By Sarah Gasparick

It’s easy to explain the value of some of the classic aspects of change management – like providing timely learning opportunities for end users, or making sure to design a communications campaign. When we dig a bit deeper into change management best practices, pinpointing some of the magic behind the “secret sauce” becomes a bit harder to articulate – but we don’t like to shy away from a challenge so let’s give it a go!

Regardless of your job title, when it comes to assisting with change management efforts for a project one of the best things you can do is to leverage your “Circles of Trust.” What? Yeah, you read that right – “Circles of Trust.” We’re talking about the people in your sphere of influence who you’ve been developing strong relationships with long before this project was conceived.

People in your “Circle of Trust” will instinctively want you (and your initiatives) to succeed. Also, they should be honest with you about barriers they see to your path to success that may not be on your radar (i.e. they are willing to tell you if you have broccoli in your teeth).

Be a friend to make a friend

Ideally, every interaction you have with colleagues can be leveraged as an opportunity to build your “Circle of Trust.” Trust often takes time to grow, so we aim to nurture that trust every chance we get – whether that means holding the elevator, sharing a news article, or volunteering some of your talent to assist someone else with one of their initiatives.

Sounds lovely but maybe you’re frantically busy? Or maybe you’re really introverted and it sounds intimidating to dive deep into relationship-building? Hey, that’s okay! Realistically, we all have constraints on our time and energy for relationship and trust building, so we’ll let you in on our little secret: it is okay to be intentional about who to target for your “Circle of Trust.” Sketch out potential projects that are in the hopper for the next 6-12 months and ask yourself who you need to win over to “your side” for those projects to succeed.

Now that you have a few names (or departments) identified, dig into the real work of trust building by paying it forward. Ask yourself what you can do to help them win in their work in the next few months, then begin to engage them in conversations to see how you might be of assistance.

This doesn’t have to mean devoting hours of your week to your new buddy. Instead, consider some of the small ways you might be able to make a difference. Perhaps you can offer to give them feedback on a rough draft, test a workflow on a few members of your team, or offer to give them a warm introduction to a connection of yours who can help them reach their goal. Model for them what you hope they can do for you in the upcoming months, realizing that your seeds of friendship have just been planted, so we shouldn’t expect to see a favor in return right away.

Bringing your “Circle of Trust” full circle

One of our favorite examples of someone who had clearly made investments in building his “Circle of Trust” came from an IT Systems Analyst we partnered with a couple of years ago when his organization made the move to G Suite. As a member of the project team, this gentleman had been fairly quiet with us as a partner. However, when we met him onsite we were able to see him work his magic. When one particular VIP user was getting rather frustrated with learning the new tools, he quickly intervened to offer her 1:1 support time later on in the day after she had time to review some learning materials on her own.

In a flash, her mood turned around – his offer of support took her from frantic to feeling heard and supported. It was evident that he knew enough about her to know (and not guess) that this would be exactly what she needed, and she trusted his offer because she trusted him. She got to win, and he got to win in this scenario that could have been a real mess.

Whether it is spur-of-the-moment responsiveness, or strategic leveraging of your trusted relationships – the more you lean into your “Circle of Trust,” the more you’ll win when it comes to change management.

We’d love to hear your upcoming plans to build and maintain your sphere of influence. Share your favorite ideas in the comments section below!