Be an advocate for change, rather than a dictator

Be an advocate for change, rather than a dictator

How many influencers, politicians and celebrities have claimed to be advocate for change, but fell short in their actions? The line has become a bit cliché, however as most of us have seen, change is inevitable and required in order to grow. Thankfully a lot of organizations recognize how change can be a positive catalyst for growth, however it is not common for them to include the individual contributors in the conversation. Well, there is a big difference between being an advocate for change and a dictator of change.

Some years back, I was invited to attend a workshop with some colleagues on conflict resolution. One of the attendees quickly raised their hand halfway through the instructor’s intro, ready to stump them with, “what do you do if your team disagrees with a process change mandated by upper management?” The instructor took a deep breath and confidently answered “you simply say, ‘this is the process, and this is how it should be done.’” The attendee looked bewildered. Stumbling to refute the response, the instructor interjected, “it doesn’t matter how you feel about the process, you have to act like you agree with it and tell your team they have to do it.” Is that the right approach?

Obviously, there is a reason for a process change being mandated by upper management. There were possibly numerous people involved in the decision before the change was brought down to the rest of the department, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the department should lose their voice in the matter.

Quick caveat – I am not implying that the process change is automatically a bad one since it was dictated. I am simply suggesting that involving other members of the company that are affected by this change, could help develop a stronger change or at least more advocacy for it. Here are some possible solutions.


Let’s say you’re the manager of the team that now has to integrate this change into their day-to-day work and adjust their process accordingly. If when asked why this is being implemented, you simply say, “that’s the way it is,” can definitely set the tone that your team member’s voice is not valued. They may find this process change extremely inefficient and have constructive feedback to provide. If we further observe this method of communicating change, it sounds vaguely similar to a parent saying to a child “because I said so.”

“Feedback is a gift, and managers everywhere should be open to receive it.”

As a leader, do your homework. Find out why the change is being implemented and why the particular timeline has been set. By communicating the value behind the change, you as well as your team will have a better understanding of the importance and urgency of it. That being said, what if that doesn’t align you or your team on the importance of the change? Try hearing out your team member’s concerns, document it and notify your management of everyone’s points. Feedback is a gift, and managers everywhere should be open to receive it. Will this guarantee your team’s opinion alters the course of the process change? No. This does however show your team that you support them and may have those requesting this change take a second look before trying to dictate change in the future.


From a different perspective, let’s say you’re a project manager or technical lead, noticing that there are major inefficiencies during the testing phase of the project lifecycle. After some further analysis you determine that implementing the same testing practices as another team could possibly solve that problem. During the next meeting, you notify your teammates that they need to start using this new process because it worked for another team.

If you’re in a leadership position, you have a responsibility to support your team. You notice there is a problem, and you find a possible solution but why dictate this change? Instead, have a conversation with your team. Ask them why they think this is happening in the first place and what they think will solve it. Mention that another team is using a different process and ask if your team thinks that would be helpful. Let them make the decision together, they’re the ones doing the work. If they have concerns or feedback, take it seriously. Bring the right people into the conversation to help solve the problem.


Sometimes change is needed to bring a team closer together. Raise if your hand if you’ve been on a team where morale was low! (Raises hand) Setting up a team building exercise isn’t always the best solution. A great first step is just asking questions. Be direct!

Example: I know everyone’s been working really hard and after speaking to a number of you, it seems that there are some collective frustrations. I’ve listed some of them out for us to discuss, please take a moment to add anything missing and then we’ll go through what we think will solve these problems.

Tool Tip: I really like using virtual whiteboard tools, like Mural. It’s a collaborative web application that is great for remote teams. 

In this situation we are asking questions that could lead to change, we’re not saying what the change should be. We aren’t deciding on behalf of an entire group of people.

Change can be difficult, for some more than others. By communicating value, initiating a conversation, and asking questions, you’re giving your team the chance to have a say in the matter. The next time you see a need for change, “Don’t dictate…advocate!”

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