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Qualities of Effective Change Agents

In an ever-evolving business climate, change agents help facilitate new ways of doing things.

By Bisk
Qualities of Effective Change Agents

Change is inevitable, a part of doing business in a world influenced by technology, globalization and evolving customer demands. Change management has in recent years shifted from a specialty to being more of a leadership quality that affects how companies and teams adapt to shifting marketplaces and continue daily operations.

Whereas change management used to primarily focus on operational and/or process improvements and cost effectiveness, it is now something that managers are using to think about how things get done regardless of institutional hierarchy. Organizations are looking to change agents to execute new processes and help employees adjust to new ways of doing things.

Change agents can be managers or employees, or external consultants hired to facilitate initiatives. Internal change agents have the advantage of being familiar with an organization’s history, operations and people, while external change agents can provide a fresh perspective without the influence of a firm’s traditions and culture, according to an article in the International Journal of Management, Business and Administration.

Whether an organization appoints internal change agents, hires outside consultants or does a combination of both scenarios, “the success of any change effort depends heavily on the quality and workability of the relationship between the change agent and the key decision makers within the organization,” the article stated.

Today, playing the role of change agent has never been more important. Failing to do so has never been more costly. If changes are not conducted smoothly and regularly, what would be milestones in a company’s growth could become morale disasters full of missed objectives and a lack of commitment from the people necessary to make change happen. With this in mind, here are some tips for those looking to become a better change agent.

Change Agent Qualities

  • Flexibility. Being open to change requires an entrepreneurial attitude. Leaders have to tap into creative instincts to find non-traditional ways for business to grow and exploit opportunities. This includes connecting with people of different generations and backgrounds to gain a deeper understanding of perspectives, experiences and personalities.
  • Diversified Knowledge. Successful leaders avoid getting stuck in the confines of their industry. By looking at what is going on in other sectors, and seeing what is working and applicable to their own industries, leaders can gain valuable insights and spot new opportunities for growth.
  • Priority and Results Focus. In creating change, it’s often helpful to tie specific priorities to the overall business goals. These are must-win battles that determine success or failure, and are focused on improving the company’s performance in the marketplace. Doing this will streamline decision making and create a clear picture of how the company is measuring up to expectations.
  • Ownership and Responsibility. People respect courage and accountability. In order to lead effectively, executives and managers need to ultimately hold themselves responsible for their team’s performance. They may have to make decisions that go against dissenting opinions and can cause conflicts, but doing so with conviction and ready to handle the consequences will ultimately demonstrate that their intentions are motivated by the best interests of the company, thus gaining the trust of their people.
  • Effective Listening Skills. Effective change agents are able to explore perspectives and take them into account when looking for solutions. This will help in getting buy-in to a change; people want to feel that others are listening to their ideas. Those who do will develop stronger relationships with their people by gaining trust. 
Category: Strategic Leadership and Management