In her new book, Make Waves: Be the one to start change at work and in life, author Patti Johnson explains how everyone has the power to initiate real change in their professional and personal lives. Bazaarvoice co-founder Brett Hurt is featured in the book along with several diverse case studies that highlight individuals effecting real change in their business and communities.  I had the opportunity to chat with Patti about her new book, entrepreneurship, and making waves in one’s life.

What is a Wave Maker?

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Patti Johnson, author of “Make Waves”

Patti: Wave Maker is the person who starts the first ripple in a change, or wave, by asking “What if?” and “What can I do?” I’d like to rethink the definition of making waves because you can’t start a change and keep the status quo. As I researched Wave Makers, I learned that anyone can be a Wave Maker. Sure, some changes have bigger impact than others, yet even big changes can often be traced back to some small first decisions. I studied Wave Makers from all walks of life –  entrepreneurs, CEOs, community service leaders, recent graduates, a nurse, and students. They all took an opportunity or even a disappointment and still found the way to have a positive impact.

I concluded that Wave Maker DNA is based on thinking more about “we” than “me”, and being adaptable in your persistence, a voracious learner, and a positive collaborator. They know that you can’t start a change alone. Also, because these Wave Makers are focused on their bigger impact they didn’t take setbacks personally or let it bruise their ego. They learned, adjusted, and kept moving forward.

We all know Wave Makers. Think about the Wave Makers in your life and learn from them. As well as those featured in my book.

How can someone create a community around their wave?

I use the word “community” to describe those who care about what you care about and who show it with their actions. A community is a group actively committed to the cause. It’s made up of people who care, want the outcome that you want, and are involved in a hands?on way. Communities aren’t created based on a job title or position. They are built around those committed to your wave.

You begin by first thinking about how to let others be a part of your idea and plans. Before you think, “I could never create a community around one of my ideas,” here are a few examples that enabled a wave:

  • Those who supported a new charity that eased the fears of children diagnosed with diabetes.
  • An informal working group dedicated to improving process efficiency and, as a result, creating a better customer experience.
  • A group of parents with big ideas for improving the fine arts curriculum in their school district.
  • A women’s networking group dedicated to mentoring, learning, and sharing.

Communities are built based on interest and commitment. There isn’t one person in charge. Here are a few ways that you can help build a community around your idea:

  1. Build around an idea that people care about.
  2. Remember that it’s more WIFU (what’s in it for us) and less WIFM (what’s in it for me).
  3. Encourage accountability so that everyone has a role to play.
  4. Promote collective ownership, more than reliance on one single leade, that seizes opportunities, shares openly and solves problems together.
  5. Create positive word of mouth so that interest in your community grows.

What can entrepreneurs learn from Make Waves?

Entrepreneurs are by design making waves. There are three key points that stand out as essential for entrepreneurs:

  1. Start. Move. Begin without all of the answers. This builds momentum and interest and also involves others who can help you build your business. Have a plan for steps 1 -3, but 10-12 will come with time and more knowledge.
  2. Find your idea partners. Let others who care about what you care about provide their ideas upfront. This can help you test some ideas, experiment and adjust quickly. Listen to others with a different perspective than yours.
  3. Experiment with a deadline. Find creative ways to test your ideas, product or services. Do it quickly and learn from it. This mindset of experimentation, adjustment and creation can let you improve your plans as you go.

What inspired you to write Make Waves?

In business, I saw situations where we talked about change like it was a thing – a project plan or an implementation – and the individual contribution was often not even mentioned. And, I saw this unspoken belief that only senior leaders can lead change. I didn’t believe that to be true. Changes – big and small – can usually be traced back to one person or a few people who had an idea and took action. I found this topic very interesting and started to research the behaviors and actions of people who start changes. I wanted to share what I learned with others, as well as my own experiences, to help others decide to go for their wave and have practical help for how to make it happen.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human capital consulting firm she founded in 2004. She and her team advise clients such as PepsiCo, Microsoft, 7-Eleven, Accenture, Burlington-Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), McKesson and many others on creating positive change in their leaders and organizations. Previously, Johnson was a Senior Executive at Accenture and held numerous global leadership positions, including Global Leader for talent and careers and Chief People Officer for one of the largest divisions.

Patti is an author and her upcoming book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life, will be released in this month.