After a recent client workshop on The Proper Care of Leaders (So They Help You Implement Change), a participant pointed out two ways someone winds up in the change agent role:
- A change agent is the instigator or advocate for the change or
- The project is assigned or delegated to the change agent to implement.
The participant then wondered if the approach to gaining leadership support differed depending on how the change agent came to be in the role.
When the change agent is the advocate, the implication is that there is some persuading involved to get leaders on board. You have to enlist people to the cause, especially people who have more power and resources to help you implement the change beyond the scope of your own influence.
On the other hand, when the project is delegated, the assumption is that the leader supports it. In my experience, sometimes the support is there, and sometimes the leader really wants to wash her hands of it. In this case, the role of the change agent in gaining support is to keep the leader involved, interested, and walking the talk.
This may look like two different approaches to gaining support, but it’s really two different assumptions about the leader’s mindset about the change. It doesn’t matter whether you were the instigator or were delegated the role of change agent. With each leader, you need to determine their true level of support, decide if it’s enough, monitor how they are using their authority to support change, and take action when needed. In either scenario, you may need to convince, persuade, enlist, involve and provide feedback.
The workshop participant concluded on his own that my step-by-step approach to get support (which you can find in the Influence Change at Work™ Toolkit) would work regardless of whether you stepped up or were assigned the role.
What do you think?
Were you assigned the role of change agent, or did you instigate the change?
What has been your experience with gaining leadership support as a result?