In today’s business environment, change is closely linked with success. Businesses must adapt to a landscape in constant flux. As technology and society change, so too must companies that wish to thrive. A change agent can drive this evolution, ensuring that a company stays one step ahead of the curve.
Characteristics of a Change Agent
While different companies place value on different types of change, the people who successfully drive those changes have a number of qualities in common.
In order to lead a change, you must want that change to occur. You must be motivated to do the hard work required to bring about a change. Switch and Shift identifies one of the most important qualities of a change agent as influence: the ability to get others to buy into the need for change and, ultimately, to help usher it in.
A big part of being able to influence others is motivation. If you’re motivated to work hard for a change, you demonstrate it in your words and behavior. Others see your motivation and are affected by it; they may, in turn, become motivated.
Motivation can lead to innovation and collaboration, and can also sustain a group when the going gets tough. But motivation is only the beginning.
It’s easy to want to make a change, but it’s also common to not know how to bring that change about. Experience is required to be able to formulate a plan and implement it. Experience within a company can give you what Forbes refers to as “cultural intelligence:” knowing how the organization works, how it’s likely to respond to change and how to best trigger motivation in others.
Experience is vital when it comes to working on the details of a plan for change and carrying that plan out. Effective change agents must be familiar with technology and business practices and must be able to draw from a variety of perspectives. Surrounding yourself with people from different generations and backgrounds, all of whom have differing views on the needs of the organization and its employees, can help give you necessary information that you can use to help drive a change.
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Working to develop the experience to effectively implement a change helps you gain another necessary quality of a change agent: perspective. As a leader, you are afforded a wider view of the organization and a clearer picture of where it’s come from and where it’s headed. Knowing these things and tailoring your approach accordingly is important to ensuring that a change is a net positive for the organization. Not every change is a good change, and having enough information and clarity to determine whether a change will help is vital for any change agent.
You can use motivation, experience and perspective to contribute to an overall strategic vision for the change and the organization. Motivation for change is good and necessary but, as Switch and Shift says, “If you don’t know where you want your organization to go, how you want your employees and customers to grow, and what your plan is to get there – your intentions don’t really matter.”
In other words, every change you try to usher into the organization must be intentional, both in idea and in implementation. You must know what problem you’re addressing with the change, how the change will solve or alleviate that problem and how the organization will get from point A to point B.
Of course, strategic vision is only as good as your ability to communicate it and its importance to the organization’s members. TheManager.org lists 15 important leadership qualities that change agents must exhibit to be successful, from networking to team-building to negotiation and communication.
A good leader is able to communicate the strategic vision clearly and impress upon employees why it’s important to follow it. Further, an effective leader and change agent is able to provide training, feedback and guidance when necessary. Being able to keep the big picture in mind is vital, but so is the ability to work with individual employees, address their needs and concerns, and reward them for a job well-done or celebrate their victories.
Agency Within the Organization
Finally, a good change agent has the authority to implement the change itself and the backing of the organization’s management. All the motivation, experience, strategic vision and leadership skills in the world are irrelevant if the leadership structure of the company is actively fighting your efforts.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the company’s leaders understand the need for change initially; according to TheManager.org, people are good change agents precisely because they question the conventional wisdom of the organization. At first, organizations often resist this. However, a change agent with the requisite skills and agency within the company can work to convince leaders of the need for change and get their support.
Becoming a Business Leader
Companies and organizations need highly skilled individuals to be effective change agents. With an online MBA from Campbellsville University, you can learn the skills you need to adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of modern business. Or with an online management and leadership degree, you can ensure you have the qualities necessary for leadership roles. In our flexible online environment, you can learn on a schedule that accommodates your busy life.