7 ideas to make sure senior leaders don't derail your change

change management stakeholder engagement stakeholder management Apr 28, 2024
Lata in purple and yellow top smiling; text: ideas for senior leadership buy-in

Something that happens all too frequently for Change Managers is something we often overlook. We talk so much about leader-led change and focus on middle managers/line managers. But ironically, sometimes go live is held up by the most senior leaders in the business: C-Suite, Executives, Senior Leaders, even the Sponsor themself.


The very same people who created the strategy and signed off on the transformation can be the very same people who pull the plug at the 11th hour - often not because of a technology readiness or people readiness problem, but because of an engagement gap.


There's nothing worse for project morale or team momentum so here's 7 ideas for mitigating this risk from happening.


1. Assume they aren't on board with the change

Spend the same amount of time engaging them in the need for change, such as including them in Change Vision Setting and Benefits Mapping, so everyone is aligned and committed to supporting the change.


2. Double-check who is providing updates to them - and make sure it's happening

Once me and my Project Manager thought the project's executive was providing regular updates to the business executive of the impacted teams. They weren't, and ultimately the business executive put a hold on the go live. Don't leave it to chance or take people's word for it - actually have the conversation around whether the conversations are being had! Lesson learned!


3. Bring those Execs into decision-making for the project and change along the way

Make sure they aren't blindsided at the 11th hour. Provide SteerCo outcomes and workshop outcomes along the way as FYI, if they're not directly involved.


4. Directly communicate major decisions

Sometimes your Project Managers won't transparently communicate delays, risks, and issues, because project delays are often seen as failures instead of simply setbacks. See my blog post on Watermelon Projects for more on this.


5. If possible, meet one-on-one with Executives

This is tricky as hierarchies and politics mean you'll sometimes be doing a "skip-level" (or 3!) meeting, going outside normal chain-of-command. When you first start, it's good to meet the Executive, explain the value of Change and how you plan to support the transformation, ask what they'd like to see, and check if it's ok to touch base every so often - quarterly or key moments along the project lifecycle or change journey. Let your Project Manager and own Change Leader know.


6. Think about Executive Coaching

I always recommend this to my consulting clients. Having Executives clear on their personal goals, strengths, vision, and legacy, and linking these to the transformation's success, could get the shift in support you need.


7. Befriend their EA

It's a Catch-22 when you need senior leaders in workshops so they are involved in decision-making, but they're too busy to make it. So build trusting relationships with their EA to advocate for you.

Sometimes senior leaders need a little love and a little help - remember they’re impacted by the change, too. With these 7 ideas, you can ensure you get the support, alignment and follow through to make your change a success.


All my belief,

Lata xx

P.S. Really really soon, I’ll be opening up my free bootcamp for seasoned Changies to learn how to become a trusted change advisor. In the meantime, here’s 5 ways I can help:


  1. Grab my free Creative Launch Ideas Guide with 53 ways to bring your Transformation and Change to life: click here to download
  2. Download my free Underpaid and Overlooked Coaching Action Guide to change careers with confidence and earn your worth: click here to download
  3. Check out my free 6 Ways to Instantly Build Trust video to connect with stakeholders and build relationships rapidly: click here to watch
  4. Get my Intro to Change Management webinar to start or step up in your Change career: click here for instant access
  5. Join my Leading Successful Change program to find flexibility, freedom and financial abundance in your career, leadership and life today. Our next monthly coaching call is tomorrow: click here to join the program

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