Influencing for Change in a Divided World

– Marcia Hughes and James Terrell

Leaders are role models; people will follow your example. Is that a good thing?

Influencing for Change in a Divided WorldDivisiveness in the external world is impacting organizational culture. When family members question sharing holidays because they don’t want to hear each other’s differing views, it is certain similar impacts are happening in the workplace. This creates a clarion call for leaders to proactively build an environment that supports connection over separation.

The source of this sharp discord is often based in value differences and that is what makes many so intransigent. For example, if someone believes it’s only right if people are treated X and someone else says no X – 3 is plenty for some people, emotional responses will be triggered. It’s likely both perspectives can be well argued, but they are hard to hear for the person disagreeing. This can lead to cliques and factions just when you need people to spark creativity in one another because they can think differently. What can a leader do?


Assessments can help leaders and their workforce gain data that supports the desired transition. The EQi 2.0 clarifies the 16 skills needed to manage yourself and support others to positive change. The Change Style Indicator (CSI) is a personality assessment that guides understanding of how to work with yourself and others given different preferences for working with change. The Influence Style Indicator guides awareness of how your vision and passion are being received by others. Isn’t effective influencing how you really get work done?

Leaders need to start with evaluating their workforce and organizational culture. However, before they can evaluate others, leaders must first be personally accountable. Ask yourself how attached you are to your point of view and your opinions – are you open to hearing very different perspectives? When a position is important to you, can you listen and have a coherent discussion with a colleague or staff person who disagrees? Or do you just walk away? Leaders are role models; people will follow your example. Is that a good thing?

Now discern how your workforce is doing by reaching out and actively listening. You might create a task force to lead the effort. Ask questions and take notes.

“How are you and your team mates getting along?”
“Are you having full discussions, or do you stop to avoid conflict?”
“Are there people here you’re avoiding that you used to work well with?”
“On a scale of 1-10 where is our trust level riding these days?”

Give them a sense of how you see issues being discussed and tell them how you feel. “I feel ___ because _____.” Then actively listen and role model how to respond to one another. “It sounds like maybe you feel ___ because ______.”

Talk about what you are learning while using all your smarts – IQ and EQ. If there’s an elephant in the room, expose the discord in a manner that keeps the conversation safe for exploration. Above all else everyone must be treated with respect. Leaders are responsible for insisting on a safe environment that maintains the value that while disagreements happen, there must also be very solid areas of agreement. You want your staff to be able to move on from the difficult conversations and continue their work together with a willingness to listen and share.

Once understanding is gained on workforce connectivity, leaders need to guide the desired change that can expand collaboration over separation. In doing so, success requires understanding the personalities of leaders and staff related to making changes. Data helps guide strategically targeted interventions. People feel safer when they gain data about why they act differently. Find a few assessments that will help you know more about your workforce and helps the people understand themselves better. For example, use an assessment that demonstrates the preference for change. Overall, some people will prefer very little change and will want you to move moderately, probably about half of most populations are ok with change if there’s a solid reason and process. Then there is a component of the population that enjoys change and the creativity it brings. These are big differences, and it is quite possible all preferences are represented in your workforce. To implement change successfully people preferring each of the change styles need to be brought on board. Working with an emotional intelligence measure that promotes understanding strengths, such as impulse control, and weaknesses, such as assertiveness, will further strategic implementation of the change initiative.

Without doubt, it’s tempting to order, “Just do it!” The problem is that a quick command can’t change the internal states that are leading to the divisiveness. A defined viable path needs to be created. The foundation of change is strengthened with mutually agreed upon values, such as “everyone deserves to be respected.” Then leaders can use flexibility to gain buy-in and changed behavior from the staff through developing the emotional intelligence skills that are the real drivers of effective adaptation.

Emotional intelligence skills provide the wherewithal to facilitate new behaviors once leaders have selected the change and influence strategies. The key emotional intelligence skills needed by leaders are arguably:

  • Emotional self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Impulse control
  • Assertiveness
  • Optimism – and Happiness

These are skills that can be learned, sharpened and tailored to specific circumstances.

Unify your strategies for influence and change by demonstrating super respect and calling for reciprocity. This builds new awareness and connectivity. Successful leaders use their skills to understand the diversity of their workforce and learn how to approach change and influence their staff and co-workers. Then they apply emotional intelligence skills building to accomplish the desired behavioral change.

Marcia Hughes and James Terrell. and, co-founded Collaborative Growth and are experts in emotional and social intelligence. Marcia and James are authors of many books including Emotional Intelligence in Action, 2nd Ed, and The Emotionally Intelligent Team and created The Emotionally Intelligent Team Survey®. They serve as strategic communications partners for teams and their leaders in organizations that value high performers.

© Copyright, 2019. All materials are copyrighted by Collaborative Growth, LLC. A.R.R. Contact us for permission to quote, make reprints or for comments.

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