Becoming a Change Leader – Building Guiding Coalition

This is the third article in the series Becoming a change Leader.  For an overview of the 8 steps to Becoming a Change Leader, read the first article here.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

Imagine that you are driving a car. You and a friend are planning some downtime at a local coffee shop. You are coming up to the parking lot, so you look around and in your mirrors and see no other traffic. Just as you are starting the turn, your friend yells, “look out” just in time to miss a truck in your blind spot.

Leading change can sometimes feel like this. We look around diligently and try to make the best decisions, just to find out we miss the obvious. Regardless of our position or experience, we all have blinds spots. We all have assumptions and beliefs that filter how we see the world. Without help from others, it’s nearly impossible to overcome our blind spots.

Building a guiding coalition is about having the right people involved to lead and guide the change. A properly formed guiding coalition should have people with strong positional power, broad expertise and high credibility. But it also needs people who understand the day to day issues that need to change. In other words, a guiding coalition needs broad representation from the organization from both the top and the bottom.

Without a broad representation, your guiding coalition will suffer. If the coalition only consists of managers and executives, the coalition will not fully understand what truly needs to change or how the changes will affect the front lines. But if management is excluded,  the coalition will not be able to eliminate key obstacles.  It will not have the positional or political power. Coalitions work best if they include representation from all levels within the organization.

A properly formed coalition will be able to accomplish the following:

Provide Credibility –  They have both the political power to get things done and the front line knowledge to truly identify the problem. People outside of the coalition can identify with the team because they see someone in the group who’s in their position.

Develop the right vision – Members of the coalition will challenge each other’s thoughts, assumptions, and blind spots, thus refining the vision. It’s no longer a vision dictated by one person, but a vision that everyone can own. This ownership leads to a passion for seeing the vision fulfilled.

Communicate to large numbers of people – Just like in marketing, the more often a message is repeated, the better chance is will be remembered. When all the members of the guiding coalition communicate the same message, people will remember. Repetition works.

Eliminate key obstacles – When obstacles arise, and they will, someone in the coalition will have the ability to eliminate or minimize the obstacles. The broader the coalition, the more likely someone will have direct influence over the obstacle.

Think about a change that needs to happen in your organization. How can you build a guiding coalition from all levels of your organization? Who do you need to recruit?

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