2011: Will you be an agent or change agent?Article added by Ernest Falkner III on January 3, 2011
Ernest Falkner III

Ernest Falkner III

Birmingham, AL

Joined: September 20, 2010

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Which will it be? Whether you have been in this business six months or 25 years, the coming year is certain to have landmines for you and your clientele. You will need to be both on offense and defense. Surveillance, intelligence and strategy are your mantras. Leadership is a given. Communication is vital. Sound like a military position?

When our military is in a situation of protecting our interest, are they risking their lives for themselves or for a higher cause? A miscalculation would not be a simple mathematical error, as with a financial projection. A bad decision could cost them their lives. It’s a serious proposition. Do we feel the same weight of responsibility in working with our clients and other professionals?

Question: When you look at the year ahead, do you feel any higher sense of accountability, or will it be business as usual? Will you be an agent or a change agent?

Some may believe that a “change agent” is the clone of a “rainmaker.” But, while the change agent is seeking effective/measurable change (not just the goal of change), the rainmaker is more concerned with production, achievement and accomplishment.

Note: These qualities can certainly be within the same person.

How various contributors view change makers:
  • “Being a change agent is more about identity and character than it is about definitions.”

  • “A change agent looks as much to the future as they do the present.” To a certain extent, a change agent is dissatisfied with what they see around them, in favor of a much better vision of the future.

  • “A change agent is fueled by passion, inspires passion in others, and realizes that it will require hard work.” It takes a lot of energy.

  • “A change agent has a strong ability to self-motivate.” The change agent needs to find it within themselves to get up every day and go to work and risk being misunderstood and not appreciated, knowing that the real validation may be far in the future and could even be claimed by someone else.

  • “A change agent serves people.” This kind of change is about people. If you change everything but the people, you will be ineffective as a change agent. Change will really stick when people buy in. In all, change is part sales, part counseling and part encouragement. It's all about the care and feeding of people.
And here is a perspective on the idea from HBR contributor, William C. Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company magazine. the Harvard Business Review:

As a change agent, do you see opportunities the competition doesn't see?

The most successful companies don't just out-compete their rivals, they redefine the terms of competition by creating unique ideas in a world of “me, too” thinking.

Do you have new ideas about where to look for new ideas?

Ideas that are routine in one industry can be revolutionary when they move their template to another industry.

Are you the most of anything?

You can't be "pretty good" at everything anymore. You need to be the most of something: e.g. the most affordable, the most accessible, the most elegant, the most colorful, or the most transparent.

Can your customers live without you?

One of the make-or-break challenges for change agents is to become irreplaceable in the eyes of their customers.

Are you consistent in your commitment to be a change agent?

The problem with many organizations is that all they do is change. They lurch from one consulting firm to the next, from the most recent management fad to the newest. Your priorities and practices need to stay consistent in good times and bad to build trust.

Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

In a world that never stops transforming, change agents can never stop learning. How do you push yourself as an individual to keep growing and evolving, so that your audiences will do the same?

In summary, will you begin this year seeing your role as an agent or as someone with a much higher calling, vision and mission — a change agent?

It could be a game-changing decision for this new year.
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