Strategic change is necessary in almost any organization. At one time or another, even the most successful organizations in the world – think Apple, Microsoft, Coke, Target – have decided to make a change in strategy and refocus their energies. Crafting a new strategy is less than half the battle – having conviction and confidence in that strategy and leading the change is what’s vital for success.

Studies show 54% of leaders don’t believe their strategy sets them up to win.

An overwhelming 80% of managers below the top leaders don’t understand and believe in the strategy that has been told to them. Across the board, leaders at all levels lack confidence in their strategy or the organization’s ability to execute on that strategy. Plus, the rest of the organization is waiting for someone to go first before they take action.

It starts at the top. As a group, a company’s leadership team has to work through the skepticism, fear and conflict so they can all get on board with the new strategy and be the pace car for change for the rest of the organization. It’s critical that top leadership is focused on the whole business, rather than on just the function they lead. Once top management truly believes they have the strategy for the future, they need to build coalitions internally to move the organization forward.

Every other level of the organization has to see leaders take the first step, exhibit behaviors that give them a reason to believe, and that it is OK to be vulnerable because everyone is in this together. When appropriate, it’s right to challenge the rules, to ask questions, and to search for clarity so everyone feels good about (and understands) their role in the big picture.

For leaders to create advocates so individuals will help promote the new strategy to others, executives need to:

  1. Lay their cards on the table: Put all the issues they don’t know how to talk about out for discussion in a safe environment.
  2. Play the hand they’re dealt: Embrace the truths in the areas where they are creatively challenged, address the realities their organization is facing, accept that they are vulnerable and determine the new standards, practices and behaviors they as leaders need to build to create change.
  3. Get input along the way: They then need to vet this information with the group of managers below them to find out what works and what doesn’t.
  4. Go first: Be the trendsetters for the organization by being the first to change behavior, take action and shift direction to ensure the rest of the teams follow suit. Leaders have to take the risk and show everyone else it is good to do the same.
  5. Establish those coalitions: Group together the people who take the new strategy seriously and make it personal. Hold those who go where it is unsafe and embody what they want others to be and do up as examples of success. Every will want to be part of what those people are doing!

As coalitions build, the actions and behaviors start to spread so that soon the organization is functioning as a whole, working towards the same goal. Just remember, you can’t just tell a group of smart people “this is the new strategy and you have to do it”. The leadership team needs to explain why and what the strategy is about, let the next level of management ask questions and understand what is happening and then demonstrate how the new strategy will work so the rest of the organization can feel comfortable jumping on board.

What’s your number one trick for building coalitions at work?

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.