When deciding which team member will be tapped as a change agent to help drive a new initiative, do you: a) select someone who has time to do it; b) has experience in the area; or c) draw names out of a hat and hope for the best.
While most leaders would likely not choose the third option, many do rely on experience and availability as important criteria to be a change agent. The problem with that strategy is that it doesn’t guarantee that those attributes will lead to a successful transformation – and may be just like drawing names out of a hat and hoping for the best.
In a paper by Tata Consultancy Services, researchers say that while change agents are critical and can “guide and motivate others to adopt the results of the change process,” the right starting point for choosing such people should be “what” not “who.”
“Keeping in mind what the change agents need to accomplish should be the first step in selecting the right people. This defines roles and responsibilities,” say researchers.
While experience and availability are key in selecting a change agent, “other qualities necessary to do the job might be overlooked,” such as being able to adapt and work effectively in a variety of situations. Further, strong communication and problem-solving skills are also important when selecting change agents, researchers say.
James Dallas, who has decades of experience leading change as an executive, is author of a new book, “Mastering the Challenges of Leading Change: Inspire the People and Succeed Where Others Fail.”
He says he has learned through his own experiences that “creating impact requires a lot more than a good recommendation and the right job title. It requires you to be able to move other’s minds from point A, a known, comfortable place, to point B, the great and threatening unknown.”
He says he doesn’t believe that leaders grasp this concept, just as he didn’t in the beginning of his change management career. “I was more focused on the task, instead of choosing the right change agents,” he says.
Dallas says there often is a lack of training in change management and an understanding of how influence actually happens.
He says there are several ways that leaders can do a better job of leading change and finding the right people to make it happen. Among them:
- Choose someone who has something to prove. “Change is always personal before it’s professional,” he says. “You don’t want someone who is just trying to earn another star. You want people who are taking it personally (read more here)
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