7 Ways Being a Rebel Can Advance Your Career

Sometimes you’ve got to shake things up. This week Lois Kelly, co-author of "Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within," joined us for an awesome alumni workshop on our Boston campus.

All of us have had great ideas that go unheard at work -- not knowing how to voice them, where to start, or how to overcome the fear of rejection. Lois’ workshop (which she’s run for organizations worldwide, including the CIA) was designed to open this conversation, with tactics to advance your career by being an effective agent of change at work.

Here are Lois’ seven key tips for catalyzing change at work:

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Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 2.00.08 PM

Don’t just point out problems, offer solutions. 

All companies have problems: things break, others never worked properly. Don’t just point these issues out. Instead, offer a solution. This shows initiative, adds value to the team, and builds trust. The way you phrase this feedback is important: instead of framing feedback as a worry, Lois suggests using “I wonder if..” statements to highlight possibilities.

Get buy-in using the 10% rule.

You need to get support for your idea, and 10% is the tipping point. Research shows that if 10% of people in the company buy in to your idea, it’s likely to stick. But what if you work for a startup of 10 people? Getting buy-in of just one other co-worker means you’ve already got 20% (this is one of the reasons why change comes so quickly at a startup).

Connect to company values.

Connect your idea to company values and use internal language to present your idea. Don’t rely on logic-- logic can always be ripped apart. For example, if your company values putting the customer first, phrase your idea as such: “If we truly value putting the company first, then let’s….” Hard to argue with that!

Ask good questions.

This little gem of advice can apply to almost any situation. Asking the right questions can set the wheels in motion, or it can open the conversation up and allow you to frame your idea in a relevant context. Again, the way you phrase your questions is important. Try beginning with “how might we…” or “what I’m noticing is…”


You can’t tackle everything at once. Figure out what needs to be fixed versus what can wait, and focus your efforts there.

Know your audience.

Lois shared the SCARF Model with us. In a nutshell, our motivations for decision making fall into five categories: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. Figure out the core motivator for the person you’re trying to win over and appeal to that domain.

Use imagery.

Remember the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words?” This concept can also apply when trying to drive change at work. Use imagery when presenting your ideas as it evokes an emotional response. Photos are freeing and open people up to creativity and new ideas. So, use them!

Creating systemic change in the workplace can be met with various levels of success, but it’s an important part of advancing yourself professionally. When done right, the rebels that challenge the status quo and create change are seen as leaders within an organization, no matter what their level. Leverage Lois’ tips and be known as an agent of progress and solutions.

Do you have other tactics you’ve used to lead change at work? We’d love to hear them. Tweet at us or leave them in the comments below.

Photo credit: Vernon Area Public Library via Flickrcc