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How You Can Be Part of the 30 Percent of Disrupters Who Find True Success The secret to transformation that enacts real change comes down to one thing -- the people.

By Patti Fletcher

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The volume and speed of large-scale complex changes that force leaders to question strategies, operational plans and current workplace culture is enough to take down even the most capable executive. The kind of transformation needed requires that leaders imagine a new world for their customers, their supply chain ecosystem, their staff and themselves.

Leaders have always been responsible for initiating, planning for and executing on cultural, strategic and operational change yet not all leaders are meant to be disruptors. The cold hard truth is that the majority of attempts to disrupt the status quo fail. In fact, they fail miserably. Only 25% of disruptive transformation succeeds. Understanding the scope, where to prioritize, the steps to accelerate the journey and how to manage for risk are some of the more critical factors in creating sustainable change the solves a problem rather than creating a new one.

Related: How a Major Personal Crisis Led to a Smarter Business

Invest where it matters that most.

Being a transformer and leading disruption requires a keen understanding of the current state of policies, practices, habits, mindsets and culture. Disruptors also need a specific vision of what a better future looks like and the plan to get from A to B. None of this is a surprise for anyone who has experienced or designed change. It's practically a playbook. The problem is that this approach rarely works because the plans tend to focus on process and technology. While these two factors are critical, there is one critical piece missing: the individual people impacted. Your stakeholders will not change because you tell them to change. As part of the current state analysis, leaders should seek to create personas that represent the most common ones. Use this information to understand gaps in current skillsets, individual and collective cultural inhabitants and create a plan that leverages a mix of role models, peer-stories, enablement and tools and reinforcement mechanisms to enable your critical stakeholder personas to become part of the change journey.

Related: 10 Tips for Leading Disruption During Times of Uncertainty

Create a viable and flexible journey for acceleration and success.

One of the first ways you will want to engage people in the change process is to share your vision in a way that engages each individual and allows them the opportunity to make the vision their own. Remember, your job is not to change people; your job is to clear the path for transformation. The only way to do that is by understanding how each individual person approaches change and to use this insight as the guidebook for how and when to leverage visioning, planning, implementation and rewards. Prosci's individual change journey together with the change levers outlined in the McKinsey Influence Model are two of the best tools I have in my disruption toolbelt.

Take leadership cues from the captain of the Swedish women's curling team.

One of the best ways to structure for success is to place people where they can make the biggest impact. While this might be easier said than done, it doesn't have to be. Think about a curling team. The team captain positions each women on her team according to her mental, intelligence, leadership, physical, athletic, individual and teamwork strengths. The trait and characteristic priorities are based on what it takes to get the rock from where it starts to where the team wants to land. The sweeper's primary job is to sweep the ice lane in front of the rock. She creates friction on the ice, allowing the rock to go farther. The sweeper is enabling her teammate's success. The better the sweeper's friction, the rock will go farther, travel more accurately, and score more points for the team, achieve its purpose. As a transformational leader of disruption, you are in a position to sweep the debris away, clear obstacles, make other's success possible and score more points for the team.

Related: Disruption vs. Innovation: Defining Success

Rethinking the risk factor.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with an entrepreneur about the work I do to disrupt a status quo that decides who gets to be successful and who does not. As a warning, he told me that he is a "chief provocateur" and then he asked (with a smirk on his face, I might add), "Why are you talking to women about being disruption leaders and catalysts? Everyone knows that women are naturally risk averse." Women do not possess a lower risk tolerance then men. It's just that women, or anyone with female leadership traits, use risk differently. Successful disruption requires other people to move from one system to completely different system. In truly disruptive transformations, the shift requires a change of values, beliefs and interpersonal engagement, in addition to new goals, objectives, skills and priorities. Women tend to be relational decision-makers in that they consider the impact of decisions and actions on the people who has the most at stake. Proactively working with all key stakeholders to understand risk factors and viewing the most critical as an opportunity to create new strategies and approaches moves away from risk as an inhibitor and toward risk as an enabler in creating a new world.

Patti Fletcher

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Leadership Futurist and Gender Equity Advocate

Dr. Patti Fletcher is the author of Disrupters: Success Strategies from Women Who Break the Mold (Entrepreneur Press 2018). Dr. Patti is an enterprise tech CMO, gender equity expert, board member and keynote speaker who has spent her career at the intersection of technology, business and people.

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