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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

How to Use On-Ramping to Make Actual Changes This Year


man and woman highfive

Are you wanting to make actual changes this year? Try on-ramping!


As a leader in STEM, you are faced with the challenging role of constantly facilitating growth and change amongst yourself, your employees and your business or organization as a whole.


As an engineer, this can feel especially challenging because let’s face it… we didn’t go to school for business leadership. Thankfully, we can learn leadership skills just like we learned how to design, develop, and build complex systems and products.


The best way, I’ve found, to make changes of any type is through an on-ramping method. On-ramping doesn’t only have to apply to bringing back new employees from absences like maternity leave, it can be adopted as a leadership style.


If you can become a vulnerable leader that establishes trust, meets your team where they’re at, and leads by example, you’ll create an on-ramp system that guides both you and your team to success.


It will allow your employee to feel seen, heard, and understood which in turn, creates respect, trust, and commitment to growth and change.


Keep reading for three tips for on-ramping your team so that you see actual changes this year.


1.Become a vulnerable leader and establish trust

On-ramping is all about getting to a place of trust with your team. And as the leader, you are the first to get on the ramp.


The on-ramping process starts with vulnerability. You may have heard me speak about this before and that’s because vulnerability is an essential trait to cultivate as a leader.


Vulnerability can look like admitting that you don’t know everything and you don’t know everybody, but you are ready to learn and open to listening.


Go to your team and ask them questions, get to know them on a personal level, open up about yourself, and create the space for them to be heard.


Find where each person on your team feels the most comfortable (whether privately in your office, in a neutral setting, or outside the office) and sit down with them to start a conversation. Find out what they love to do on their own time, after work, or with their family. Really take a curious approach to this and see what each individual is willing to offer. It’s your job to listen, learn, and lead the conversation, not to take control of it.


When you get to know your team more and their needs, it will be much easier to facilitate a process, method or plan that will support their growth and change in the workplace.


Learning what inspires and motivates your team is a great way to establish trust and get people excited to tackle whatever challenges might be ahead.


2.Meet your team where they’re at


Once you’ve developed an understanding and some basic knowledge around the individuals on your team, you can then meet them where they’re at and work together to establish what their “road to success” looks like.


Extend the olive branch first and ask for their participation in creating a plan that includes small steps to reach big goals that will allow them to make progress in a way that feels good to them.


Allow time for reflection for them to determine where they stand, where they want to go, and how they want to get there. Keep the bigger picture in mind and be sensitive to the spoken and possibly even unspoken needs of your employee.


You can offer help providing the resources the individual might need in order to feel confident in making the changes they need to make (or that you’re asking them to make) to reach success.


The most important thing in creating an on-ramp plan is that your employee knows they are fully capable of getting to the top and that you as the leader will be supporting them along the way.


3. Lead by example using your authentic leadership style

Once you’ve jumped on the ramp and invited others to follow, it’s time to lead authentically. Authentic leadership is leading in the way that feels best to you.


If you’re a more quiet and empathetic leader like me, this may look different than if you’re a boisterous and charismatic leader like many others.


The more authentic you are in your leadership style, the more your team will respect and trust you and where you are leading them. (If you don’t know your authentic leadership style, here are 7 ways to develop your authentic leadership style.)


It’s important to be the example you want others to follow and show up as that example each and every day.


As you rise, your team will also rise and before you know it, you’ll be high fiving at the top. When you’re at the top of the ramp, you both should feel good about where you are, how you got there, and feel like you have a strong foundation to grow from.

On-ramp to success


As leaders, we are constantly looking for ways we can facilitate change and growth in our business or with our team. The problem is, if you’re an engineer, knowing how to facilitate growth and make actual changes in your work environment can be difficult.


That’s why I use on-ramping. It’s the most natural and gradual way to facilitate the change and growth you desire.


This article by Bright Horizons says, “Much like onboarding, on-ramping should include approaching people as individuals, engaging them with opportunities to learn, develop, network, and offering the latest information and training for new systems, products, and processes”


The goal behind on-ramping should be a win-win for everyone involved.


The same article also says, “The extra-added benefit of this approach is that the on-ramping process becomes viewed as an organic and fully accepted part of an employee's career life-cycle and not something that sets them back in any way.”


There are so many benefits to using on-ramping as a way to make actual changes with your team.


If you want to learn more about on-ramping and authentic leadership styles, reach out and let’s connect!



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