by Leigh Ann Gowland, founder of Employee Driven Change
Entrepreneurs wear a variety of interchangeable hats every day. Business owner, customer service, sales, marketing and finance are only a few. Imagine if while juggling all the hats of an entrepreneur a new hat is introduced; the change agent hat.
You may feel overwhelmed by additional responsibility or anxious about threat to your business if this role is neglected. You already have what you need to construct your own beautiful and empowering change agent hat. In this article I hope to inspire you to craft and wear your change agent hat with pride.
Occasions for a change agent hat
Implementation of change is unique to each context and individual. Change agents are employed to facilitate large scale change across different initiatives including large scale global organisational change, addressing hygiene procedures, attending to nutrition in remote villages and improving the safety of cultural rituals. Success of these change initiatives is largely dependent on involvement of members of the impacted communities as change agents to communicate changes, engage their peers, gather feedback, identify and share learnings. This proven success of the change agent concept in large scale initiatives should compel entrepreneurs to master change agent skills to promote their ideas and grow their businesses.
Entrepreneurs are continuously seeking business opportunities within industry and economic changes as well as stimulate change through new products, ideas and delivery mechanisms. Unfortunately, our passion for our business ideas does not translate directly into acceptance and buy-in. Successful adoption of our ideas or acceptance of our products and services is dependent on our ability to help others see how and why the new concept will benefit our clients, investors and partners. Your change agent hat is an everyday hat and a hat for every occasion.
How to craft your change agent hat
Change agents must believe in the purpose and positive impact of the change and inspire others to become involved with the change. Start your preparation by creating a clear understanding of what is different about the concept and why the change should be adopted. Take time to analyse how the change will be perceived and experienced by your client, team, business partners and competitors because change is not one size fits all.
While developing your new product or service understand how this idea is different from the rest from a business strategy and user perspective. The differentiators clear to you may not be requirements or priority for your client. A change impact assessment should clearly outline what is changing and who will need to be informed, consulted and involved to promote the change. The message and medium of engagement must be tailored to each group to get buy-in and turn your early adopters into change champions working on your behalf.
Understanding why the change is necessary is critical to the success of your change efforts. A case for change provides insight into the purpose of the change from a business strategy, customer experience, brand and business efficiency standpoint. Just as a business case is essential to investors or business partners a case for change can assist with gaining support from customers, suppliers, partners and other enablers. Why is this change beneficial to clients, vendors, business partners or your industry? Remember the benefit of adopting the change may be very different for each user group. A new product could provide access to a new market which may promote growth of the business, a benefit to investors and shareholders but why is this beneficial to the new market? Does this product provide your clients an offering which allows greater choice or addresses a gap in the market, not previously addressed?
Keep your hat on
Whether you are a seasoned business owner or considering taking the first steps into entrepreneurship you have probably been confronted by resistors. Resistors in the form of doubtful realists or well-meaning cautious friends who want to warn against the risks of your idea, climate of the economy or statistics of failed businesses, may prompt you to replace the change agent hat with a finance or sales for factual substantiation. However, the change agent role is essential when confronted with resistance.
Resistors often have a personal interest in the success or failure of the change impact. Their resistance may originate from a lack of understanding of the change or their past experiences of a similar unsuccessful change. This is an opportunity to listen, gather feedback and explore their reasoning for opposition. Do not be afraid to explore their perceived need for the change and change impact. How can the change process for resistors be supported through improved accessibility, user-friendliness or education? Resistors provide valuable insight into removing barriers to adoption of your change.
A signature style of change hat
In the dynamic circumstance of entrepreneurs developing change management capability allows each of us to improve our adaptability and resilience in our continuously changing world. Your change impact assessment and case for change will equip you with supporting information you need to champion your change to successful adoption and overcome barriers. The most beautiful characteristic of your change agent hat is it’s your choice of shape, colour and adornments to represent your unique changes.
Leigh-Ann Gowland is the founder of Employee Driven Change, a coaching and consulting business in South Africa. Leigh-Ann has fifteen years experience in change management, human resources and work force transformation allowing her to understand change across industries, projects and corporate cultures. The different roles fulfilled in her fifteen year career from junior level administration, consultant, independent contractor, manager, volunteer to Executive management and small business owner has equipped her with an understanding of the dynamics of engaging stakeholders across different levels. Leigh-Ann's approach to consulting and coaching styles are informed by Systems Theory and her passion for empowering others to understand and drive change and apply these skills.
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