The only constant is change, and wow has the year 2020 gone out of its way to remind us of that fact. The global pandemic has created opportunities for tech-enabled change and innovation. Still, technology alone won’t lead the revolution—to be the change we want to see in the world, we need to know how to lead in the workplace. Here’s some advice that’ll get you started.
1) Address any imposter syndrome you may be feeling.
Believing in yourself and your value is a big part of being an innovator and a leader. But imposter syndrome is real: The feeling that you or your talents aren’t enough has plagued many women in technology. That said, don’t let it disempower you and keep you from leading change in the workplace.
To counter those nagging feelings of low self-worth, write down your negative thoughts, and then jot down indisputable facts that prove them wrong. Shifting your personal narrative from a story of weakness to one of empowerment will also shift your behavior, giving you the confidence you need to be a leader.
2) Formalize your ideas.
Everyone has ideas of how they would change things for the better. (Who hasn’t thought, “I’d do it this way” at some point?)
Yet somewhere along life’s way, many of us learned to give our power away. Knowing your worth and having confidence in your ideas puts you in charge to lead and innovate. So go back to that running list of “I’d do it this way” you have in your head and create a plan around how you’d actually make it happen.
And for those ideas to be truly innovative, do what Alexi Venneri calls “off-the-menu thinking.”
“It really means to not just look at and accept what you are offered, whether that is accepting current technology vendors, industry partnership options, or even paths to innovation,” explains Venneri, the co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike, a consumer engagement tech company. “Be brave enough to create new ways to approach situations, create new marketing opportunities, ask vendor partners to work with you in new ways, you name it.”
Give yourself the space to tap into those ideas and the permission to dare greatly. You already have the next great idea inside of you—it’s time to let it out.
3) Craft a story around your plan.
Now that your ideas for change are out of your head and fully fleshed out, you get to share it with others. Ideas that lead to meaningful changes require a communication strategy beyond pinging your manager over Slack or IM.
“If you want to lead change and innovation within your organization, first you need to inspire others and share your vision in a memorable way,” says Lauren-Kristine Pryzant, an executive and emerging leader coach.
“I call this ‘selling with stories,’” she continues. “Use stories to illustrate why a change is needed and sell others on the impact. Tech is data-driven, but stories are remembered up to 22x more than just data alone.”
People will connect to your ideas if they’re shared in an authentic and memorable way. Effective storytelling makes people more eager to answer your battle cry for change. Which leads us to…
4) Build alliances across teams and get feedback.
There is a proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.
When has there ever been a revolution of one? Leaders have always built support through community and coalitions because the power of a unified group is undeniable.
These days, building alliances requires setting up a virtual meetup instead of bumping into a colleague in the office kitchen. But it’s worth it—by getting input and buy-in from colleagues, your mission will have an easier time overcoming any inner-office barriers. Collaborating with and getting feedback from your colleagues can also improve the final product.
5) Embrace failure as a part of innovation.
We’ve been sorely misled by the Instagram version of change and innovation. It doesn’t happen overnight, it isn’t picture-perfect, and not every idea is “feed” worthy.
Give yourself the grace to accept failure as a part of creating change and being an effective leader. Let’s reframe “failures” by thinking of them as learning opportunities and chances to adapt and grow. With that mindset shift, “failure” becomes a necessary part of creating something truly innovative—the search for perfection can keep us stuck in the status quo.
Real change and leadership comes from accepting ourselves. Once we’ve tapped into that awesome superpower, then we can change the world.