Are you a Change Agent?

The business climate of today places extreme demands upon executive leadership to constantly adjust the business model to meet a rapidly changing business horizon. New technologies entering the market that obsolete current products and services, global competitors able to offer products with lower prices produced in less regulated and lower labor cost regions, changing preferences of the customer that reduce the product window of opportunity which increases the need for rapid returns on investment represent a few of the issues that keep executive awake at night.

Those that sleep easier are most likely recognized as change agents. Change agents are those who are equipped with extraordinary skills that allow them to anticipate and “lead” an organization through troubled and often chaotic business conditions. Many business organization experts will list the following as success characteristics of change agents:

Change agents need to be able to quickly asses the data provided to them and to also recognize that additional data needs to be collected to understand trends and reveal unexpected events. This is someone who can read between the lines and determine if the analysis or numbers “smell right” or not.

An effective change manager is one who listens well. They cultivate listening opportunities and create an environment that invites information flow in their direction. They have the ability to hear critical comments about the company (even themselves) without shooting the messenger and process the input into timely action and change. Managers who listen and do nothing soon loose the interest of those best positioned to give valid feedback and help the company.

Positive conflict resolution is the result of effective mediation where the parties involved are able to return to their respective responsibilities having reached a mutually acceptable agreement. Proactively seeking out and resolving conflict eases organization tension, significantly improves productivity and the adoption of new methods and practices.

The business model needs to be tailored to strategically meet various business conditions. Business models can quickly age and move from strategic to tactical and from offering differentiated high-value products and services to lower-value price-sensitive commodity products and services. An effective change agent will adjust the design of the business model to achieve and retain a high-value market position.

Teacher and Coach
Change is not adopted easily by most organizations. Change threatens people as it often represents moving into the unknown. An effective change agent will use good communication methods to explain the objectives of the change, teach key performers on what needs to be changed, how to do it and then coach them through the process. Using good feedback techniques the change agent manager will know where to look for problems and obstructions to change and work with individuals to resolve misunderstanding and encourage confidence to perform uncomfortable practices until they experience success.

How do you score as a change agent?
These are just a few of the characteristics and you may not be required to excel in all of them at the same time but you need to be ready to step up and apply the right ones when challenging business conditions occur. Seek others to help you determine where you score. Subordinates may not be the best source of feedback for this purpose. Uses business associates, an organized group of peer executives or an outside consultant to help give you perspective in this important part of your executive development and performance.

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