How to Drive Change Within Your Company | Net Impact

How to Drive Change Within Your Company

Don't ask people what they can do for you, ask what you can do for them

Harriet HenryThis post is part of our Voices series, featuring Net Impact leaders around the world who are making a difference on their campuses and in their careers. They’re sharing their insights and their inspirations, in their own words.  

At the 2014 Net Impact Conference, students and professionals from a variety of organizations (and at very different stages of their careers) gathered together. What united us all was and is a strong desire for change: a passion for making our organizations, lives, and the world better. This uniting factor is also one of the biggest challenges when it comes to breaking boundaries.

Affecting change within an organization is an art, not a science; there is no one way to shift attitudes, change behaviors, or reverse bad practices. However, during Friday’s session "Leader of the Pack: What's the Future of CSR Leadership?” the panel shared their experiences of breaking boundaries in their organizations. and there was one insight that seemed to resonate above all others:

Ask people what you can do to help them.

It sounds simple but, in our excitement and sometimes impatience, it is easily forgotten. As Leo Tolstoy put it, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

When Tim Mohin joined AMD as Director Corporate Responsibility, he intentionally took time to understand and respond to the passions and pain points of different people across the organization. This approach got a positive response and, to this day, he continues to actively listen and work out how key Corporate Responsibility strategies and activities can support and enhance his colleagues’ priorities.

His fellow panelist, Dave Stangis, Vice President, Public Affairs and Corporate Responsibility Campbell Soup Company, agreed with this advice and encouraged all of us to get curious and take the time to meet with as many people across our organizations as possible. He added that knowledge is also crucial and coached us all to keep learning and evolving our ideas because when the people you need to work with to affect change become more engaged, you need to be prepared.

As a consultant in the CSR/sustainability world, I have always been able to add more value through listening, adapting, and being flexible rather than approaching an assignment with fixed ideas or opinions. The session with Tim Mohin and Dave Stangis confirmed this approach, as well as the importance of building relationships and gaining trust. At the end of the day, you can have a robust business case and brilliant ideas, but they will never fly if you do not have the right relationships to advance them.

Harriet Henry is a Consultant at Cause Consulting and works with a range of European and Global companies helping them to integrate their business objectives with relevant social and environmental opportunities. She is passionate about the role a company’s “purpose” plays in embedding socially responsible practices into business operations.