To be called a Change Agent feels natural or very confusing. If you are someone who leads change management efforts, the title comes with your work. But if you are a mid-level employee being called a Change Agent in an annual performance review, you may be wondering…what does that mean? What is a Change Agent? Is it a good thing? And what have you done that makes you one?
A Change Agent is essentially defined as “a person from inside or outside an organization who helps the organization transform by focusing on improving organizational effectiveness, improvement, and development.” A Change Agent can be someone officially placed in the capacity to create change – such as a consultant or a leadership team member – but it does not have to be.
A Change Agent is anyone in an organization or team who recognizes an opportunity for improvement and acts on it. After all, positive change is not reserved to the leadership staff. In fact, Change Agents are generally hidden in the ranks of your hierarchy, or as Fulton Breen, creator and founder of Novarete, explained in a recent Novarete blog, they are “quietly doing their job, out of sight.”
Now that you know the definition, how can you tell if what you are doing makes you a Change Agent? Here are a few clues:
#1 You Are A People Person
A Change Agent’s strongest asset is their strong network with solid relationships, built on trust. These same healthy relationships build the open environment that fuel positive change and inspire Change Agents. If you are approachable and kind to others, and if you actively take care of your relationships, you are operating as a Change Agent. Remember, people do not want to grow if they do not trust the person pushing the change. As a note: you don’t need to be outgoing to be considered a people person. (You can read about introverted Change Agents here and here.)
#2 You Connect The Disconnected
The Harvard Business Review studied the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, an enormous, government-run institution, to seek out what qualities or actions determined the success of Change Agents. One key factor they discovered was an individual’s ability to connect with typically challenging colleagues in meaningful ways. A Change Agent can find or manifest a genuine connection with those who usually live in the fringes of an organization and are otherwise deemed difficult to work with. As a Change Agent, your true strength comes from your ability to bring people together, even those who usually do not play or work well with others.
#3 You See Your Dream And Can Communicate It Clearly
As a Change Agent, you are naturally in tune with possibility-based thinking, or what Dr. Carol Dwek calls “a Growth Mindset.” You see the changes, which is critical, but even more importantly, you are able to communicate creative ideas clearly with others in a way that connects them to your idea. You can have the best idea in the world – one that will change everything about your company for the better – but you cannot initiate change if people do not understand your idea. You are someone who connects the between your dream and how others can get involved. Better still, you listen to the feedback of others while discussing your idea and collaboratively incorporate their thoughts into the idea.
#4 You Know When To Hold ‘Em And Know When To Fold ‘Em
Change is a process, rarely initiated and completed in the amount of time that we humans would prefer. While most of us discover a new idea, hold onto it for a day, then drop it at the first or second sign of difficulty, you have the persistence and patience to hold on for the long haul. You do not waiver at the sign of a challenge – you take it in stride. You own the responsibility of carrying your idea through to the end, but you are willing to accept the end when it comes. You are the best kind of stubborn: ferociously optimistic with a healthy understanding of reality.
#5 You Are Courageous And Enthusiastic
It has been said that nothing great in this world was ever achieved without enthusiasm. This includes your work as a Change Agent. You are rooted in the belief that your idea is bigger than your need to be liked or praised, and that understanding motivates you and makes you brave. You may get nervous when speaking in front of your peers or your higher-ups, but when it comes to your ideas for positive change, you transform into the superhero version of yourself.
#6 You Celebrate The Small Stuff, Big Stuff, And The Bad Stuff
Last but not least, if you are someone who can see a rainy day as a gift, a traffic jam as an opportunity for meditation, or forgetting your wallet at home right before lunch time as an adventure…you are a Change Agent. Your see the positives in challenges, and you revel in the opportunity to solve whatever Rubik’s Cube type of situation life throws at you. You find joy in the small things and you acknowledge them with gratitude. Everything is an opportunity for you. Everything is a potential for great change. And you are excited about all of it.
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