Groundswell: Influencing Change from the Inside Out

I’ll never forget when I left the small business we owned in Austin, Texas, for an executive-level position in our franchised organization’s corporate headquarters. After working in the field for 15 years, I was excited to serve the company in a bigger way and had plenty of ambitious ideas coming from the field. As an enthusiastic activator who was passionate about our company and all we could accomplish, I couldn’t wait to get started!

Reality Check

But I was barely up and running before I naively stepped on toes and ruffled feathers due to my lack of awareness of the unspoken rules and silos that reside in larger organizations. It was my first experience working in a corporate atmosphere. Crazy enough, I loved it! Working in a corporate environment handed me unique challenges I was determined to overcome.

It wasn’t easy though, and I finally realized that my up-front, head-on approach to making changes and influencing leadership within the organization wasn’t going to get me anywhere but on the curb. It’s then that I announced to my team that our new theme would be “Groundswell.” Instead of influencing change head on, we would do it from the ground up and the inside out.

If you face similar challenges due to resistant leadership, a slow-to-change culture, or a lack of passion in people development, here are some ideas on how you can make a positive difference by creating a groundswell approach to leadership development in your organization.

The Groundswell Approach

Start in the middle and work your way up and down. I believe the middle of the organization is the heartbeat of the company. This group can inspire and rally exciting growth, or they can kill a vision they don’t support. If you are a player in the middle, use your influence with fellow peers to start learning and living leadership. Invite players from other teams to learn with you. Don’t let silos determine anything! Work linear and start developing relationships across all department lines.

Insist you can make a difference. Paint a vision for each other on how the middle can create a positive groundswell towards a leader development culture. Help your leader rally the troops and gain support for how you want to invest in the development of you and your teammates. I was so elated when my team started their groundswell. The passion that grew from the middle was so powerful. They learned how to lead up and help their leaders. They worked through the silo issues whether or not the organization’s executives did. They were engaged and productive.

Stay focused. Groundswell isn’t about being rebellious. It’s a healthy discontent with status quo. It’s a passionate call to make a difference with your peers in a way that creates positive change for the company. Strong leaders love groundswell and will smile as they see progress and growth in people because they know to grow a company, you must grow the leadership.

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  • Bob Robinson says:


    I love your groundswell concept. Certainly, change is difficult for leaders happy with status quo and not looking to “rock the boat”. It takes courage for leaders to confront reality and face criticism for difficult decisions. Groundswell will pierce the status quo armor and the sting of reality will benefit all.

    Bob Robinson