Last week, just after sitting down for lunch with a new business prospect, and right after exchanging business cards, the gentleman looked at my business partner’s card and then mine, and said, “Hey, both of your titles say ’Agent of Change’…tell me more about that.” And we did. We told him about having trademarked “Agent of Change,” how every one of our employees has the same title, how it’s the essence of our business approach, and most importantly by far, how it’s our mission and mindset as marketers. For us it was easy to define what those three words meant because we live and breathe it each day. You might say it’s part of our DNA. But for many marketers, those who want to believe that they are an Agent of Change within their organization, it might not be as easily defined. In fact, if I were to ask you right now, how might you define an Agent of Change, you’d probably want a minute to think of a good definition. (At the end of this post, I’ll give you our view on how our firm defines an “Agent of Change”.)
If you’re looking for a dictionary definition, an Agent of Change is someone who “alters human capability or organizational systems or activities to achieve a higher degree of output or self-actualization.” Beginning with the end in mind, the goal of an Agent of Change is obviously to make changes that stick and is the foundation for future change which achieves results that weren’t previously possible. While this dictionary definition is ok, I think it misses the essence of what it means to be an Agent of Change. It has as much to do with identity and character as it is any definition.
So with that in mind, here are some ways that it feels to be an Agent of Change
Lives in the world of “tomorrow.” Regardless of what is going on today, an Agent of Change has a vision of what could or should be and uses that as the driving force to take action. To a certain extent, an Agent of Change is dissatisfied with what they see around them, in favor of a much better vision of the future. A great place to be!
Fueled by passion, and inspires the same. Change is hard work and it takes a lot of energy. Don’t underestimate this. Without passion, it’s very difficult to gather up enough energy to take on dreaded status quo that seems to otherwise carry the day. “Status quo is Latin for the mess we’re in” said former President Ronald Reagan.
Understands people. You can’t create the change that is needed if you have no real understanding of what people need or seek. It’s not about what you can do or say but rather about what the customer wants to hear. It’s also not about what you think the customer wants. Instead, you need to know what the customer wants and that sometimes requires digging deep to get to the heart of what motivates people. Knowing has saved me from my mistaken “I think” a good number of times.
Has a strong ability to motivate themselves to move forward. There are going to be lots of days where people don’t understand and can’t recognize or grasp what’s being offered up as a solution. The Agent of Change needs to find it within themselves to get up every day and come to work and risk being misunderstood and unappreciated.
However, I think the definition also needs to be based on what an Agent of Change does, in addition to the personal traits required. You see, people are willing to change when the pain of the status quo exceeds the pain of change. Or, when the future looks like it does today or worse. A successful Agent of Change recognizes the opportunity for change, identifies the best approach, and becomes the catalyst that makes the change possible, whether by design, planning, or inspiration. While they can’t do it alone, they’re the force that gets the ball rolling.
Also, an Agent of Change isn’t so much a job title or job description as it is a mentality. It’s just what they do or how they do it. Like breathing. They don’t do it only when permitted or told to do so, but rather all the time. There are very few companies that has someone with the title of Agent of Change because they don’t expect things to change much over time. If you work in an organization where committees are king, you know what I’m talking about. Sloooowww and steady is the mantra while competitors seize on all sorts of opportunities and grab market share …and new customers. The only “change” this type of company knows is the coin kind in a pocket.
OK, I told you earlier that I would share with you how we see our firm as an Agent of Change and what we told our new business prospect at lunch…so here goes:
Being an Agent of Change means upsetting the normal course of things, turning up the heat, altering the future as it now stands. It’s serving as a catalyst for growth. Being an Agent of Change is about looking beyond the immediate marketing tasks to consider the entire business environment and how an audience engages with brands in the new marketplace. From that perspective, problems and solutions start to look very different. Being an Agent of Change is about embracing the new marketplace in order to seize untapped sales/revenue-producing business opportunities, delivering real value and long-term sustainable brand credit. Whether it’s a message delivered through an email inbox or on a national TV campaign, or creating new touchpoints where customers can connect on their own terms, everything we do is designed to communicate a total value proposition and spark a noticeable Change in the relationship between the customer and your products. We do this with a shared sense of urgency in increasing sales, growing traffic count, expanding the customer base, increasing stakeholders, strengthening brand identity and enriching bottom-line revenue.
You can be that Agent of Change within your organization or find yourself an Agent of Change to help because the world is changing…with or without your permission.
Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.