3 Easy Steps as a Leader to Challenge the Status Quo


When you hear the word, status quo, what do you think? In this environment, many leaders know that status quo will not get their organizations where they need to go. Innovation needs to happen, and it needs to happen fast.

To determine the biggest roadblocks for innovation, consulting firm Imaginatik conducted a study of 200 professionals in its "State of Global Innovation" report. They stated that given the low proportion of companies reporting aggressive investments in any major spending category, it appears that innovation is being systematically under-funded in most of today's companies.

Our clients often have questions like: How will we compete for the best talent? How do we prepare for a disruption to our industry we can’t predict? What if our customers change overnight? What if we become irrelevant in the marketplace?

Those are big questions. We often say at Fierce that the progress of the organization depends on the progress of you, the individual leader…today. So it must start with you. You can start to engage with your teams.

Here are three easy steps to start challenging the current state of affairs.

    1. Get Curious.

Pay attention to what you do when someone tells you that something isn’t working well. That reaction, in a few seconds, is insightful with how you react to challenging the status quo. Instead of viewing push back as an opportunity to build your case, see it as an opportunity to learn. An opportunity to make things better.


I have worked with many leaders who, when confronted with push back, do not pause or stop to ask questions. As a leader, you need to take specific action to get feedback and make it clear cut. Ask each of your team members in your next one-on-one: What is one thing that is working fantastically well? What are two things that aren’t? Then ask questions – don’t go into deflection or proposal mode.

    1. Hold People Able.

This is about empowering the people in your company. Remember, your organization invested a lot of time, effort, and money to hire/ramp up your team members. They joined because they brought a new way of looking at issues with valuable past experiences.


When you hold someone able, you choose to recognize the capacity each person has to bring new ideas and action to fruition. Believing in someone is a bias towards action. When someone brings an idea to the table, ask them: What do you think is the best next potent step? And let them take that step (within reason…). Oftentimes, we as leaders will give the rundown of what didn’t work in the past, what does work now, and by the time it is all done, the initial innovation or questioning is squashed.


Once you bless a next step, ask the person how you can support. And then trust them.

    1. Roll Up Your Sleeves.

You can’t pretend that you want to change a policy or training. It must be true for you. If it’s not, you need to communicate what the issues are – time, money, resources, excitement, etc.


This about walking your talk. Once you commit, you need to be ready to authentically help change or shift something. Enlist your team members to help guide you along the way. No excuses.


You can’t want innovation, and simultaneously exhibit behaviors that endorse doing things the same way you always have.

So I must ask: As a leader, do you think it's your responsibility to challenge the status quo?

Last updated August 10, 2016

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