A tribute to change champions and change agents who have changed our lives.
By Ruth Tearle
I’ve been reading many of the discussions on change management on various social networking sites. Many talk about definitions of change management, change champions or change agents - as though this was a theoretical, objective subject. Yet change, is the most personal, emotional, and life changing topic of them all.
We have all been exposed to a change champion or a change agent-in both our personal and working lives.
Some people go to a change champion because they want to achieve a goal. Get fit. Lose weight. Others, because they have a problem that they cannot solve on their own. An injury that doesn’t heal. A chronic health problem that just won’t go away. Or perhaps they have a dream that want to live, but don’t know how.
Whilst enveloped in their positive aura, we barely notice our problem dissolving. We are simply aware that we feel energized, confident and inspired. All that remains on our shoulders is a sprinkle of their star dust.
Anyone who has ever had their lives transformed by the miracle worker that we call a change champion or change agent, is usually not objective. Rather they sing the person’s praises. They thank them for not only solving their problem, but more importantly for changing their lives.
We go to a change champion because we want them to remove a burden we are carrying. But they do far more than that.
This article is a tribute to the wonderful gifts that change champions and change agents give to us - whether in our personal lives or at our places of work.
Real change begins with a problem or need.
In the beginning, there is no magic. The person who needs to change is presented with a problem. A problem that they can’t ignore. A problem which if left unresolved will worsen the quality of their personal or work life. Often the person with the problem knows the ‘solution’ to the problem. It is usually common sense. But applying that common sense to their own unique situation, is often difficult to do without the help of a change agent.
Case study 1
For Adrienne, the problem was her weight. “For 11 years I watched the weight slowly creep on and although I hated myself and my body and complained continuously, I did NOTHING except eat more and buy bigger clothes.” Then she met Sandy.
Case study 2
As a first league squash player, Lesley was frustrated by a nagging tennis elbow and hamstring problems. After numerous treatments her physio therapist told her that her body was unbalanced, and if she didn’t do something about it, she wouldn’t be able to walk, let alone play squash. So Lesley went to see Jannie.
Case study 3
A bank wanted to install a new computer system in all its branches. Every teller would need to be trained on how to use the new system. At a certain date, the old system would be switched off, and the new system would be running. The bank hoped that the change would be so smooth, that all the customers would notice was a shorter queue. The company knew the models for change. They had bought into ADKAR - Create awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. But how did they apply it in the real world when many of their staff members, who had been experts at the old system, didn’t feel positive about becoming beginners on the new system. How did they make ADKAR practical in their own work environment?
The end result of any change.
The best change agents do more than simply solve a problem. They provide a life changing experience. One that leaves us inspired. Energized. Confident. We are now are proud of ourselves. For we have conquered a fear or achieved an impossible dream. We are proud to show off the ‘new me’. We have the confidence to tackle any new challenge. We are different. It is as though we have had a magic spell cast on us, and now we want to inspire others in turn, and share that magic.
In the end, its not about the problem, but about the magic.
Case study 1
Sandy met Adrienne once a week, giving her guidance, encouragement and inspiration. “When I met with Sandy I was 81kgs. Today I weigh 70kgs and I feel like a million bucks! Probably the most important thing I have gained from this experience is that I like myself more. Thanks for giving me back some magic!
He has an aura of positive energy. When you meet someone with his energy, you have to keep him in your life at all costs. I don’t really have the time to keep going to see him - but I do. Because he gives me the energy I need to do everything else in my life. I am addicted to feeling better.”
Case study 2
Jannie taught Lesley to breathe properly, as well as how to do strengthening and flexibility exercises. Her tennis elbow and hamstrings were no longer an issue. At the same time, Lesley got more than she’d ever hoped for. She lost weight. Gained a perfect figure. Her energy levels increased. She said about her change agent.
Case study 3
The IT project manager in the bank, spoke of organizational change agents on his project. “I don’t really understand this change management stuff. But all I know is that on the cut over weekend, we had so much support and excitement from everyone at the branch. We were able to do the cut over within a day. If that is what change management can do, then I’m delighted.”
When interviewed, all the customers noticed was that the queues were shorter and the staff seemed excited and energized.
The change champions said of their experience: “I’m so surprised at how positive my team are and how they support me.” “Before I was considering leaving the company because they didn’t care. This experience has changed my view. It was like having a makeover without the surgery.” “Our sessions were awesome. They helped me a lot personally. I surprised myself.” “I’m really amazed at how creative my team are – I am getting to see a different side of them with the activities.”
Qualities of a change champion or change agent.
Change champions are flexible.
Change agents and champions differ from normal trainers in that they are flexible. They don’t follow one approach or script. Rather, they are able to diagnose what each individual needs, and choose the most suitable solution for a particular person or group from a wide variety of solutions they have. They give each client what he/she needs and more. They solve problems, but they empower their clients too, so that clients leave them feeling confident, energized and excited.
Change champions inspire us with their passion and flexibility.
Case study 2
Lesley described Jannie as follows:"Jannie is a genius. He looks at a person as a complete person - the emotional as well as the physical. Normal trainers do the same things all the time. Jannie adjusts to suit what you need at the time. Sometimes if I feel like I’m getting flu, we just do stretching. Today he noticed I was looking tense - and instead of pushing me in a workout, he massaged my shoulders. He is constantly learning. He has an aura of positiveness about him.”
Case study 3
The staff at the bank and insurance company used these words to describe their change agents. "Energy. Team spirit. Soul. Fun. Fantabulous. Excited/positive. Grease the systems the right way. Rainbow. Beautiful. Simplicity. Shining stars. Abundance. Success."
Change agents have a wealth of expertise that they package in different ways.
The best change agents and champions don’t mention their qualifications or try to tell you everything they know. But, if you work with them long enough you’ll find that behind their simple solutions, they have a wealth of practical knowledge and expertise. All you see are their simple yet inspiring tools that allow you to ‘do less and achieve more.’
Case study 2
Another of Jannies clients said "I’m not really interested in everything Jannie knows. All I want is what is relevant to what I need right now to help lower my blood pressure. What impressed me was how little of my time I had to spend. Jannie’s 10 minute phone chat, and one hour video gave me the tool I needed to solve my problem. I know for Jannie to be able to diagnose my problem so easily, he must have invested over 10 000 hours in gaining the relevant experience. Experience I got access to in a 60 minute video.”
What change champions and change agents do in organizations.
Change agents within organizations have a more complex role. They have to deal with groups rather than individuals, and people who may not want the change, or believe that they need to do anything different. The change agents who produce magic in organizations usually draw from the following knowledge areas:
- Identifying and dealing with hot issues.
- Creating positive expectations for a change.
- Dealing with emotions such as resistance.
- Getting people to ‘buy-in’ to a change.
- Communicating the benefits of the change in a way that excites each role player
- Visualizing the end result of a change.
- Removing barriers.
- Overcoming fear.
- Getting the support needed to make the change work.
- Customizing a company wide change to the language and experience of their branch or department.
- Inspiring and motivating teams to support a change.
- Dealing with loss.
- Dealing with difficult people.
- Managing group energy.
- Injecting magic into a change process.
- Creating positive experiences for everyone.
- Collecting and sharing magical moments.
- Unleashing strengths and passions from within each individual and channeling the creative energy that results to the change.
- Creating heroes.
- Adapting generic change tools to a specific change.
Change agents and change champions mix and match these skills, together with energy, and care. The end result is more than a problem solved. The end result is magic.
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