will often need to message at a higher "chunked" level of information. And the highest chunk is - a vision!
#3 Highlight the dollars
Money talks and cash is king. Executives are often also key budget owners and sometimes P&L owners so if you can show not just how much money will be made or saved in this change in the first six months or year but on an ongoing basis for at least the next two years, you'll tick the box for the more money-motivated elements of an executive's psyche.
#4 Make it easy for them to promote
Again, execs are often time-poor but they also might not be Change or Comms experts or even that experienced with employee engagement (especially if they climbed the technical expertise ladders). In many cases, they are happy to share the message of your change, but they need it to be served up to them in a way that's easy to then distribute to peers, leaders and teams. This is why a well-crafted Change Plan, one that has streams for each level of stakeholder group, is so important (even if you present it as a high level one-pager of engagement activity because remember "highly chunked"). If you have not only stepped through the planned experience for each level of leader/team, but also drafted and prepared those messages or resources ready-to-go, it's super easy for an executive to be willing to put their name behind the change. This also ticks a risk reduction box, which is another key driver for executive decision-making.
#5 Remember they be people, too
Beneath the tailored dresses and suits, heels and ties, coiffed hair and designer handbags, lies the beating heart of a real human being, driven by the same kinds of fears and wants and needs and frustrations and loves and passions and dreams of any person: to be liked, to be successful on their terms, to feel connection to others, and to reduce risk, harm or hurt to themselves. Just like all of us, their decision-making is actually more emotional than it is logical or rational. They need to feel its right, they need to have trust in you and the change, and by connecting on a human level and building a relationship and ensuring they are heard, respected and supported, you'll get them onside and onboard for your change.
These 5 tips will help you turn your executives into absolute allies. Good luck!
I'm Lata Hamilton - the Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, a Change Management consultancy specialising in digital transformation, operating model changes, and new ways of working and leadership.
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