May 18, 2016 — Change agents fascinate me. They have influence that many try (and fail) to achieve through positions or titles. In case you’re not familiar with the term, a change agent is an individual who has the capacity and foresight to spot problems and opportunities, envision and describe a better future, and act and inspire others to implement solutions within the workplace. Change agents have the ability to alter the deeply held beliefs of others simply by being authentic. They can transform teams, departments, offices, and entire workplaces.
You may be asking yourself: can I be a change agent? Short answer, yes. From my experience, the change agents that have the most significant impact within companies exhibit several traits that can be learned and practiced.
Here are a few characteristics of a change agent:
- Positive: An upbeat and contagiously optimistic person who focuses on what is going well and how they can utilize a company’s strengths to redefine policies, practices, and values.
- Visionary: Always ahead of their time, these people are able to see a future not dreamed of by others. Organizations that harness the viewpoints of these employees and encourage them to share their ideas can make significant strides within their workplaces.
- Likeable: Put simply, this is a congenial person who builds relationships, gains the respect of others, and earns the trust of people.
- Open: Approachable individuals who are also willing to have difficult conversations and challenge the opinions and attitudes of others for the greater good of a company. Instead of straying from the uncomfortable, they engage in a dialogue with fellow team members and employees to bring facts, clarity, and most importantly, solutions, to an issue.
- Strategic: Without a doubt, they are smart people with knowledge about the particular priorities of their organizations. They also have an amazing ability to build a strong team and identify departmental challenges early—helping to reform workplaces.
Consider how you may want to influence your organization. Would you like to see Millennials recruited more effectively in your department? Are there not enough people of color or visible minorities on your firm's leadership team? Are there innate biases in the way your organization conducts performance reviews? Figure out how you can be the catalyst, the spark, or the change needed to build equity within your company for all employees.