Being a change agent is not for the faint of heart. You often have to deliberately step into uncomfortable situations without knowing how they will turn out.
For example, you may need to:
- Force people to slow down and think about the impact of change, when they would rather just get it done.
- Provide feedback to those with whom you have no direct authority.
- Get people talking about awkward or difficult topics, and make them interact in ways they aren’t used to doing.
- Enlist the support you need, even when people don’t like the project.
- Add more workload to already busy schedules.
- Make people feel dissatisfied with the results they’ve achieved so far and the work they’ve done to get the organization to the current state.
- Get people to acknowledge and eliminate the subtle ways they undermine change.
- Overstep the usual bounds of your own authority to find out where the line really is.
Your responsibility as change agent is to help the organization fully realize the desired results of the project. Your task is to bring the rest of the organization with you to a new destination. To do that, they have to break out of doing business as usual.
If you want people to stop doing business as usual, then by definition you must introduce something unusual. You have to do things that people in your organization don’t usually do, and get others to follow along. If you want people to step out of their comfort zones, then you must be willing to step out of your own.
To avoid discomfort, we often tell ourselves the barriers to change are unchangeable, so we don’t have to try: Managers can’t lead. People resist change. Everyone is too busy. It is what it is. But look a little deeper and we find the truth: we’re not willing to do the things that give the project a chance to succeed. When we hit that brick wall and can see that the change initiative is stuck, our fear can blind us to the possibility that there is an option beyond accepting things the way they are.
The whole point of being a change agent is doing the things that will make change happen – even when they are risky, uncomfortable, or difficult. What uncomfortable, scary thing could you do that might give your project a chance to succeed? What would you do if not doing it meant that your project would surely fail? If there are answers to these questions, then surely you have an obligation to try them.
To be the best change agent you can be, step out in courage and embrace the discomfort as part of the job. Do it because no one else will do it. If not you, then who?
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt