Most of you, right?
Now, how many of you actually managed to keep the light of inspiration burning bright one week after returning to work? How about for two weeks?
Ok, not many hands still raised.
Reality Sets In
The problem we face is that there's often a world of difference between the ideas inspired by a conference speaker and the realities of life where you work. Somehow what you hear often doesn't relate to the practical world you live in.
So what usually happens when you return to work gung ho to transform your workplace?
- You find that no one picked up the ball while you were away. So you're immediately tossed into a maelstrom of catch-up work, putting out fires and in general just trying to get projects and activities back onto an even keel.
- The boss doesn't want to hear about the great ideas you brought back with you. There's work to be done and you've been gone too long already. Or perhaps the perception was that the seminar was a boondoggle get-away and the boss doesn't take the subject matter seriously.
- You're reminded that the work culture is more interested in maintaining its self-interest and status quo, and as a result tends to stifle new ideas. You can't find a sponsor to support your initiatives.
- Within a few weeks, you start to think of that conference as more of a vacation with good memories than a catalyst for action. The daunting reality of what it would take to initiate real change has dampened your enthusiasm to a whisper of what it had been. Dust starts to gather on the participant binder.
Meanwhile the conference speakers you enjoyed so much have moved on to motivate, excite and invigorate the next batch of attendees - and the cycle of life goes on.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
One Day At A Time
Let's presume that your position on the organizational ladder is not at the top, that you cannot effect change simply by dictum: "Make it so!" What you're likely left with as a strategy then, is to focus on incremental change. Get that first down or punch out a single hit, vs. throwing for the end zone or swinging for the bleachers.
Some practical suggestions for you to consider:
- Take little steps: If you know the direction you want to take (changes in policies, procedures, behaviors, whatever) start moving in that direction in small ways vs. abruptly shaking things up with big ideas. As examples you could start collecting data (metrics), revise forms to be more user-friendly, increase procedures to create more transparencies; the list of minor targeted improvements can be endless.
- Educate decision-makers: Get the decision-makers on your side by talking to them, explaining your ideas, starting with the basics. Don't assume that they understand the foundations of your profession. Leadership needs to be brought beyond sound bites and talking points to an understanding of compensation issues that affect the organization.
- Develop your own strategy: Whatever it is you wish to accomplish, plan out the steps you'll need to get there; Who needs to be on board as supporters, what (and who) are the barriers to success, what has been tried before, what are the likely challenges?
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: Don't try to recommend changes from the safety and anonymity of your office or cubicle. Get out there and interact with clients, sponsors and even resistors. Whether it's talking to groups, preparing white papers on relevant topics, or simply exposing the dark corners of bad practices/behaviors, you need to focus on your message and repeat it, over and over again.
- Watch for glitches: They are everywhere, those mistakes, unintentional consequences, and passive resistors just lying in wait. So be ready. No plan is perfect, no one is mistake-proof. Ask yourself, what can go wrong? Where should I expect complaints? Then prepare your response in advance.
Becoming a catalyst for change when you can't wave a magic wand takes time, takes patience, and takes a large dose of discipline. Anticipate that there will be setbacks and disappointments. Learn from them and carry on.
Just take one day at a time.
Then maybe then next year you can share your own experiences at one of those conferences. You'll have something valuable to contribute.
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image,"Abandoned cats," by Stefan Tell