Organizations most receptive to change are likely to have a competitive edge, making use of all the opportunities along their path. But who is the right person to lead the change, armed with the tools and knowledge to adapt to an ever-changing environment?
Enter the agents of change.
These individuals, with their finely tuned balance of attributes, act as catalysts for change and help their own companies adapt and survive in a transient environment. Their roles are valuable but can also be precarious, with obstacles littered along the way.
The term “agent of change” may not always have a positive connotation, particularly if change, and the important role it plays, is not yet widely understood within the organization. If a headstrong individual comes armed with a ready prepared manifesto and doesn’t take into consideration the internal hunger for transformation, things can go awry (take the story of Jack Griffin, a change agent at Time Inc., for example). But, if you have the right person with the right mindset, incredible things can happen.
The making of successful agents
A successful agent of change should build a facts-based case for the moves they intend to catalyze, taking into account the opinions of those it will affect and available to all who will be expected to participate.
- Approachable and Reliable – fostering strong relationships built on trust, so people feel changes are being made with them not for them.
- Patient and Persistent – acknowledging that change can take time and realizing that as long as people are moving in the right direction, speed is not always so important but being relentless is.
- Daring – unafraid to ask the tough questions and find solutions, they can push organizations ahead and create more leaders rather than followers.
- Understanding and Accommodating – truly knowing the culture of the organization and having a deep understanding of the challenges that people face, and being agile enough to adapt.
It’s not just those in positions of responsibility that can act as change agents; individuals throughout the ranks can do so as well. We’ve worked with quite a few agents of change over the years, such as Angus Thomson, Céline Schillinger and Pascal Barollier, who all work with Sanofi Pasteur, and our very own Helen Dunnett, who used to work with ECPA. Their ability to adapt to change along with their eclectic mix of social attributes is what makes them successful at pushing boundaries.
And for those who already have these people in their organization, keep them there. If you let them leave, your company could take a step back instead of steadily advancing forward.
Are you ready to shake things up? We’ll guide you along the way.