The success of your heretic uprising depends on you. Photo by Marcus Cederberg.  

In our last post, we discussed how to trigger a heretic uprising. It’s an intense name for the movement you’ll lead, but that’s exactly what it is: when you implement change that reimagines how and why your organization operates, you need more than a meeting. You need an uprising––a heretic uprising.

Many uprisings fail. The core followers launching it and you, the leader mentoring them, mean well but don’t know what you’re doing. It’s not your fault––you have no experience with such a thing.

Whether you are the primary leader or a core follower, here are the fundamental principles to follow and pitfalls to avoid as you champion your heretic uprising:

One Purpose

Core followers, the group that you form grows over time and has only one purpose:

Provide opportunities for others to be and act as, and ultimately choose to become, followers. 

What does that mean? It means when it comes to this mission, you must be monomaniacal. Every discussion the group has and every project on which you embark must be about creating and embracing situations that allow you to make your buy-in obvious.

Change is a process. Before they’re expected to commit, every individual must be given the opportunity to work through three consecutive relationships to the change: denial, resistance, then exploration.

Some individuals linger in the exploration phase longer than others. I call these folks explorers. As core followers, you must offer explorers opportunities to choose whether to commit to the change by forming a human bridge between exploration and commitment.

Enroll By Example.

The success of the entire change initiative hinges on core followers’ ability to engage and enroll the explorers. Above, I said you would need to serve as a human bridge. That’s because the most effective tool any follower or leader has to use in influencing and enrolling is himself. This realization is the first of several that the core followers must embrace.

During your tenure, core followers will lead many projects, but the primary project you’ll tackle is the development of yourselves into leaders who can influence others to be and act in service of the vision and mission. This is why I mentioned the need for a leadership coach who can facilitate and accelerate this growth last week.

It’s important to understand that by joining the core followers, an individual is also implicitly agreeing to develop from a follower into a leader. It’s easy for most people to accept this because key motivation for following in the first place is usually your own growth. The original leader and change leadership coach must satisfy this desire for personal development if the follower group is to remain motivated and have the confidence to take on resistors.

Start Small and Gradually Grow.

The follower group begins with only a few core followers as its members. Once you establish and nurture the group, you begin to recruit other followers to join. Joining the group must be a choice. Core followers must invite, not convince or coerce. If others join out of obligation or “optics,” they’re not truly choosing. Those members are destined to be poor contributors and can even disrupt the team. Individuals shouldn’t be recruited with the bait that joining would be good for their development, either. This is a change initiative, not a reclamation project.

Influence Must be Earned.

Followers, while developing yourself as a leader is important, don’t fall into the trap of forgetting that you have to earn the right to even exist.

Let me explain: your follower group must make visible, meaningful contributions to the enterprise. Lead and facilitate projects––sanctioned by the original leader––that the organization views as worthwhile and thus earns your group the right to play an influencer role.

The best approach? Manage projects that help others––especially explorers––make meaningful contributions to the core mission.

Examples of core team projects:

•Design and deliver voluntary training essential to the mission’s success.

•Conduct “listening tours” that identify the mission’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Report the findings, and where appropriate, launch projects to address the findings.

•Identify and track metrics that reflect the status of the change initiative.

•Illuminate and communicate successful changes and improvements.

•Conduct “feedback tours” to collect feedback for the leader and his senior team.

•Sponsor “lunch and learn sessions” where you share with other followers the realizations, faculties, and skills you are learning.

Now, you’re ready for the challenge that will determine whether or not the change takes hold: enrolling explorers. Stay tuned. We’ll break down that process next week.