When we take on a change agent role in an organization, we start off with high hopes for making a difference. Whether you’re hired into the position, assigned or volunteered to take it on, there are a number of things that can help set you apart as someone who can get things done. On the other hand, not doing these things can cause your effort to crash and burn.
Align Your Efforts to the Bigger Picture.
There’s no faster way to burn out as a change agent than working counter to the stated goals and strategy of the organization. And even if you’re not at odds with the direction the organization is trying to move, if you appear to be working on something superfluous, it will be hard to gain attention and support. Find the connection to the bigger picture, however tenuous, and make sure it’s visible. If you aren’t privy to the strategy, make the case that you need to know it. If there isn’t one, help leaders articulate it so you can elevate your project from ancillary to essential.
Get Yourself a Sponsor.
Many a change agent has been left in limbo because leaders washed their hands of the project as soon as it was assigned a manager. Instead, maintain accountability with those who have the authority to make or break your effort. Find someone who can be your advocate and help you keep your initiative well fueled with resources and timely decisions. Define the sponsor role up front and mutually set expectations for how you will work together to implement change.
Work With People, Not Against Them.
When people aren’t doing what they said they will, or aren’t reacting to change in ways that make sense, it can be easy to fault them for not supporting or participating in change. Placing blame is a sure way to create conflict and weaken your influence. Instead, be curious about what’s happening from their perspective, and work to understand what’s really going on. Be more of a detective than an interrogator. It’s easier to influence when you’re on their side than when you’re working against them.
Do What It Takes.
Being an effective change agent takes a lot of effort, usually behind the scenes: Gain commitment individually rather than relying on a generalized group presentation to do the job. Design meetings in advance rather than just showing up. Provide feedback to and address the resistance of leaders and anyone else. Design programs to help managers cascade the change throughout the organization. Facilitate awkward conversations that would otherwise go undiscussed. Doing what it takes to help people align and change, even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult, makes all the difference.
Making an impact in your organization as an individual is a challenging feat of drive and influence. Effective change agents stand out as someone who can make a difference when they align themselves to the bigger picture within the organization, when they make sure they have an advocate with more authority, when they work with people and not against them, and when they decide to do what it takes to make it happen.
Ready to thrive in your role as a change agent? Find out how we can work together to influence change in my Influence Accelerator Coaching Program.