Every business needs empowered employees who are driven to do things differently and better. So, if you decide to challenge the status quo at your work, you may be doing your employer a great favour. By doing so, you may end up saving money, driving key efficiencies, and creating better services and products for your customers.
You would think that this would be widely welcomed by all. But this is, unfortunately, not always the case. Many people prefer to stick with the tried and tested and fear changing what has been a successful way of doing business. Even if we all know that our methods must change with the times or we become obsolete.
This means that challenging the status quo is never easy. You will need to overcome a range of resistance from mild to potentially aggressive. But don’t let that put you off or the status quo that you know needs challenged will simply remain and the culture where you work will stagnate. This is highlighted by a quote from a movie I watched yesterday with my young children:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not”
Dr Seuss, The Lorax
7 Tips to Safely Challenge the Status Quo
If you are someone who is driven by innovation and improving how work is done, then it is unlikely that you only have one idea about this. However, you will need to prioritise your ideas for two main reasons. First, you will need to identify the ideas that have the best chance of success. Second, if you simply rattle off ideas you will lose the good ideas among the bad ones. As a result, your suggestions will carry little impact.
Learn how to ask great questions
Great questions will give you insights to why you need to challenge the status quo, what resistance you may face, and potential strategies for success. Learn to ask good open questions and then stay quiet and listen to the answer. Let people talk – they will not only tell you a lot, they will also be grateful that you listened. You might need these friends.
Prepare your approach
Your questions will be part of this. You can’t just challenge the status quo in a knee-jerk manner. Resistance will be much less of a hurdle if you have your homework done and present your suggestions in a positive manner linking all changes to proposed improvements in productivity, morale, profitability and efficiencies.
Look after your own well-being
As I said above, this is never going to be easy. For a start, preparing your approach is going to take some effort and you may not get time during your normal working hours to do this preparation. You will find times when you are exhausted, angry or feeling the impact of a host of other emotions or stressors. Be alert to the signs when you are starting to run down and do something to relieve the pressure. For example, do some brisk exercise, spend time with family and friends, or do an activity that you know relaxes you.
Don’t go it alone
True, you may be very resilient and full of energy. We all need allies. Choosing to challenge the status quo is not an easy path and you will encounter resistance. In my article on empowering employees to challenge the status quo, I referred to the Guardians. Some of the Guardians may defend the status quo quite vigorously as they fear change. They fear you because you represent change, innovation and creativity. You will need allies to put their shoulder to the wheel and support you. They can also help deal with the passive resistance which will take place out of your sight.
Plant the seed
This is the second part of ‘don’t go it alone’. Sometimes you just have to let ownership of your idea pass to either another person or a group. This may be even more effective at times if you can simply plant the seed of an idea and let someone else run with it. You may not be the right person for that idea. Someone else may have better access to the information, authority and resources required.
You will need a strategy to stay resilient. Your strategy should help you clearly recognise all the small wins along the way. This will involve setting clear goals, distinct steps along the way towards these goals and a timeline. The distinct steps will give you small victories to celebrate and refuel your motivation and energy along the way.
Remember, that challenging the status quo is like many other things. Do it for the right reasons and don’t challenge for the sake of it. Link the need for change to clear business benefits and you will smooth the path to change. Good luck.