The hardest part of change management isn’t coming up with an idea, it’s reaching out and lining up support for each stage of the process.
“You need to find those people who will get behind your idea, to champion it, to implement it,” says Marilyn Anthony, assistant professor of strategic management and one of the facilitators of the Women’s Leadership Series at the Fox School of Business. “You can have all the greatest of ideas in the world, but they don’t stick if you don’t build this coalition of support.”
But that’s not always as simple as scrolling through your contact list.
“We always hear that men are better at networking and they’re better at building relationships for leverage; it’s been proven through research,” Anthony says. “Women are not as good at that. They tend to make relationships with people they like, more friendships than professional relationships. So that’s part of the deficit they start from.”
That lack of assets and resources within their company is a common frustration for women who are spearheading change. It’s part of the conversation Anthony leads during her Women’s Leadership Series session, Leading Organizational Change.
Women often lack a strategy plan as they begin to approach change.
“They don’t think about things like ‘Let me look at this organization and understand where I would be able to get support for this idea,’ ” she says.
Instead, participants tell Anthony that when they are faced with leading change, they think “It’s on me to make this happen. How am I going to make this happen?”
“Change is rarely successful if it is driven by one person,” Anthony says. “It’s much more likely to be successful if it is driven by a group.”
Although the women enrolled in the series often come from different companies and professions, their challenges are similar.
“I think people are getting more savvy about trying to find support, and some companies are even promoting mentorship,” Anthony says. “But this idea of getting outside of your company or industry to look for ideas and support is a great one.”
Deepening skills and sharing experiences is at the heart of the Women’s Leadership Series, hosted by the Center for Executive Education.
“Networking happens naturally in the sessions,” says Renée Hartwell, assistant director at the Center. “We see it throughout our various breakout groups and class discussions.
“And because you are engaging with each other, it’s an active learning moment that really has an impact.”
Along the way, connections are made.
“I’ve seen women who are not from the same company take the time outside of class to work with each other to solve a problem,” Hartwell says.
The Center helps women stay engaged even after the series ends. Participant directories with contact information, group connection via LinkedIn, email communications and alumni events all help support that goal.
“So, if you heard something in class that pertains to something you are doing later, you can follow up easily through the channels we have provided,” Hartwell says.
In addition to other learning and development programs at the Center, professional organizations and associations are another gateway to building resources outside your company.
“There’s significant value to making those connections,” Anthony says. “There’s someone who understands what you do but they are doing it in a different context.”
To find out more about the Women’s Leadership Series, click here.