Becoming a Change Agent

Derived from the film The Matrix, the blue pill and its opposite, the red pill, have become pop culture symbols representing the choice between the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) and embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red).  The blue pill symbolizes staying the same while the red pill symbolizes change.

As human resources professionals, we make choices each day to stick to the status quo or to become a change agent. In the book The Art of the Start, author Guy Kawasaki uses the red pill as an analogue to leaders of new organizations, in that they face the same choice to either live in reality or fantasy. Kawasaki adds that if leaders want to be successful, we have to take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Understand that once you select the red pill of change, you become a change agent destined for a complex endeavor.   For those brave and daring enough to choose change, the following should be expected as you go beyond the looking glass.

1) Clarify Your Personal Vision

The first step in facilitating change is starting with yourself.  Determine what you want to achieve as you facilitate the change.  Determine what personal, professional, and organizational goals you plan to achieve.

2) Accept the Realities of Being a Change Agent –

Understand that you will serve as drum major for the change you are implementing throughout the change process.  Make a decision to be comfortable in front, behind, on the side and even in the midst of the band.  You will become the champion and the cheerleader for change. So, make a decision to not be surprised when you begin to receive negative and positive attention regarding your cause.  However, your motivation can not be based purely on emotion.  Make sure you have a strong business rationale that will also provide motivation for you and the rest of the group.

3) Foster a Pioneering Spirit –

Leaders attempting to advance initiatives need to be prepared and able to tolerate change and ambiguity.  Team leaders will need to realize that they are a part of a pioneering effort.  Leaders of change must remind and recognize those involved in the change that success and failures are a part of pioneering a new frontier.

4) Emphasize Education Rather than Training –

Education has to do with how we think about things; training involves ways of doing things.  Training builds specific skills while education can change mindsets.  Successful change involves shifting mindsets and change agents must educate and then train. Examples of education can include one-on-one dialogues, seminars, attendance at professional societies’ meetings, and workshops.

5) Recruit Multiple Change Agents –

Successful implementation of change requires multiple change agents at all levels.  Of course, executive leadership will be needed to exercise leverage during change.  However, real change requires others in the organization to provide assistance throughout the hierarchy to make change a reality.  It is important that line leaders and other individual contributors  take ownership when implementing  change.

6) Be Prepared for Resistance – 

Know that resistance will derive from various sources.  The resistance will come in numerous forms; insufficient motivation, loyalty to assimilation, insufficient understanding, lack of leadership, lack of power, and busy schedules that have no time for another project.  It will undoubtedly be difficult to be a change agent in an environment that does not support change.  An  unsupportive environment can make it difficult for new initiatives to be successful, however, it is not impossible.

The reality is as change agents we can only be responsible for the change we create within ourselves.  However, just as the character Neo changed  the way he and others viewed the world around him by accepting the red pill, as human resource leaders we must make a decision to create changes that can trigger events that will begin the change in the world around us.

Exercise Your Emotional Intelligence


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