Organizations have been changing for millennia, but people still struggle to lead change effectively. It’s difficult to send consistent messages, maintain momentum, and engage employees over the long haul. Luckily, organizations have a hidden asset that leaders can use to accelerate change.
Every organization consists of hidden networks that people use to solve problems, share information, and make decisions. We create networks instinctively; we know that we need to have good relationships with people like executive assistants and project team members in order to succeed. Then we add people who help us develop and grow, who help us achieve future plans, who mentor us, and whom we mentor. Over time, our individual networks become enmeshed with those of others to create a complex web.
When we step back and look at these webs from an organizational perspective, they provide rich insights that we can use to accelerate change. The most important gift they give is the insight that 5–15% of people in any organizational network are “Critical Connectors.” Critical Connectors are disproportionately influential over the whole organization. That means that, in an organization of 100 people, about 10 have the ability to move the group forward in more significant ways than others.
Critical Connectors have this ability for a few reasons. The most important reason is that they are trusted by their peers. Employees learn that Critical Connectors possess assets like accurate information, good judgment, the ability to make things happen, and keen problem-solving abilities. When Critical Connectors speak, people listen.
Critical Connectors often aren’t the people we’d expect to show up as highly influential. One colleague polled her organization’s leaders on who they believed were the top 20 most influential people in the organization....
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